Simple Carbohydrate Foods

Carbohydrates can be classified into two types: simple and complex.

Most simple carbohydrates can be assimilated at a high rate in the body. This is why they are also called fast carbohydrates.

On the contrary, complex carbohydrates are assimilated slowly. These are considered healthier and are found in vegetables and whole grains.

This article describes examples of foods high in simple carbohydrates with a list and why they are said to be wrong.

// Recommended: What are carbohydrates? – Classification

Simple or Fast Carbs – What Are They?

Simple carbohydrates, also called fast-absorbing carbohydrates or fast carbohydrates, are a type of compound formed by one or two structural elements called saccharides.

Simple carbohydrates have a characteristic-rich sweet taste. The most common examples are glucose, sucrose (table sugar), and lactose, the carbohydrate in milk.

Another well-known example is fructose, a type of carbohydrate found in natural foods like fruits and honey. All of these molecules are simple carbohydrates.

Simple carbohydrates in isolation: sugar, syrups, honey, etc., are capable of increasing insulin levels quickly. They are said to be wrong because if consumed in excess, they can develop insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. (2,6,7)

According to the WHO, simple carbohydrate foods should be limited to 10% of the total calories consumed per day.

Types of carbohydrates: simple and complex

As we already mentioned, science recognizes two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.

Simple carbohydrates are found in sugary foods, soft drinks, sweet cookies, honey, and jams.

Complex carbohydrates are starch and vegetable fiber. These are mainly found in cereals, pseudo-cereals, and vegetables.

In a balanced diet, the total carbohydrate intake should be up to 45-65% of the calories for the day. The equivalent of 200–300 g of carbohydrates per day. However, ideally, only 10% are simple carbohydrates. (4)

Unlike complex carbohydrates, simple carbohydrates only need a couple of minutes to reach the bloodstream. When this happens , blood glucose levels rise sharply. For this reason, the consumption of simple carbohydrates must be strictly controlled.

List of Examples of Simple Carbohydrate Foods

Foods high in simple carbohydrates were considered rare to find in nature. Products rich in sugar can be bought in any store and are among the cheapest.

Simple carbohydrates are found in foods high in sugar. Examples are most bakery and industrial products, honey, jams, some types of chocolate, and most fruits.

Also, fruits are examples of foods with simple carbohydrates. However, they are also foods rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, so they are the only way in which they are recommended. Here are examples of foods with simple or bad carbohydrates:

  1. Refined sugar

This is the best-known simple carbohydrate example. Today the food industry has made it one of the most widely used and economical ingredients. Excess sugar-white is one of the leading causes of overweight and obesity.

  1. Muscovado sugar

Muscovado sugar differs from refined sugar because of its flavor. Not because of its caloric content or because it is another type of good carbohydrate. Therefore, it is essential to know that products with a high content of fast carbohydrates are one of the examples and should be limited in the diet. This happens with most types of sugar.

  1. Honey

From an energy point of view, there is not a big difference between honey and sugar. Honey is a food made up practically of water and fructose. The advantage of honey against sugar is its higher content of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant molecule.

  1. Cookies, donuts, and baked goods

Cookies, donuts, and baked goods aren’t just high in flour. Instead, they are examples of foods that are high in simple carbohydrates. While they are rich, you should avoid these foods if you want to stay healthy.

  1. Sugary soft drinks

Sugary sodas are one of the foods with the highest content of simple carbohydrates. Limiting Coca-Cola and similar beverages is the first step in cutting down on bad carbohydrates. In addition, one of the secrets of Coca-Cola is its high salt content; if ice is not added, it causes dehydration.

  1. Jams

Jams are a food high in simple carbohydrates. In addition, most of the vitamins in fruits are degraded in their preparation. The best thing about nutrition is to substitute the jams for natural fruits.

  1. Industrial cereals

Contrary to what you might think, industrial cereals are not a good food choice. Sugar is likely to come first on your ingredient list – the main component of breakfast cereals is simple carbohydrates. It is better to consume whole foods such as oatmeal as an ideal breakfast.

  1. Ice cream

Traditional ice creams are a leading food in straightforward carbohydrate content. It is essential to know that although most types of water-based ice cream do not contain fat, their range of simple carbohydrates (sugar) is equal to or more significant.

  1. Sweet chocolates

Not all types of chocolate are harmful. Chocolate greater than 70% cocoa and sweetened with stevia is a food with a low content of simple carbohydrates. However, milk and white chocolate are. Limiting its consumption is one of the first rules for those people who tend to have diabetes.

Are Simple Carbs Bad?

Claiming that there is a wrong type of carbohydrate is not very scientific. Although simple, refined carbohydrates should be the ones that should be controlled in the diet, if they are consumed in moderation and together with fiber, they do not generate serious health problems.

When simple carbohydrates are isolated and consumed in excess, they can be harmful. Some organizations such as FAO and WHO suggest that these foods are limited to 5% of total calories. (7).

They can cause type 2 diabetes and are a risk factor for obesity and hypertension. (5)

For this reason, on a type 2 diabetic diet, the consumption of sugar and other simple carbohydrates must be strictly controlled.

To reach this figure, foods with complex carbohydrates should be included: cereals and pseudo-cereals ( quinoaoatsamaranth ), and avoid foods with high sugar content.

And are sugar substitutes fast carbs?

The sugar substitutes are food additives with a distinctive sweet flavor but different table sugar.

However, this does not remove the fact that some contain simple carbohydrates in their composition: this is the example of honey. For this reason, its consumption must be controlled with the same criteria as sugar.

Other sugar substitutes like stevia, sucralose, or aspartame do not contain simple, digestible carbohydrates. This is the reason why they do not contribute calories.

The consumption of sugar substitutes in moderate amounts is considered safe for health, and because they do not modify insulin levels, they are recommended for diabetics. However, recent research has confirmed that they are not good for losing weight. (8.9)

Like simple carbohydrates, sugar substitutes generate reactions that create an addictive tendency to eat sweet foods.


Simple or fast-absorbing carbohydrates are carbohydrates made up of one or two saccharides.

The recommended consumption of this type of carbohydrate is a maximum of 10% of the total daily calories.

Examples of foods with simple carbohydrates are sugar, honey, soda, jams, sugary cereals, baked goods, ice cream, chocolates, and all foods that are high in added sugar.

Excess rapidly absorbed carbohydrates not only lead to rapid weight gain. But it can also lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.

It cannot be said that there are bad carbohydrates. However, replacing the simple ones with complex ones or accompanying them with fiber is a fundamental rule to achieving balanced nutrition.

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