Healthy Starts Made Simple

I’ve heard that some carbs are better for me than others. Is this true?

Expert Answers

Yes, it’s true! You need carbs for energy, and knowing which to eat and which to skip can help you lower your risk of chronic disease. Two types of carbs fuel up your body:

  • Complex carbs (whole-grain breads and cereals, beans and starchy vegetables) break down slowly and help you maintain a steady blood sugar level.
  • Simple carbs (fruit, milk, veggies, and processed foods like candy and syrups) provide a quick energy boost, causing spikes in your blood sugar.

Repeated blood sugar spikes can cause stress on blood vessels and organs, according to the Mayo Clinic, which makes many simple carbs bad carbs. To maintain healthy blood sugar levels, “aim for minimally processed, clean foods, and focus on whole grains,” says registered dietitian-nutritionist Debi Zvi.

Should you give up on all simple carbs then -- fruit along with candy? Of course not! Fruit still contains plenty of vitamins and minerals you need. Instead, just pair a healthy simple carb, like fruit, with fiber-full cereal (one to try: Kellogg’s® All-Bran®). Fiber helps slow your digestive process.

Finally, if you doubt you can give up sweets and other bad-carb guilty pleasures altogether, Zvi recommends making these smart swaps:

  • Sweet potatoes instead of french fries
  • Quinoa or brown rice instead of white rice
  • Homemade cookies instead of packaged ones
  • Whole-wheat bread instead of white bread
  • Fruit and yogurt in lieu of butter
Jessica Remitz is a freelance writer and editor currently contributing to FitPregnancy, Everyday Health, Spafinder, Pet360 and BBC Travel. She writes frequently for Healthy Starts Made Simple.