Complex Carbohydrates Vs Simple Carbohydrates

The difference between simple and complex carbohydrates has been discussed for several years in the nutrition field; however, many individuals may still be confused as to what the scientific difference actually is, and the main reasons that make complex carbohydrates “healthier”. Therefore, this week, Mint Nutrition Clinic and our nutritionists and registered dietitians are going to answer this question and make the distinction clear. 

What are Simple Carbohydrates?

The term “Simple Carbohydrates” refers mostly to white sugar, white bread/crackers/rice, baked goods, and syrups (Eatright Ontario, 2016). Usually, simple carbohydrates in our diets come from added sugars that are present in our food (such as baked goods, condiments, etc). They are different than naturally present sugars, which are found in fruits and dairy products. As a general rule, simple carbohydrates are found in processed foods (junk food, cookies/cakes, condiments, etc), and less in whole foods. Consequently, these carbohydrates are generally unhealthier than natural occurring sugars and complex sugars, because they are absorbed into the body at a much faster rate (Eatright Ontario, 2016). Overall, it is recommended that simple carbohydrates should be consumed as little as possible.

What are Complex Carbohydrates?

“Complex carbohydrates” refers to starches that don't taste as sweet as simple carbohydrates, and this category includes pasta, whole grains breads/rice, oats, starchy vegetables and etc. They are absorbed by the body as a lower rate; therefore, they tend to be healthier than simple carbohydrates (Eatright Ontario, 2016). It is recommended that consuming more complex carbohydrates rather than simple carbohydrates is more beneficial to one’s well-being (Eatright Ontario, 2016).

It is essential to remember that both carbohydrates can be consumed in moderation and healthy meal planning is a great method to implement, if an individual wants to create healthier lifestyle changes. Visit The Mint Nutrition Clinic’s (a Toronto-based clinic) website to book a FREE 30 minute consultation with one of our Toronto nutritionists, in order to learn much more about healthy eating and better lifestyle habits. Click Here You can also meet our Toronto registered dietitians as well!


Eatright Ontario. (2016). What you need to know about sugar. Retrieved from

Nutrition Therapy and Pathophysiology 3rd Edition: Nelms M, Sucher K and Lacey K: Cengage Learning, Boston, 2014.