Complex Carbs and What They Mean for People with Diabetes

For people with diabetes, carbohydrates are extremely important. Whether you are trying to cut back on carbs or be smarter about the carbs you are eating, you may find yourself constantly thinking about them. People with diabetes need to know the difference between simple and complex carbs, and what kinds of carbs can keep you healthy.

What are complex carbs?

When you are adding carbs to your diet, the majority should be complex carbs. Complex carbs provide your body with fiber, minerals, and vitamins. They are made up of sugar molecules that are in long chains, meaning they take longer to digest and keep you full longer. Complex carbs are found in foods such as:

  • Beans
  • Oats
  • Juice
  • Millet
  • Peas
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Whole grains
  • Vegetables
  • Quinoa


What are simple carbs?

Simple carbs are sugars that are typically added to foods in the United States. Some foods, such as milk and fruits, have simple carbs that are included naturally. Other foods may have simple carbs added in order to give the food more flavor. These foods include: 

  • Corn syrup
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Sucrose

Creating a balance

Each person will need to find the right balance according to their body and what it needs. There is no one standard treatment or diabetes plan, however too many simple carbs can put people with diabetes at great health risk. Talk to your doctor, dietitian, or nutritionist about what is right for you. 

It is important that you listen to your body and what it is trying to tell you about your diet by how you feel. In order to stay on top of your diet or your diabetes treatment, you should use meal planning to make sure your body is getting the nutrition it needs and not over indulge in simple carbs.