What Do Complex Carbohydrates Break Down Into?

Carbohydrates form a majority portion of the diet, which have two types: simple carbohydrates and complex carbohydrates. Some people may wonder that what do complex carbohydrates break down into. To figure out the answer, read on to find more information help with your healthy diet planning.

What Are the Two Types of Carbohydrates?

Simple Carbohydrate

Simple carbohydrates, also known as simple sugars, are present in refined foods like white sugar. A lollipop would give you simple carbohydrates, yet it is also has high quantity of added sugar and no other nutrients. Better foods sources of simple carbohydrates are available in milk and fruits which are better choices, because the sugar is naturally present in them along with other nutrients. These vitamins, fiber and calcium are essential for the body.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are also known as starches and are available in foods made from grains, like bread, pasta, rice and crackers. Refined grain products like white rice or flour (white bread) do not contain fiber and other nutrients. On the contrary, the unrefined grains contain fibers, vitamins and other nutrients. And the fiber not only helps in digestion but also keeps the stomach feeling full, which prevents over eating. If a bowl of oatmeal and candy gives same calories, oatmeal is the better choice.

What Do Complex Carbohydrates Break Down Into?


Complex carbs get broken down into glucose; however, it requires more process than the breakdown of simple sugar like fructose. When you eat foods like toast or mashed potato, the saliva starts acting on it in the mouth. The starch is broken down into maltose. Although maltose is a simple sugar, when it reaches the intestine, the intestinal enzymes further break it down into glucose. These glucoses molecules then enter the blood stream from the intestine.

Fiber is also a complex carbohydrate, but it is different because it does not get broken down in the body to glucose. It helps in adding bulk and makes bowel movement easier and smoother. Fiber is an essential carb in the diet and gives no calories.


Once the glucose is used up by the body, the excess is converted into glycogen and stored in liver and muscles. When there is not adequate food intake, the body breaks down this glycogen to glucose to use. During strenuous exercise, the glycogen stores are sought for energy. If you exercise without having food prior, these glycogen stores can get depleted. For this reason, it is important to eat food rich in carbohydrates before workout. This could include a granola bar, fruits or whole grain bread or toast.

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What Are the Sources of Complex Carbohydrates?

What do complex carbohydrates break down into? Glucose! But what are the sources of these complex carbs. Below we list some foods that are rich in carbohydrates.

Complex carbohydrates are available from foods rich in starchy, like:

  • ŸWhole grains, breads & cereals
  • Legumes like peas, beans, lentils and peanuts
  • Starchy vegetables like potatoes, parsnips, peas, carrots, beans, asparagus, etc.
  • Starchy fruits like strawberries, grapefruit, apples, pears, etc.
  • Dairy foods like skim milk and low fat yogurt.

Health Benefits of Taking Complex Carbohydrates

1. Offer Energy

Carbs are the energy source of the body and if the diet is inadequate in carbs, it will lead to fatigue and tiredness. Whole grains consumed early in the day provide energy all day, since they are slowly released. Unlike simple sugars, they do not cause surge or slump.

2. Aid in Digestion

Carbohydrates contain fiber which is essential to maintain healthy bowel movement. They help in digestion and foods like whole grains, cereals, legumes, fruits and vegetables should be consumed. Processed food intake should be minimal.

3. Promote Optimal Metabolism

Since carbs are source of energy, they are essential for optimal metabolism. Diet low in carbs causes the metabolism rate to go down instead of losing weight; conversely, you tend to put on weight in the long run. Whole foods should be consumed for optimal energy and metabolism.

4. Improve Your Sleep

Some carbohydrate rich foods contain tryptophan which helps with relaxing the body and ensuring a sound sleep for you. Some of these foods are pumpkin, sweet potato, oatmeal, bananas and brown rice. Sleep regulation is done by melatonin hormone, which is present in oatmeal.

4. Make You Feel Full

Fiber adds bulk to the diet and makes you feel full for a long period of time. Meals with 10-15 grams of fiber are super filling and help in achieving optimal satisfaction. Fiber also helps to keep the blood sugar levels steady throughout of the day.

The fiber intake should be 14 grams per 1000 calories, so for a 2000 calorie diet, the fiber requirement would be 28 grams. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes provide much of the fiber in the diet.

5. Better Mental Health

Carbohydrates from foods like beans, legumes, nuts, fruits, seeds, oats and vegetables are helpful in maintaining mental health and help with a good mood. When carbs are absent from the diet, they make concentration difficult and also make you feel depressed.

In addition, complex carbohydrates are also beneficial for nervous system by reducing nervousness and anxiety which can be caused due to high intake of simple sugars. Oatmeal, banana and sweet potatoes can help in achieving this. Various enzymatic reactions take place in the body, which helps in achieving balance.

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