Our bodies need certain nutrients to survive, one of which happens to be carbohydrates. Counting carbohydrates is a daily task for those with diabetes, so it’s important for you to know which kind of carbohydrate you're eating. There are three main forms of carbohydrates: sugars, starches, and fiber. They can also be classified as being either simple or complex carbohydrates. Knowing the difference between the two can be helpful for you and your dietary planning.

Simple carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates are composed of one or two refined sugars that have very little nutritional value and should be eaten sparingly. These simple carbohydrates are digested rapidly and are more apt to produce high blood sugar levels. Foods that contain simple carbohydrates include:

Table sugar

White flour






Complex carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are composed of three or more sugars and are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They act as fuel for our bodies, giving us energy. Because they are more complex, it takes the body longer to break them down and digest them, and they don't raise blood sugar levels as quickly as simple carbohydrates.

Complex carbohydrates have a higher nutritional value than simple carbohydrates and should supply about half the calories in your diet. Foods that contain complex carbohydrates include:


Whole grains

Beans and lentils




Nuts and seeds

Because complex carbohydrates don't cause a quick rise in blood sugars, they are a good choice when eating foods that contain carbohydrates.

When planning meals, focus on foods with more complex carbohydrates instead of simple carbohydrates for better control over your blood sugar levels.

Here are three great recipes that include foods with complex carbohydrates:

Mushroom and Spinach Crepes

Green Beans with Almonds

Ginger Broccoli

What's your favorite "complex carb" dish?

To learn more about this topic:

Understanding Carbohydrates
Clearing the Carbohydrate Confusion
How to Recognize a Carbohydrate