Once And For All: Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs

By Isadora Baum

When it comes to carbs, you don't want to write them off. Your body needs carbs, which is its primary source of fuel, thanks to glucose, in order to function, explains Maggie Moon, MS, RD, and author of The MIND Diet. However, the type of carb does matter, as not all are created equal.

Pizza
credit: Unsplash

When choosing your carbs, you want to pick ones that are not refined (white flour, processed goods, etc.), but have their nutritional value and fiber intake available for absorption. That fiber will slow digestion and fill you up, she explains, making the carb a good source of sustainable energy that won't result in a sugar crash. And, these bad carbs are more likely to have "addictive" qualities, causing you to crave them even more.

Which Carbs Should You Eat?

Her recommendation? "Fill about a quarter of your plate with healthy carbs like whole grains (farro, freekeh, sorghum, brown rice) and starchy vegetables (green peas, corn, squash, sweet potatoes)," she says. And, watch out for those "bad" carbs that are high in sugar and processed foods (think muffins, white bread, sodas, and candy). Save those for indulgences.

Also, don't go too overboard on carbs, even the good ones. "Too much of any kind of food will lead to weight gain," she says. Carbs should make up about 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories.

What to Look For on the Label

"Find good carbs, or complex carbs, that have at least 10% DV of fiber," says Moon. And, be wary of sugars, especially added ones. (Natural sugars are found in fruit and vegetables and are better for you.)

Some labels are even already updated to include the added sugars line, which makes it easier, she says. Plus, if it ends in "ose" on the label, it's likely a sneaky term for sugar, she says, so be cautious. Sugar can be in canned goods, soups, sauces, and more.