Good vs Bad Carbohydrates
Healthy Living

Good vs Bad Carbohydrates

Mehvish Hamdare profile Authored by Mehvish Hamdare on 1 Sep 2014 - 12:56.

Carbohydrates often get a bad rap: because they lead to weight gain, diabetes and stimulate appetite, but the truth is that carbohydrates are one of the three major nutrients found in our diet, along with protein and fat — and we need them to stay healthy. They are essential for proper functioning of the body. Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet, and a lot is talked about what are good / bad carbohydrates. 

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, some carbs promote health while others, if eaten too frequently or in quantities that are too large, can potentially lead to health problems. What’s most important is the type of carbohydrate you choose to eat because some sources are healthier than others. The amount of carbohydrate in the diet - high or low - is less important than the type of carbohydrate in the diet.

Understanding Carbohydrates:

The main function of carbohydrate is to supply the body with the energy needed for the muscles, brain and central nervous system. In fact, the human brain depends exclusively on carbohydrates for its energy.

Carbohydrates are grouped into two categories: complex carbohydrates or ‘good carbs’, and simple carbohydrates or ‘bad carbs’.

The body converts digestible (non-fiber) carbohydrates into glucose, which our cells use as fuel. Some carbs i.e simple carbs break down quickly into glucose while others complex carbs are slowly broken down and enter the bloodstream more gradually.

Complex/Good Carbs

Good carbohydrates are complex carbohydrates which contain longer chains of sugar molecules which make the body take longer time to break them down. These carbohydrates typically are high in fiber, take longer to digest and help stabilize blood sugar levels. They contain vitamins, minerals and a host of important phytonutrients which promote health.


  • Whole grain like oats and oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, barley, millet, muesli, whole grain bread and pasta
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Whole fruits and vegetables like pears, strawberries, yams, cucumbers, carrots, beans, apples, onions, tomatoes etc.
  • Nuts, seeds and legumes like Lentils, chick peas, split peas, soybeans, kidney beans
  • Dairy products like soy milk, yoghurt


  • Complex carbs are a best source of dietary fiber. Foodsrich in dietary fiber give you a feeling of fullness, thus cutting down the risk of overeating, which benefits in weight management. They aid in digestion and prevent digestive disorders such as constipation or diverticulitis. Additionally medical experts note that diets high in fiber help to lower cholesterol and improve heart health and protect against type 2 diabetes.
  • Complex carbs are a source of essential vitamins and minerals needed by the body for normal functioning. Vitamins and minerals are in turn essential for hormonal balance, reproductive health, normal skin, hair growth and good eyesight.

Simple/Bad Carbs:

Simple carbohydrates are composed of 1 or 2 sugar units that are broken down and digested quickly by the body whichin turn can cause extreme surges in blood sugar levels, which also increases insulin release. This can elevate appetite and the risk of excess fat storage.


  • Refined carbohydrates are those found in sugar, crackers, and cereals
  • Refined grains like white bread, white rice and white pasta, refined flour, white flour
  • Processed foods such as cake, sweets and candy, cookies and chips, donuts, muffins, pastries and desserts
  • Sweetened soft drinks, soda, artificial syrups, aerated drinks, fruit juices


  • Refined carbohydrates are considered as bad carbs because during processing fiber is often removed, since fiber helps slow the release of sugar into the blood, the loss of fiber is one reason that processed foods have a high glycemic index, meaning that these foods cause a sudden and sharp increase in blood sugar. If this blood sugar is not used by the body, it is stored as fat.
  • Refining process also strips these grains of B-vitamins, fiber and certain minerals.
  • These foods are usuallylow in nutrient density as they have little or no nutritional value and supply a large amount of calories leading to weight gain.
  • Increased consumption of simple carbohydrates can lead to a host of medical problems like weight gain, an increase in the risk of diabetes and an increased chance of heart disease.

Final thoughts: So choose your carbohydrates wisely by opting for foods that are the most unprocessed or minimally processed by checking the labels.




*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.