List of bad carbs

Updated July 20, 2017

Carbohydrates come from a variety of foods, and some of these are so unhealthy that they should be excluded from the average diet. Many low-carbohydrate diets exist that extol the virtues of weight loss by avoiding bad carbs, and while these approaches can be very effective, the Department of Health and Human Services points out that carbohydrates are an essential nutritional component for healthy living. Understanding a little bit about how carbs work in the body can help you make better choices about what to eat and what to leave on the store shelves.

Simple Carbohydrates

There are two types of carbs. The complex variety provide long-term energy as they slowly break down in your system. They also include fibre which helps digestion while making you feel fuller after eating. On the other hand, simple carbohydrates provide a quick energy spike but then leave you tired and hungry. This actually prompts you to eat even more food. With these factors in mind, it is important to know how to meet your body's needs while still reaping the benefit of a low-carb lifestyle. The first step is to know how to identify those simple carbohydrates that are bad for you.


Most people realise that eating candy and other sweets is not good for you, but what they don't know is that carbohydrates themselves can be broken down into sugars. Stay away sugar itself in its natural forms--including brown and icing sugar. Soft drinks and candy are also foods that contain large amounts of sugar and should be avoided. Sweet syrups like corn and maple-flavoured syrup are loaded with bad carbohydrates.

Refined Foods

These are primarily refined grain products that quickly elevate the blood sugar but don't provide the long-term energy that complex carbohydrates do. Foods to avoid in this category include white bread, pasta (excluding whole wheat), bagels, pastries and cereals.

Vegetable Carbohydrates and Grains

Most vegetables are essential elements of a healthy diet, but some do contain unwanted carbohydrates. Potatoes are notoriously bad, especially in the form of crisps and French fries. Other bad carbs in this category include white rice, sweet potatoes, corn, peas and beets.


Potatoes deserve special mention because they are the one source of carbohydrates that everyone tries to avoid. They serve as a good example because two of the refined forms are very prevalent in our food culture--potato chips and French fries. The potato in its natural form is an innocuous vegetable with many redeeming nutritional qualities, but the more it is processed, the worse it becomes.

A rule of thumb when determining what a bad carbohydrate is: think about how far the product in your hand has come from its original form. Carbohydrates are an important ingredient in any healthy diet, and by avoiding heavily processed foods and sweets, you can have a good nutritious lifestyle and remain fit.

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About the Author

Gregg Miller has been a professional educator, writer and language tutor since 1996 and contributes to various websites. He specializes in education, fitness and language articles. He has a Master of Education in teaching English as a second language from Grand Canyon University and a Bachelor of Arts in Asian studies from the University of Florida.