Complex Carbohydrates List
Carbohydrates are one of three essential macronutrients. Your body needs these energy-yielding nutrients, which also include protein and fat, daily to sustain life. Carbohydrates are your body’s preferred source of energy. Each gram of carbohydrate provides 4 calories. The simplest building block of carbohydrate, glucose, is immediately used (for energy) or stored for later use in your liver and muscles. Carbohydrates, especially complex, should make up the bulk or ‘base’ of your eating plan. Read further for a detailed complex carbohydrates list of healthy foods.
What Are Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrate is found in abundance in plant-based foods, such as grains. Plants make their own food in the form of carbohydrate from carbon dioxide (in the air) and water from the soil. The last component necessary to create this food for energy is sunlight. This process is known as photosynthesis and enables plants to grow and flourish. The basic building block of carbohydrate is a sugar molecule, which includes carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen.
Carbohydrates: Simple and Complex
Carbohydrates are grouped into two main categories: simple and complex. The difference between the two refers mainly to the length of the sugar chain and how quickly it is absorbed and provides energy. Complex carbohydrates are made of three or more linked sugars, such as starches. Some chains are straight; others are branched. In addition to being made up of longer sugar chains, they contain dietary fiber (an indigestible carbohydrate) and are naturally rich in vitamins and minerals. Complex carbohydrate foods provide slow-release, longer-lasting energy than simple carbohydrate foods, such as many fruits and juices, candies, cakes and cookies, sodas and white-flour cereals and breads.
Complex Carbs List
Excellent food sources of complex carbohydrates include starchy beans or legumes, such as lentils, kidney, pinto, black, soybeans and red beans; peas, including black-eyed peas, split peas and green peas; and breads and cereals, such as rye bread, whole-wheat bread and sprouted grain breads. In addition to steel-cut oats (or whole rolled oats), popcorn and brown rice, “newly popularized” grains like bulgur, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, wheat berries, millet and hulled barley are also good food sources of complex carbohydrates.
Non-starchy vegetables such as cabbage, cauliflower, spinach and other green leafy vegetables, broccoli, celery, sweet bell peppers, asparagus and zucchini contain complex carbohydrates. Root vegetables and tubers are higher in carbohydrate than their leafy green counterparts. Examples include potatoes, yams, rutabagas, parsnips, turnips and winter squash.
Other specific foods rich in this essential macronutrient include bran (bran-based cold cereals, oat bran, wheat bran), maize, cornmeal, whole-wheat pasta, shredded wheat and muesli. Nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, almonds and flaxseeds also provide some protein and heart-healthy unsaturated fats.
Choose these foods instead of ‘refined’ starchy foods that are high in carbohydrate but offer fewer vitamins, minerals and little dietary fiber. Although many processed foods are made with enriched white flour (which contains certain nutrients) such as crackers, white bread, many cereals, cookies and cakes, these are not the best choices for promoting weight management and overall health.