Breads, fruits, vegetables, pasta, and nuts

What Makes Carbs Good or Bad?


By Ally Schuman

Adapted by Melody Gluth

Carbohydrates can be confusing – some are considered “good” while others are deemed “bad”. So what makes a carb good or bad?

The easiest way to tell whether a carb is good or bad is to take a close look at the food. If it looks like it came out of the earth (for example, whole corn kernels instead of corn flakes), then it is good. The less processed the carb is, the better. Foods with bad carbs look like it was produced rather than grown in the soil. In these foods, fiber and nutrients have been stripped, water has been squeezed out, fat, salt, calories, and sugar have been added.

Dr. Neal Malik, MPH, RDN, CHES, EP-C, a core faculty at the School of Natural Health Arts & Sciences at Bastyr University in California, explains that processed carbohydrates (sometimes called refined carbohydrates) are lacking fiber, as well as many important nutrients such vitamins and minerals. Consuming these processed carbohydrates may lead to a spike in blood sugar, and is often associated with a number of chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

It’s tough for even the most health conscious eaters to know for sure which carbohydrates to avoid, and which can have great health benefits. Dr. Malik gives a break down of what you can do and what you can avoid in order to eat healthy:


  • Incorporate whole grains into your diet. These include whole grain breads, pastas, cereals, brown or wild rice and quinoa. They are minimally processed and therefore provide more nutrients and fiber than their refined counterparts.
  • Eat lots of beans and legumes. These foods contain plenty of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. They can also increase feelings of satiety, helping you feel fuller for longer.
  • Eat sweet potatoes. The bright orange color signifies that these carbohydrates are a wonderful source of Vitamin A and fiber.


  • Do not drink soda. Most people forget that sodas are full of carbohydrates. They’re main ingredient is sugar, which is an extremely processed carb!
  • Do not sip on fruit juice. One whole orange is not equal to one glass of orange juice, so you are getting several times the recommended serving amount without the satiety. Even 100% fruit juice contains fructose (a sugar and therefore carbohydrate), which is absorbed and processed by the body quicker than if one were to eat a whole fruit.


If you follow this advice and avoid bad carbs, you will be eating healthier in no time!


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