Lifestyle: carbohydrates, part 2: simple, complex, and the glycemic index

More nutritional self-tutoring: the tutor continues about comparisons between carbohydrates.

In my last two articles, here and here, I discuss simple vs complex carbohydrates, then the glycemic index, respectively.

The original talking-point of this series of articles is that we typically seem to hear that complex carbohydrates should be chosen over simple ones. The obvious question:

  • Are complex carbohydrates always more beneficial than simple ones, and why?

The simple answer is no, not necessarily.

First, recall from my article here that simple carbohydrates can be thought of as sugars, whereas complex carbohydrates can be thought of as starch.

From a dietary point of view, the general rule about carbohydrates is that the lower the glycemic index (GI) (see yesterday’s article), the better. Some starches have a high glycemic index – white bread can have GI very close to that of glucose itself. Yet, since white bread is mainly starch, rather than sugar, it’s still complex carbohydrate.

Vegetables with high soluble fibre content tend to have a low GI (kidney beans, for instance).

Fructose, a sugar, has a surprisingly low GI of 19.

Therefore, a complex carbohydrate can have a high GI, while a simple one can have a low GI. From a dietary point of view, the general rule for carbohydrates seems to be that low GI is better than high, rather than that complex is better than simple.

Which foods are low vs high can be confusing at first, but there are a couple of sources below that have very useful tables to help.


Jack of Oracle Tutoring by Jack and Diane, Campbell River, BC.

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