Okay, so we have all heard not all carbs are created equal. So, are there carbs we should stay away from, eat occasionally or is the hype just that, hype?

Carbohydrates make up most of the organic matter on earth. However, pertaining to diet we refer to simple carbohydrates (monosaccharides, and disaccharides) such as sucrose, fructose, and glucose, and complex carbohydrates (oligosaccharides and polysaccharides) such as vegetables and grains.  

When carbohydrates are consumed they’re almost immediately converted to glucose causing the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin will try to store this glucose as glycogen in your muscle (a good thing). However, when over feeding on carbohydrates or when muscle stores are full some of the excess is stored in the liver and the rest as fat. The easier a carbohydrate breaks down (simple sugar, refined flour, starch) the more insulin is released into the blood. This is called the glycemic load or value. Whole grains break down slower than refined ones and therefore have a lower glycemic value.   

Carbohydrate rich foods, bread, potatoes,pasta,corn, rice.

The good.

Carbohydrates are used in almost every process in the body, are a ready source of energy and are the easiest to convert to useable energy compared to protein and fat. They are inexpensive and readily available. The energy derived from them, particularly simple carbs is virtually instantaneous. Fruit and vegetables are full of low glycemic load simple sugars, (low because they are mostly water) while whole grains are complex carbohydrates that are high to moderately high in the glycemic index. Both are full of soluble and insoluble fiber (which once again slows down the absorption rate of the sugars), as well as vitamins and other healthy trace nutrients.

The Bad

These would be simple and overly processed and refined products, sugary sodas, pastries and candy. Because these are empty of nutrients and have a high glycemic value they will cause excessive fat storage. An excess of these can cause heart disease, obesity and diabetes.


Most dieticians and nutritionist would agree that your carbohydrate intake should be between 40 and 60 percent of your calories from #1 fruits and vegetables, #2 legumes and #3 whole grains. Potatoes are roots and are therefore starch and highly glycemic with the exception of sweet potato which is low and an excellent food.

More recent studies are proving that excess carbohydrate intake may contribute to heart disease more than fat or even saturated fat does. For this reason corn, pasta, rice and breads should also be limited. That being said, even high glycemic starches have value and purpose such as after a long intense workout to replace muscle glycogen that will have been depleted.  

Remember, when choosing your carbohydrates keep the glycemic load level low, the fiber high and use lots of variety and color and don't over indulge. If you're craving a crusty baguette or pasta (who doesn't, yum)  just time it for after a long or intense workout. and finally, do yourself a favor and allow yourself a free meal a week, life's too short to always be on.


Update 4/24/15

Several studies have shown that starchy foods that have gone through a cooking then cooling process form a type of starch known as resistant starch or RS that as the name implies resists digestion. The RS breaks down in the colon in a fermentation process that produces short chain Fatty acids that cause more fat release from fat cells, less fat storage and reduce intestinal inflammation that can cause IBD symptoms and more.

Adding 10 to 20 grams a day of RS may help dieting be more effective. For a list follow this link Resistant Starch -  The Carb That Aids Weight Loss.