There are few topics as highly debated in nutrition as the role that carbohydrates should play in a balanced diet. Most dietary guidelines suggest that about half of our caloric intake should come from carbs. 

The fact is our bodies need carbohydrates to function well. Making sure that we choose the best carbs for our nutritional goals is important. 

What are carbs? 

Carbohydrates, in nutrition, are one of three foundational macronutrients. Protein and fats are the other two. Carbs can further be broken down into three categories: 

  • Sugars – sweet, short-chained carbs like glucose and sucrose. 
  • Starches – long chains of glucose molecules that are broken down in the body. 
  • Fiber – a vital part of healthy digestion. 

The primary role of carbs in our diet is to provide energy. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose which the body uses for fuel and energy. 

best carbs

Which carbs are the best carbs? 

Not all carbs are good carbs. There’s a difference between “simple” and “complex” carbohydrates just like there are differences between “whole” and “refined” carbs. 

Whole food sources are packed with nutrients and fiber that your body needs. Eating these whole carbs will help provide the energy and fiber you need: 

  • Vegetables
  • Legumes
  • Potatoes
  • Barley
  • Whole Grains
  • Quinoa 

It’s best to avoid refined carbohydrates. Foods like these are associated with a host of negative health conditions including obesity and type 2 diabetes: 

  • White Bread
  • Pastries
  • Sugar-sweetened Beverages

Basically, it’s best to stay away from heavily refined foods and stick with nutrient-dense whole foods, including carbs. 

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