Differences between Good and Bad Carbohydrates You Should Know

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Carbohydrates are an important part of your diet, but that doesn’t mean you’re free to load up on cakes and cookies to get your daily serving. Here are the differences between good and bad carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet, but there’s much discussion about “good” and “bad” carbohydrates. So how do you know which is which? The answer is both simple — and complex.

Carbohydrates, often referred to as just “carbs,” are your body’s primary energy source, and are a crucial part of any healthy diet. They should never be avoided, but it is important to understand that not all carbs are alike.

Breaking It Down

The three main kinds of carbohydrates are sugars, starches, and fiber. They’re called “simple” or “complex” based on their chemical makeup and what your body does with them, but since many foods contain one or more types of carbohydrates, it can still be tricky to understand what’s healthy for you and what’s not.

Simple carbohydrates are composed of easy-to-digest, basic sugars, which can be an important source of energy. Some of these sugars are naturally occurring, in fruits and in milk, while refined or processed sugars are often added to candies, baked goods, and soda. When trying to figure out if a source of carbohydrates is good or bad, remember this: The higher in sugar it is, and the lower in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, the worse the food is for you.

Complex carbohydrates, found in whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables, contain longer chains of sugar molecules; these usually take more time for the body to break down and use. This, in turn, provides you with a more even amount of energy, says Sandra Meyerowitz, MPH, RD, nutritionist and owner of Nutrition Works in Louisville, Kentucky.

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