Carbohydrates are often considered the villains of the food world. They get blamed for weight gain and health problems, but they aren't always the bad guy. In fact, you need carbohydrates to fuel your body and give you energy. The type of carbohydrates you consume is the key to including them in your healthy eating plan. Certain carbohydrates certainly deserve their bad reputation, but others should have a regular place in your diet.
Certain types of carbohydrates are natural, which means they come from plants. These kinds of carbohydrates are usually called complex carbohydrates, and they should make up a good portion of your healthy diet. Many complex carbohydrates also contain fiber, a nutrient that promotes healthy digestion and reduces your risk of becoming constipated. Fiber also plays an important role in keeping your heart healthy and it might reduce your risk of certain types of cancer, too. You should aim to consume between 225 and 325 grams of carbohydrates each day, according to MayoClinic.com, and the majority of them should be in the form of complex carbohydrates.
High-fiber grains such as whole-wheat bread and pasta, oatmeal and brown rice are all healthy sources of good carbohydrates. Barley, couscous, bulgur and certain breakfast cereals are additional grains that supply good carbohydrates. Fruits and vegetables are another important source of good carbohydrates. In addition to a healthy amount of fiber, fruits and vegetables also supply a wealth of other nutrients, such as potassium, vitamin C and vitamin A, that you need for good health. Nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, are healthy carbohydrates, too.
Carbohydrates that contain added sugar are called simple carbohydrates and they are the ones that give carbs a poor reputation. Foods that contain added sugars, such as desserts, are usually less nutritious than foods that contain natural sugars, such as fruit. In addition to more added sugar, they also contain smaller amounts of key vitamins and minerals. These added sugars can contribute to unhealthy weight gain and an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Because of this, bad carbohydrates only deserve, at most, a tiny spot in your diet.
Desserts, such as cookies, cake, pie, candy and ice cream, are among the biggest contributors of bad carbohydrates to your diet. Soda and other sugary drinks are another major source of bad carbohydrates. Certain breakfast cereals and granola bars, as well as condiments, such as ketchup and barbecue sauce, are also bad carbohydrates. Read food labels to determine additional foods that are bad carbohydrates. Look for ingredients like honey, high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, fructose, dextrose, corn syrup, corn syrup, malt syrup, molasses or syrup.
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.