Yes, a low-carb diet can help you shed weight quickly, but if you're an active person looking to achieve sustainable weight loss, it's time to stop demonizing all carbs. We're here to make complex carbs, the good kind of carbs, feel a little less complicated.
Carbohydrates, along with proteins and fats, are macronutrients. We need to all three in large quantities since they provide energy, aka calories. Carbs can be broken down further into two categories: simple and complex. Both simple and complex carbs turn into glucose (blood sugar) in the body, which our muscles use as fuel. The classification depends on the carbohydrate's molecular structure, which affects how the carbs are broken down and absorbed by the body. Complex carbohydrates are made of longer molecule chains than their simple counterparts and therefore take longer for the body to break down and absorb.
The Difference Between Simple and Complex Carbs
Simple carbohydrates — found naturally in foods like fruit, milk products, white bread, and table sugar — are broken down and absorbed quickly, causing a sharp rise in your blood sugar levels that can leave you feeling tired and hungry soon after eating them. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates are fibrous and starchy and are found in foods like legumes, starchy vegetables, and whole grains. Complex carbs release glucose more slowly into the bloodstream, offering a steadier source of energy to keep blood sugar levels stable and pesky hunger pangs away.
Luckily, complex carbohydrates leave you more satisfied than their simple counterparts, but when trying to lose weight, portion control of healthy, nutritious foods is just as important as the foods we choose to eat. Many dietitians suggest incorporating appropriate portions of complex carbohydrates into their weight-loss meal plans, since they can help you lose the weight and keep it off.
Recipes Featuring Complex Carbs
If you're still loading up on simple carbs and aren't sure what to opt for in the kitchen, we've got you covered. Here are some recipes full of complex carbohydrates we love that you will too:
- Apple cinnamon quinoa bake: Protein- and fiber-packed quinoa is the perfect complex carb to kick-start your metabolism. Make this hearty quinoa bake on Sunday night, so you'll have breakfast for the whole week.
- Overnight oats with chia seeds and slivered almonds: High in protein and fiber, this whole-grain recipe will keep hunger at bay all morning long. Even better, this recipe supports healthy digestion and can even help you beat belly bloat.
- Brown rice sushi bowl: This brown rice bowl is topped off with an inventive mix of bright and colorful produce plus tender, sustainable albacore tuna, full of B vitamins, protein, and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. If you're on a weight-loss mission, only serve up one-third or a half cup of brown rice rather than a full cup to keep calories in check.
- Spicy sweet potato salad: Instead of white spuds, opt for this spicy sweet potato salad that's much higher in fiber than the standard. It comes with a spicy, antioxidant-rich red pepper and jalapeño dressing ties everything together.
- Red pepper and lentil bake: Looking for a protein-rich complex carb? Bring on the lentils! This red pepper and lentil bake is a winning weight-loss dish you can enjoy after a workout.