Is There Really Such A Thing As A Good Carb And Bad Carb?

With the number of fad diets still circulating, it's easy to label a food as "bad" and think you need to avoid it forever. Despite the fact that science proves that fad diets are just plain bad for your health, the idea that some foods are better than others is still pervasive. Carbohydrates get a particularly bad rap, especially with how popular the low-carb keto diet is — but are certain carbs really good or bad for us?

Carbs are a macronutrient that the body breaks down into glucose, which is absorbed by the bloodstream and used for fuel (via Cleveland Clinic). Our bodies need carbs, and they're generally made up of starches, fiber, and sugars. Starches and fiber, such as potatoes, beans, and whole wheat bread, are complex carbs, meaning they're digested slowly and won't cause a blood sugar spike. Sugars, like naturally occurring sugar in fruit and added sugar in soda, are simple carbs, which means that they're absorbed into the bloodstream quickly.

The amount of carbs you should eat each day differs depending on your age, sex, activity levels, and weight goals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that you fill half your plate with fruits and veggies, and a quarter of your plate with whole grains. The other quarter should be filled with protein.

A different way to view carbs

Rather than focusing on how many grams of carbs to consume, it might be smarter to pay attention to what type of carbs you're eating: simple or complex (via EatingWell). Instead of thinking of them as good or bad, it's more useful to think of how carbs can benefit our bodies.

If blood sugar gets too high regularly, like when drinking fruit juice or eating a candy bar, you're more at risk for diabetes, weight gain, heart disease, and high cholesterol (via Cleveland Clinic). Complex carbs are a better choice for balancing blood sugar, and they also contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber that your body needs. These are a good source of carbs and will help you maintain stable blood sugar levels and help you feel full longer.

However, both types of carbs can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet (via EatingWell). Be sure to balance simple carbs with fat and protein, which help to slow the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream in the same way that complex carbs do. If you drink a soda or munch on some cookies, don't stress — you won't be ruining your health.