Good vs. Bad Carbohydrates – Here’s the Difference

good carbs vs bad carbs

Food isn’t our enemy, and it seems like we have so many choices to make. Our intuitive eating plan for you at our California weight loss clinics is designed to help you make healthier choices. 

Lean protein helps maintain your muscle mass and keep your organs healthy. Fats are essential for cell growth, hormone production, and absorption of some key nutrients. So, what’s the deal with carbohydrates? They certainly get a bad rap and are always being kicked to curb with many weight loss plans. 

Are they evil? Should we eliminate them all?

While fats provide some energy, carbohydrates are used for most of our energy production. Carbohydrates produce glucose, which is the main fuel for the body.  So, should we shovel in bread and pasta like there’s no tomorrow? 


We aren’t bears getting ready for winter hibernation. Too many carbs can make you fat and sluggish, and eating the wrong carbs may be counterproductive to your goals. The key is knowing which carbs to eat and which ones to stay away from.  

Carbohydrates fall into three types; sugars, starches, and fiber. We can categorize those three types of carbs as either a simple carb (often frowned upon and called “bad”) or a complex carb (the “good”). 

All carbs are rated on a glycemic index (GI) from 0 to 100. The higher the number, the simpler the carb is. Carbs that have a high GI are ones that you want to stay away from. 

Simply Delicious!

When you consume carbs, these carbs are turned into glucose (a simple sugar) and used by your body for energy. Excess glucose is then stored in the body as fat. 

Simple carbs are the body’s quick go-to for energy.  They can be found in candy, pasta, white flour, and all processed foods. Though often referred to as “bad carbs,” some simple carbs can be beneficial for heavy exercisers who need a lot of energy.  Before or after a marathon race, athletes will often carb load on simple carbohydrates for energy.  

If you are not a marathoner, you want to stay away from–or limit– simple carbs. Don’t overlook the drinks either.  

When you consume these simple carbs and are not able to burn them off quickly, your body stores them as fat. 

Examples of simple carbs to avoid: 

  • Sodas/Energy Drinks
  • Baked Goods
  • Cookies
  • Fruit Juice from Concentrate
  • Cereal
  • Pasta
  • White Bread
  • Corn 
  • White Rise
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (and other sugars such as corn syrup, fructose, glucose, etc.)

Complex but Still Delicious

Complex carbs are called this because they are made up of a long chain of complex sugar molecules — nothing simple about them. 

Complex carbs are low on the glycemic index, while the simple carbs are higher, making them less attractive for weight loss goals. So, your goal should be to include more complex carbohydrates in your daily diet

The high fiber from these carbs makes the sugar release slowly into the body, giving you a more consistent form of energy. Because these complex carbohydrates provide fiber along with vitamins and minerals, they bring more to the table than just the ability to create glucose for energy. This is unlike refined simple carbs (unceremoniously referred to as empty calories), which have little benefit other than a quick punch of energy. 

Complex carbs will also help you feel more satisfied while keeping you fuller, longer. 

Examples of complex carbs you should eat:

  • Whole Grains
  • High Fiber Fruits and Vegetables
  • Beans
  • Quinoa 
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Brown Rice

Maximizing the Good

Whatever the make-up of your diet, consuming the right carbohydrates will have a major impact on your results. See our blog on the best way to shop healthy at the grocery store and stock up on those good carbs, which will help you achieve your weight loss goals. 

If you need help figuring out which carbs you should be eating, see one of our support team members at one of our clinics across the Los Angeles area.

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