We have all heard the myth that carbohydrates are bad for you. So, is it true? Not exactly: just as in any food group, moderation is key with carbohydrates. It is also important to learn what type of carbs are good for you as well as the quantity that benefits your body. Keep reading to learn what type of carbohydrates will nourish and fuel your body and which ones to limit in your diet.
What are carbs?
Carbohydrates are molecules that have carbon, oxygen and hydrogen atoms. In nutritional terms, carbohydrates are one of the three macronutrients, the other two being protein and fat.
Dietary carbohydrates are composed of three categories: sugars, starches and fiber. A combination of these three carbohydrate categories provide our bodies with the energy we need to fuel our daily lives.
Energy is produced through the breakdown of sugars (glucose), which are then used as energy. Carbs can also be turned into fat, which stores energy for later use.
Whole vs. Refined Carbs
Some carbs are better for you than others. Choose to eat "complex" carbs over "simple" carbs, or "whole" carbs over "refined" carbs.
Whole or complex carbs are unprocessed and contain the fiber found naturally in the food. On the other hand, simple or refined carbs are highly processed and had the natural fiber removed or altered.
Of course, it is okay to eat simple/refined carbs from time to time. Eliminating them completely from your diet is not realistic for everyone.
Making the Right Choice
In general, carbohydrates in their natural, straight from the source, fiber-rich form are healthy. In contrast, carbohydrates that have been processed and stripped of their fiber are not.
If you are unsure whether or not a carbohydrate is good for you, think of it this way: if it is a whole, natural, single-ingredient food, then it’s probably a healthy source of carbohydrates.
Instead of thinking of carbs as either “good” or “bad,” focus on eating whole and complex carbs over simple and refined carbs.
Below is a non-comprehensive list of foods that would be considered "good" (whole/complex) carbs and "bad" (simple/refined carbs).