“Good carbs” and “bad carbs” are terms that are often used to describe different types of carbohydrates based on their impact on our health.

Good carbs generally refer to complex carbohydrates that are minimally processed and contain more fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These types of carbs are often found in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. They are digested more slowly than simple carbohydrates, which can help regulate blood sugar levels and provide a sustained source of energy.

On the other hand, bad carbs typically refer to simple carbohydrates that are highly processed and contain added sugars. These types of carbs are often found in sugary drinks, candies, cakes, and other processed foods. They are quickly digested and can cause a rapid increase in blood sugar levels, which can lead to health problems like obesity, diabetes, and heart disease if consumed in excess.

It’s important to note that not all carbohydrates are created equal, and labeling them as “good” or “bad” can be overly simplistic. In general, a diet that is rich in whole, minimally processed foods, and low in added sugars is recommended for overall health and well-being.

5 Examples of Healthy Carbohydrates for a Balanced Diet

Here are some examples of good carbs:

  1. Whole grains: Whole wheat, oats, barley, quinoa, brown rice, and farro are all examples of whole grains that are high in fiber and other essential nutrients.
  2. Fruits: Fruits like apples, oranges, bananas, berries, and grapes are all great sources of healthy carbohydrates, as well as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
  3. Vegetables: Vegetables like broccoli, spinach, carrots, sweet potatoes, and kale are all rich in healthy carbohydrates, fiber, and other important nutrients.
  4. Legumes: Beans, lentils, chickpeas, and peas are all examples of legumes that are high in healthy carbohydrates, fiber, and protein.
  5. Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds like almonds, walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds are all sources of healthy carbohydrates, fiber, and healthy fats.

5 Examples of Unhealthy Carbohydrates to Avoid in Your Diet

Here are some examples of bad carbs:

  1. Sugary drinks: Sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, and fruit juices that contain added sugars are high in calories and can lead to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and other health problems.
  2. Processed snacks: Snacks like chips, crackers, and cookies are often high in refined carbohydrates, added sugars, and unhealthy fats.
  3. White bread and pasta: Highly processed white bread and pasta have little fiber and nutrients and are quickly converted to sugar in the body, leading to blood sugar spikes and insulin resistance.
  4. Candy and sweets: Candy, chocolate, and other sweets are typically high in sugar and calories and can contribute to weight gain and other health problems if consumed in excess.
  5. Fried foods: Fried foods like french fries, onion rings, and fried chicken are often high in unhealthy fats and refined carbohydrates and can contribute to heart disease, obesity, and other health problems.

It’s important to note that not all carbs are bad, and some processed foods can still be part of a healthy diet in moderation. However, it’s generally recommended to limit consumption of processed and refined carbohydrates and focus on whole, minimally processed foods for optimal health.

Balancing Your Carbohydrates: Tips for Incorporating the Right Types of Carbs in Your Diet

Here are some tips on how to incorporate the right type of carbs into your diet:

  1. Choose whole, minimally processed foods: Foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes are all great sources of healthy carbohydrates. Choose whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat bread instead of processed white bread or pasta.
  2. Watch your portions: While healthy carbs are an important part of a balanced diet, it’s still important to watch your portion sizes. Stick to a serving size of around ½ to 1 cup for grains and starchy vegetables, and 1-2 cups for non-starchy vegetables.
  3. Pay attention to added sugars: Many processed foods contain added sugars, even those that are marketed as healthy. Read nutrition labels carefully and look for foods with little to no added sugars.
  4. Choose snacks wisely: Snacks are a great opportunity to incorporate healthy carbohydrates into your diet. Choose snacks like fruit, nuts, and seeds instead of processed snacks like chips and candy.
  5. Pair carbs with protein and healthy fats: Pairing healthy carbs with protein and healthy fats can help slow down digestion and keep you feeling full and satisfied. For example, have a piece of fruit with some nuts or a whole grain wrap with some avocado and grilled chicken.

By incorporating healthy carbohydrates into your diet and paying attention to portion sizes and added sugars, you can enjoy the benefits of this important macronutrient while maintaining a healthy diet.

Sources to Support Understanding of Good and Bad Carbs

Harvard School of Public Health. “Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar.” https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/
American Heart Association. “Healthy Carbohydrates for Your Diet.” https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/whole-grains-refined-grains-and-dietary-fiber
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Carbohydrates.” https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/infantandtoddlernutrition/carbohydrates.html
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Carbohydrates: How Carbs Fit into a Healthy Diet.” https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/dietary-guidelines-and-myplate/carbohydrates-how-carbs-fit-into-a-healthy-diet
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Last modified: May 23, 2023