List of good & bad carbohydrates

sugar-basin and lump-sugar image by Maria Brzostowska from

When people refer to "good" and "bad" carbohydrates, what they are really talking about are complex carbohydrates versus simple carbohydrates. The difference between the two is that complex carbohydrates release sugar slowly into the body while simple sugars are fast releasing.

Eating too many fast releasing sugars in your diet can lead to weight gain and diseases such as type II diabetes.

Good Carbohydrates Include Fruit

This includes nearly all fruits, including apples, avocado, blueberries, blackberries, pineapple, melon, papaya, mango, strawberries, pears, kiwi, oranges, grapes, lemon and limes, peaches, plums and watermelon. While dried fruit and bananas are not classed as "bad" carbohydrates, they can release sugar quickly in the body so you may want to eat them in moderation if you are trying to lose weight.

Vegetables are Good Carbohydrates

Most vegetables are good carbohydrates. These include: broccoli, spinach, lettuce, collard greens, squash, carrots, peppers, cucumber, cabbage, cauliflower, mushrooms, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, zucchini and watercress. Potatoes tend to release sugar quickly, so you may want to eat them in moderation.

Whole Grains are Complex Carbohydrates

Whole grains are any foods made from the whole grain, rather than just a part of the grain, which has less health benefits. These can include breads such as whole wheat or rye bread as well as cereals made with brown rice, oats or barley and whole grain pasta. Look for the 100% whole grain label on the package if you are unsure.

Beans are Good Guys, Too

Beans are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates. They include: garbanzo beans, fava beans, kidney beans, pinto, navy, lima and mung beans, black beans, adzuki beans and great northern beans.

Nuts and Seeds are Slow Releasing Carbohydrates

Best eaten in their raw form, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, walnuts and Brazil nuts as well as sesame and pumpkin seeds are all slow sugar releasing and are classed as complex carbohydrates.

Refined Grains Are Bad Carbohydrates

Refined foods include any products made with refined flour. This includes: white bread, white rice and white pasta. Doughnuts, cakes, cookies and baked goods are generally made with refined white flour so fall under this category as well. Most processed foods are made from these "bad" carbohydrates, as they are cheap to manufacture and have longer shelf lives.

Sugar is a Simple Carbohydrate

Sugar and most sugar derivatives are the ultimate source of "bad" carbohydrates. Apart from the obvious refined sugar, this also includes sweeteners, such as high fructose corn syrup. Most processed foods contain high quantities of this. The same goes for soda drinks and most alcohol, which break down very quickly into sugars.