Complex carbs are the antithesis of your classic crash-and-burn refined carbs like white rice, bread and sugary snacks. Instead of offering short-lived energy and afternoon slumps, they bring satiety, sustained vitality and pack an impressive dose of nutrients. Here are 8 to add to your shopping list.
Carbohydrates are one of the biggest sources of energy in our diets and they also happen to be one of the 3 essential macronutrient food groups, among protein and fat. But fast-release carbs like rice, white bread and table sugar release glucose into our bloodstream quicker. These foods, though they don’t need to be cut out completely, are more likely spike blood-sugar levels, leaving us feeling tired, weak and stressed. Complex carbs, on the other hand, provide energy more consistently throughout the day. They’re also made up of starches and fibre, and are a little harder for us to digest, and this is a good thing as it keeps us fuller for longer. They’re also higher in nutrients than their quick-release counterparts and support gut health due to their prebiotic content. Prebiotics are a type of dietary fibre that feed and nourish the beneficial bacteria living in the gut. They are essentially food for the probiotics, which are the live bacteria and yeasts that provide numerous health benefits to the body. Now let’s dive into 8 complex carbohydrates you’ll want to be eating every day.
Graphic by Grace Martin
Broccoli is a nutritious and versatile vegetable that is beloved by many. While most people know that broccoli is high in vitamins and minerals, many may not realise that it is also a complex carbohydrate. In fact, broccoli is an excellent source of complex carbs, which can provide a range of benefits for your health. Unlike simple carbohydrates, which are quickly absorbed by the body and can cause spikes in blood sugar levels, complex carbs like those found in broccoli are absorbed more slowly, providing a steady source of energy over a longer period of time. This can help you feel more alert and focused throughout the day, without experiencing the highs and lows that come with refined carbs. Broccoli is loaded with fibre, making it an essential keeping the digestive system functioning properly by promoting regular bowel movements, preventing constipation and supporting the growth of healthy gut bacteria.
Apart from the fact that quinoa can help regulate blood sugar levels and provide sustained energy, it is also one of the few plant foods that is a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids that the body needs. This makes it an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and vegans – but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still add some of these tasty seeds to your plate if you’re not vegan! Quinoa is high in fibre, which helps promote healthy digestion and can reduce the risk of certain diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
If you’re the type to devour the edamame at the sushi train, you’re in luck! These tasty beans – technically, they’re young soybeans – are the perfect snack to give you that long-lasting energy your busy day needs. They’re a great source of plant-based protein, containing approximately 18 grams of fibre per cup. Like the other complex carbs on this list, edamame is also high in fibre, making it the ideal gut-health booster.
Sweet potatoes pack approximately 4 grams of fibre per serve, helping to promote healthy digestion and slow the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream – say hello to long-lasting energy! Sweet potatoes are also a good source of essential vitamins and minerals like vitamin A, C, potassium and manganese, which are important for immune function, blood pressure regulation and bone health. Win, win!
Need some fuel to keep you going through the day? Look no further than lentils! These little legumes may be small in size, but they pack a powerful punch when it comes to providing long-lasting energy. Whether you're running a marathon or just trying to survive a Monday morning meeting, lentils are the perfect food to help you power through. So why settle for a quick burst of energy from a sugary snack when you can have the sustained stamina of lentils? Add them to curries, soups and pasta for a satisfying meal.
There’s a reason oats have been a staple for centuries all across the world. These tiny, humble grains are loaded with fibre for long-lasting energy. Research has shown that consuming a diet high in complex carbs can help reduce the risk of heart disease. This is because complex carbs, like those found in oats, can help lower cholesterol levels, reduce inflammation, and improve overall cardiovascular health. Take a look at some of the other reasons to add some oats to your brekkie:
- They’re rich in antioxidants
- They help maintain blood-sugar levels
- They’re satiating
- They can help with constipation
Packed with complex carbohydrates, kidney beans provide long-lasting energy that will keep you going for hours. Whether you're cramming for an exam or trying to survive a never-ending workday, these beans are the perfect food to help you stay focused and alert. They’re a rich source of dietary fibre, which can help promote healthy digestion and reduce the risk of a number of chronic diseases. A diet high in fibre has also been shown to help regulate blood-sugar levels, meaning we’ll be less likely to reach for the sweets.
Not only is this tasty grain a great alternative to white rice, but it's also packed with health benefits. With its high fibre content and complex carbohydrates, brown rice provides sustained energy that will keep you going all day long. It's also rich in essential minerals like magnesium, which can help promote healthy bones and reduce stress levels. And let's not forget about its B vitamins, which are important for brain function and overall well-being.
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