Types of Carbohydrates 101

Your carbohydrates should mainly be made up of unrefined complex starchy and fibrous carbohydratesLimit you simple carbohydrates as much as you can (sugar, sweets, etc.) and eliminate refined carbs completely from your diet. Unrefined complex carbohydrates should makeup most of your diet.

Carbohydrates can be divided into three groups:


(e.g. sugar, honey, fruit, fruit juice)

Simple carbohydrates have a ‘simple’ molecular structure and are made up of 1-2 sugar molecules. The simplest form of carbohydrate is glucose. Simple sugars that are found in foods include sucrose (table sugar), fructose (found in fruit), and lactose (found in milk). Not all simple carbs are bad. Natural simple carbs in fruit and milk are perfectly healthy. Low-fat or non-fat dairy such as yoghurt, milk and cottage cheese are healthy food choices and rich sources of calcium. Although fruits and (fresh) fruit juices are healthy and packed with minerals and vitamins, it is probably best to eat it them in moderation, as complex carbs such as vegetables are a superior food source if weight loss is your goal, especially if you are carbohydrate sensitive. Probably the best time to ingesting fruit is before and after your workouts.

So, if not all simple carbohydrates are ‘bad’, which ones are? Sugar (sucrose)! If you wanna lose weight, stay away from sugar.


(e.g. rice, wholemeal,pasta)

Complex carbohydrates are also made up of sugars, but the sugar molecules are strung together to form longer, more complex chains. Complex starchy carbohydrates include whole grains, peas and beans, which are rich in vitamins, minerals an fiber. The problem with complex starch carbs is that often they are refined.

complex carbohydrateRefined carbohydrates are foods where machinery has been used to remove the high fibre parts (the bran and the germ) from the grain. When a complex carb is refined it loses it complex structure and thus all the properties that made it a healthy choice. Instead it takes on the properties of a simple carbohydrate and is processed by the body in the same way. White rice, white flour, white bread, sugary cereals, and pasta, noodles and pretty much anything made from white flour are all examples of refined carbohydrates. You should stay away from refined carbs, as much as you should stay away from sugar.

Brown rice
White rice
Wholemeal flour
White Flour


]Stick to unrefined complex carbohydrates. They still contain the WHOLE grain, including the bran and the germ. Thus, they are higher in fibre and will keep you feeling fuller for longer – great for weight loss. Examples include whole-grain rice, wholemeal bread, porridge oats and whole-wheat pasta.


(e.g. most vegetables)

Fibrous carbs are rich sources of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and other nutrients and tend to be green vegetables. These are full of fiber, which is the indigestible portion of plant material (i.e. vegetables). This means that much of the food passes straight through the gut and is not absorbed, thus they are great ‘colon cleansers’ and are essential for keeping the digestive process running clean and healthily! Even better, fibrous carbohydrates are very low in calories and it is virtually impossible to overeat on green vegetables. Some vegetable are so low in calories they contain less calories than it requires to eat them e.g. celery.

The rule of thumb when it comes to all carbohydrates is that:

BROWN (or green) IS GOOD (e.g. whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes, brown rice) and 
WHITE IS BAD (e.g. white bread, white pasta, white potatoes, white rice) .
The exception to the rule being cauliflower (is good!).

Examples of various foods from the different carbohydrate groups can be found below. “Bad” carbs have not been included (i.e. sugar and refined carbs).

Fibrous Complex Carbohydrates
Starchy Complex Carbohydrates
Simple Carbohydrates
Aubergine (Eggplant)
Dairy products
Bamboo Shoots
Potatoes, Yams, Sweet Potato
Green Beans
Brown rice
Whole wheat pasta
Brussels Sprouts
Whole wheat/ Multi-grain bread
Whole grain cereals (e.g. muesli, shredded wheat)
Whole Barley
Whole grains
Beans – lima, red, kidney
Black eyed peas, lentils, chick peas
Red/ green Peppers
Sweet Corn
Flour (Whole Wheat)
Zucchini (Courgette)

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