Good vs Bad Carbs: Not All Carbs Are Equal

All carbs are not evil; it's just that some of them should be eaten less frequently than others. It's not that hard to tell the difference between a good carb and a bad carb if you know what a carb actually is.

Carb stands for carbohydrate, which is one of three types of macronutrients in our diet. Unlike the other types of macronutrients (protein and fat), carbohydrates are available for immediate energy. If we don't need that energy the body stores it in the form of glycogen or fat.

There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Sugar is the common name for simple carbohydrates. The body quickly absorbs sugar into the bloodstream to use as energy. The reason sugar gets a bad rap is because it's absorbed so fast that it causes high blood sugar quicker than other types of carbohydrates. When blood sugar is high, the body uses what it can for energy and stores the rest as fat.

Complex carbohydrates take a little while to break down into sugar which means the blood sugar rise is slower and less dramatic. This gives your body time to use that sugar, instead of immediately storing it as fat.

So how can you tell the difference between a complex carb (good carb) and simple carb (bad carb)? It isn't always super clear, but in general, complex carbs or good carbs have:
  • Higher fiber
  • Higher protein and/or fat
  • Are whole foods/natural/ or unprocessed
Example of good carbs:
  • Whole grains such as oats, whole wheat, brown rice, and quinoa
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Chia seeds
  • Fresh/frozen fruit
  • Fresh/frozen vegetables
These types of carbs are slow digesting, low glycemic index, keep you fuller for longer and help with weight loss.

In general, bad carbs have:
  • Low fiber
  • Low protein and/or healthy fat
  • Are highly processed
Examples of Bad Carbs:
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages (soda, sports drinks, etc)
  • Fruit juice
  • Processed flours and baked goods
  • Crackers
  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • Cookies
  • Pastries
  • Desserts
  • Candy, ice cream, frozen yogurt
  • Potato chips or fries
  • Sugar in any form (sugar, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, honey, agave nectar, etc)
These types of carbs are fast digesting, high on the glycemic index, less filling, and more likely to lead to weight gain when overconsumed. It is recommended to limit consumption of added sugar to less than 25 grams per day.

It's best to choose high-quality carbs (aka good carbs) the majority of the time and leave simple carbs for desserts and special treats.

Vicki Walters - Mar 2, 2018
Thanks for this very informative article..I am having struggles with type 2 and this is going to be a HUGE help to me! thank you again!!!
Barbara Peers - Mar 1, 2018
Thank you for this article. My other half is a diabetic type 2 and I'm having one heck of a time trying to keep him on track, he also refuses to read anything that has to do with diabetes related to food.
This article is easy to read and has exactly what I have been looking for, it is straight forward and it is very easy to understand, in other words it is straight to the point. He will read this even if I have to sit on him until he does.
Thank you again and I would like to see more articles like this one.
Ken Revolinsky - Mar 1, 2018
Thanks for this article. I have been having problems with my blood sugar and have been watching my carb intake very closely.
I thought like many other people that all carbs are not good.
this article helped me understand about carbs a lot more.
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