Good Carbs vs Bad Carbs

Kim Day

December 8, 2018

Good Carbs vs. Bad Carbs

Carbs. Carbs. CARBS! They’re everywhere this time of year. We crave them. We try to resist them. We obsess over them. But for good reason. There’s a WIDE range of opinions on carbohydrates. Some promote them as healthy, while others shun them. So are carbs good or bad? Short answer: Both.

Our bodies need carbohydrates. Trust me. I went on a NO carb diet one semester in college and it was NOT pretty. (Ask me in person if you want a funny story!) Carbs give us energy…GOOD (complex) carbs do. Bad (simple) carbs make us crash and crave more…and gain weight. So what’s the difference?

Good, complex carbs chemical structure and fibers require our bodies to work harder to digest, and energy is released over a longer period of time. For the most part, good carbs are in their “natural” state, or very close to it. Think whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits. Complex carbs have a low Glycemic Index (GI), producing a gradual rise in your blood sugar, helping you feel fuller longer.

Bad, simple carbs are the opposite: generally processed, so they’ve been stripped of their natural ingredients and fiber. Simple carbs are smaller molecules of sugar digested quickly into our bodies, which leads to a faster “crash”. Ever feel extremely tired AND hungry not long after eating potato chips and a soda…or other various simple carbs? Simple carbs are high Glycemic Index, causing a rapid fluctuation in your blood sugar…known as the crash. White breads, pasta, cereal, granola bars, juices, sodas, desserts…you know what the bad carbs are.

I found this chart pretty helpful, if you’re a visual person like myself –


The bottom line: Carbs are not bad for you. Carbohydrates — both complex and simple ones — are part of a healthy diet. Don’t get so caught up in macros and crunching numbers that you make yourself crazy. Just be sensible about the carbs you choose AND the time of day you choose them. I personally try to limit my carbs after lunch, but I make sure to get my complex intake at lunch…otherwise I’m really craving carbs for dinner. And if I’m heading to a get-together where I know there’s only going to be crap food, (every holiday party this month!) I’ll chow down on a quick salad at home before I head out the door…I’m way less tempted by the time I arrive. It’s not rocket science, but it takes discipline: skip the low-nutrient foods, consider the levels of sugar and fiber, and focus on healthy whole grains, fruits, and veggies to get the energy your body needs every day. And at your next holiday party, ask yourself: Is this Christmas cookie REALLY going to make me feel better? My answer: No, but this glass of wine will! 😉 Find your balance!


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