Complex Carbohydrates: They aren’t Complicated!

Complex Carbohydrates: They aren’t Complicated!

As a person with type 2 diabetes, you may get all kinds of unusual terms thrown your way as it pertains to your diet. Complex and simple carbohydrates are among these terms. Although they may sound complicated, complex carbohydrates are anything but when it comes to healthy eating. Knowing which carbohydrates are complex may help you on your road to managing blood sugar levels and therefore your diabetes. Here are some important facts to keep you in the know with complex carbohydrates.

What makes a carbohydrate complex?

A complex carbohydrate contains fiber, vitamins and minerals, and often protein.


Fiber is a very important portion of your diet with or without diabetes! It helps maintain gut health, and also fills you up and keeps you full longer, negating the need for excess snacking. A complex carbohydrate example is brown rice. Brown rice has not been stripped of its fiber, as its simple carbohydrate counterpart white rice has been during the milling process. Choose brown rice whenever possible. It may take a while to get used to the taste and texture, but you may also notice that your blood sugar does not spike as high or as quick as when you consume white rice. Whole wheat flour is also a better option than enriched white flour for the same reason.

Vitamins and minerals

Vitamins and minerals may also be lost during the milling process. The United States made a law stating that white rice must be fortified with some of the lost B vitamins, but this does not account for the lost fiber.1


Protein is also found in most complex carbohydrates. This is also a great way to slow the release of blood sugar into your blood as it takes your body more time and energy to digest protein. Strive to have protein at every meal!

Examples and serving sizes of complex carbohydrates:

  • Peas (1 cup, cooked): 118 calories, 21 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams protein
  • Brown rice (1 cup, cooked): 216 calories, 45 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams protein
  • Whole grain pasta (1 cup, cooked): 174 calories, 37 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams protein
  • Quinoa (1/4 cup dry): 180 calories, 33 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams protein
  • Whole grain crackers such as Wheat Thins ® (16 pieces): 140 calories, 22 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams protein
  • Farro (1/4 cup): 170 calories, 33 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams protein
  • Lentils (1 cup, cooked): 230 calories, 40 grams carbohydrate, 18 grams protein
  • Whole grain bread (1 slice): 100 calories, 14 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams protein
  • Sweet potatoes (1 cup): 114 calories, 27 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams protein
  • Black beans (1/2 cup, canned): 120 calories, 22 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams protein
  • Corn (1/2 cup cooked): 89 calories, 21 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams carbohydrate

Remember, if you have specific questions about your diet, please speak to your physician or dietitian! The goal is to choose these complex carbohydrates over any simple carbohydrates. Adding these to your meal with some protein and vegetables is sure to leave you full and satisfied. Simple carbohydrates include but are not limited to; white rice, white pasta, white potatoes, baked goods, candy, juice and soda. If you have the choice to pick one of these or a complex carbohydrate, always go complex! Your body and blood sugar levels will thank you!

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