When you hear the word “carbs,” chances are you immediately think of foods like pasta and bread, or fad diets that call for eliminating all carbs to facilitate rapid weight loss. But carbohydrates come in many forms, and they serve as the main source of energy for your nervous system. Before choosing which carbs to incorporate into your meals and snacks, it is important to know they are not all created equally. For example, your body will respond differently to the carbs in a soda compared to those in fruit or beans. All carbs can be part of a healthy diet, but there are some you should limit in your daily eating habits.
The carbs that are generally thought to be the unhealthiest are forms of added sugar. The granulated white sugar you bake with, sweetened syrups you add to your coffee, and other sweeteners added to common foods often are made up of added sugar. There is no shortage of research showing the negative outcomes of a high-sugar diet. Increased blood triglycerides, high blood sugar, and elevated blood pressure are just some of the outcomes noted with a diet rich in added sugar.
When choosing carbs in your diet, look for options without added sugar. On a nutrition label, you can see this nutrient clearly listed, making it easy to compare brands and options. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends women limit their intake to 25 grams per day, while men should aim for no more than 36 grams. You should also look for carb-containing foods that provide fiber. Another nutrient listed in the nutrition facts, fiber aids in digestion and increases your feeling of fullness. When in doubt, stay away from (or limit) these 13 unhealthiest carbs. And next, check out our story on the 20 Best Healthy Carbs for Weight Loss.
Plain yogurt can be a great source of important nutrients, like calcium, protein, and probiotics. Unfortunately, many flavored yogurt options are also loaded with added sugar. While this doesn’t negate the positive attributes of yogurt, it does make flavored yogurt a less ideal option. Instead of flavored yogurt, buy plain yogurt and add your own flavoring with fresh fruit (or a spoonful of your homemade jam!). If you prefer store-bought flavored yogurt, look for options without added sugar. In many cases, these options are sweetened with a zero-calorie sweetener, like stevia or monk fruit.
Who doesn’t like a freshly baked muffin or weekend donut? While the sugar content of some glazed donuts or chocolate-filled croissants is much more obvious, you may be surprised by the sugar content of other pastries. Commercially prepared muffins are a notorious source of added sugar, and many are exceptionally high in fat. This makes them an unhealthy source of carbs, and a food you should limit in your diet. Instead of store-bought muffins, try making your own at home using whole wheat flour and honey in place of traditional added sugar. Load in some shredded carrots or zucchini for an added fiber boost to make them even healthier.
Fluffy bread is undeniably enjoyable, but it lacks many important nutrients. In most white breads, you won’t find fiber or much protein, and you may even see some added sugar. Although a single slice of white bread is often lower in calories than a slice of whole-grain bread, you may be off with the higher calorie count. Whole grain options typically have higher fiber and protein content and can contain more essential nutrients, like B vitamins. When choosing whole grain bread, keep an eye out for added sugar and choose options with at least 2 grams of fiber.
Often found filled with gooey cheese, flour tortillas are no doubt a household staple for many. Similar to white bread, flour tortillas are often lacking fiber and can contain added sugar. Products made with white flour, like white bread and flour tortillas, are usually enriched with some vitamins and minerals but can be less filling than whole wheat flour options. When choosing tortillas, look for whole wheat options or go with corn tortillas that are typically made with few ingredients, making them a healthier source of carb.
A staple of many packed lunches, fruit snacks may as well be considered candy. While you might see “made with real fruit” on the package of some fruit snack varieties, don’t let that fool you. Sure, pureed fruit may be the first ingredient, but you are likely to find a couple of forms of added sugar throughout the ingredient list. Additionally, you’ll often find food dyes and colorings, making these sugary treats even more unhealthy. You’re better off skipping fruit snacks altogether and instead opting for fresh or canned fruit made without added sugar.
With so many cereals available on the market, it can be tough to decipher the good from the bad. When choosing cereals, first look at the added sugar content. Ideally, this number is lower than 5 grams per serving, and as close to zero as possible. In addition to keeping an eye on added sugar, look for options that contain at least 2 grams of fiber, and more would be even better. Sugary cereals might make for a quick breakfast, but they can lead to a quick spike and fall of energy, resulting and a craving for more sugar. Skip the sugar and choose fibrous options for more sustained energy.
An unsurprising source of sugar, candy may be one of the worst sources of carbohydrate. Not only does fruit and chocolate-flavored candy pack in lots of added sugar, but you’ll find food dyes and coloring, saturated fat, and high calorie counts in many options. Additionally, candy lacks fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making it a poor source of calories. An occasional mini-size serving of candy is fine, but swap your daily candy habit with healthier options to satisfy your sweet tooth. Chocolate chips made with minimal added sugar are available, and homemade frozen fruit pops are another great sweet treat to replace candy.