Good Carbs vs Bad Carbs: What’s the Difference?

Carbohydrates are one of your main sources of energy. Your body turns carbohydrates into glucose for energy in your cells, organs, and muscles. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends diets consist of 45 to 50 percent of carbohydrates daily.

These carbs are not necessarily bad for you. Good carbs vs bad carbs- what’s the difference? Check out this guide to find out.

Complex and Simple Carbs

The main sources of carbs consist of starches, sugars, and fiber. They are either considered complex or simple depending on their makeup and how your body uses them.

Complex carbs are unprocessed and have natural fibers. Simple carbs are more processed and have natural fibers removed.

Examples of complex carbs include whole grains, vegetables, whole fruit, potatoes, and legumes. These foods are generally more healthy than simple carb foods. Examples of simple carb foods include white bread, white pasta, fruit juices, pastries, and sugar-sweetened beverages like soda.

Simple carbs have basic sugars that are easy to digest. Some foods have both natural carbs and added or processed sugars like corn syrup, fructose, maltose, brown sugar, glucose, sucrose, and trehalose.

Complex carbs take longer to break down and use for energy. These carbs give you more consistent energy.

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More About Complex Carbs

Since complex carbs take longer to digest, you won’t experience the ups and downs in your blood sugar. Complex carbs typically have more fiber, minerals, and vitamins than simple carbs. Some examples of nutrient-packed complex carbs include:

  • Barley
  • Brown and wild rice
  • Whole wheat pasta, bread, and flour
  • Quinoa
  • Corn
  • Legumes like lentils, black beans, and chickpeas

You still need to read the labels for foods like pasta and bread. Looks for any mention of added sugar. A good rule to remember that the higher the sugar content usually means lower amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which makes the carbs worse for you.

on a white background a set of healthy food consists of quinoa seeds, vegetable fiber, coconut and almonds

More About Simple Carbs

Not all simple carbs are bad for you. For example, some fruits have simple carbs with basic sugars. However, fruits are different from other “simple” carb foods with added refined sugars.

The fiber in vegetables and fruits changes the method your body uses these sugars. It slows down the digestion, which acts more like complex carbs.

You should these types of simple carbs in your diet found in foods like:

  • Ice cream
  • Pastries
  • Desserts
  • Cookies
  • Soda
  • Candy
  • Sweetened beverages like iced tea, soda, and lemonade
  • Energy drinks

You don’t want these foods to be your primary source of carbs. It’s okay to have them on occasion.

How to Chose the Right Carbs

As you can see from above, not all carbs are equal. It is important to have carbohydrates as part of your healthy, well-balanced diet.

Eat whole fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables and fruit that do not have any added sugar. Fruit juices and dried fruits tend to have more concentrated sources of sugars, so they also have more calories. Whole fruits and vegetables have more fiber to help keep you fuller with fewer calories.

Legumes, like beans, lentils, and peas, are high in iron, potassium, and magnesium. They are versatile and nutritious foods that are a good source of protein. They can also be a healthy substitute for meat with lower cholesterol and fat.

Be sure to limit your added sugars, which can add more calories to your diet. Check the labels of all your food and look for any of these sugars mentioned above. It’s probably ok to have small amounts of added sugar but be mindful of how much added sugar is in your food.

Dairy products also have some added sugar. Milk, yogurt, and cheese are good sources of protein, calcium, and several vitamins.

Whenever you are looked at grains like bread or pasta, choose the whole grain version. Whole grains have more important nutrients like B vitamins. Refined grains, or the white version of bread and pasta, have been stripped of various parts of grains including several key nutrients and fiber.

You can choose carbs wisely. Limited refined grains and added sugars that don’t have much nutritional value. Don’t eat too much candy, desserts, and sugary drinks, and reach for whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.

Close-up of a traditional lasagna made with minced beef bolognese sauce topped with basil leafs served on a white plate

Low Carb Diets

Are you wondering about low-carb diets? These diets restrict carbs but allow more fat and protein. Studies have concluded that low-carb diets can be more effective than low-fat diets.

These studies also show that low-carb diets not only help people lose weight but also help them improve cholesterol, blood pressure, blood triglycerides, and blood sugar.  These diets can be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndromes. Both of these diseases can cause cardiovascular issues and are responsible for millions of deaths each year.

Avocado, salmon, fried eggs and arugula

Keto Diet

Ketogenic is a form of a low-carb diet. You should eat more fat on this diet and avoid simple carbs. The Atkins diet is more protein than fat.

Your meals should be about 70 to 80 percent fat on this diet. Your meals should also have about 20 percent protein and 5 percent carbohydrates. You should also eat whole, fresh foods on this diet.

When you eat less than 50 grams of carbs a day, your body starts breaking down fat after it runs out of carbs for an energy source. This helps you lose weight. When your body starts using this fat for energy, this process is called ketosis.

Good Carbs vs Bad Carbs Conclusion

Now that you know the difference between good carbs vs bad carbs you can choose the food that is healthier for your body. When choosing carbs for your diet, remember to find the ones with the most nutrients. Pay attention to the quality of your food, and read labels to check for unnecessary added ingredients like sugars.

Looking for some healthy recipe ideas? Check out our site for some recipes like these easy 15 keto dinner recipes.

Are you busy and still want to eat healthy meals? Check out Ketoned meals and choose from the menu for food to simply heat up and enjoy the ECO-friendly keto meals.

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