Are Carbs Really Bad for You?

There is a lot of hype and discussion out there about which type of diet is best when it comes to health and weight loss. Low-carb diets are very popular, but are they really all that healthy? Are carbs really evil, or are they just misunderstood? This article will hopefully help clear up some of the confusion.

First of all, let’s just address the fact that all carbs are not evil! After all, all fruits and vegetables are carbs! If you are attempting to cut all carbs out of your diet, you are going to be giving up some of the healthiest foods available to you.

But with this in mind, why do so few diets suggest eating more carbs?

It is partly due to a lack of understanding in how various nutrients (and the foods that contain them) work together to help your body stay healthy.

Secondly, some people are more sensitive to carbs than others. (If this is true for you, you probably feel like you gain weight just from looking at bread!)

The trick is to learn which foods actually work best for your body, and then include a wide variety of foods that you enjoy and that don’t have adverse effects on you.

This article explains more:

How many carbs you can eat and what you can tolerate is based on your body. It’s not a sexy answer, but it’s the truth.

You can’t assume that high-carb diets are bad just as you can’t assume that high-protein or high-fat diets are bad. Different types of diets work for different types of people. Part of it is how your body responds and another aspect is less physiological and more psychological. The physiological nature is oftentimes controlled by insulin, which, at the most basic level, is a storage hormone.

In general, the less body fat you carry, the better your insulin sensitivity, which means you can eat more carbs. (Your body doesn’t react as aggressively to larger amounts of carbohydrates, often viewed as surging blood sugar.) While insulin is important for weight loss and overall health, it’s not a black-and-white situation.

If you are more insulin resistant, it doesn’t mean you can’t lose weight, but it does have a big impact on the type of diet you should follow. If you’re more insulin sensitive (typically lower body fat), your body will respond better to a higher-carbohydrate diet. If you’re less sensitive (more resistant), then it can often feel like more carbs will go straight to your gut or your as*. And most of the time, it’s not just in your head.

Unfortunately, determining insulin levels isn’t an easy process and requires blood work, but you can see how your body reacts to higher-carb meals. The simplest test (although far from perfect) is consuming carbs in a post-workout period. Do you feel great or do you feel miserable and more bloated? If it’s the latter, either your insulin sensitivity isn’t great or you just ate too much.

A more balanced (and successful) approach is to select a diet and then measure fat loss every two-to-four weeks (but not more frequently). Remember: Fat loss isn’t magic. If you think your insulin sensitivity is good, then you can start with about 50 percent of your diet from carbohydrates. If you’re not confident and worried you’re resistant—or know you have a lot of weight to lose—begin with about 20 to 30 percent of your calories from carbs.


Let’s face it: We can’t discount that low-carb diets have been found to be a very healthy way of eating. There’s plenty of research that indicates lower-carb diets do everything from helping with weight loss to building bodies designed to fight off disease. In fact, unless trying to build muscle, I typically follow a lower-carb approach. (Notice I said “lower-carb” instead of “no-carb,” because lower can mean 100 to 200 grams per day.) The more important message—and the one that will influence how you eat—is developing an understanding that while carbs are not all bad, they’re not all good either.


“Saying carbs are OK does not mean you should shovel in bucket-loads of refined flour foods and chase them down with gallons of soda,” Aragon says. Instead, be smart about where the majority of your carbs come from. It’s always best to create a diet that’s filled with whole and minimally refined foods. Eat more healthy foods (proteins, vegetables, fruits) and less of the stuff you know tastes good but has limited nutritional value (candy, soda, sugar-loaded foods, and boatloads of pasta).

Finding the right diet for you can take some work, but it’s important to remember that it can include carbs. A healthy diet can even include some of the carbs you might not consider healthy—whether bread, grains, and rice, or some sugary dessert every now and then.

The main point is to make the majority of your diet, say 80 to 90 percent, come from the good stuff, and keep the minority to the bad. (Or avoid it altogether, if that’s your preference or you know that a small taste might open the gateways to a binging episode.)

Some people will thrive on more carbs, while others will suffer. Your best bet is to play around with food options that are both healthy and work for you. This is the “sustainability diet,” and while it’s not really a diet (or all that exciting), it is the best approach to dietary success.

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