Deciphering differences between good and bad carbs

Ocoee dietician/nutritionist Allison Brinkley spills the beans on the difference between good and bad carbohydrates and how to eat healthier.

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  • | 3:17 p.m. February 20, 2016
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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When it comes to eating healthy, we’ve been taught that carbohydrates are the bad guys — you’ll know this full well if you’ve ever felt the guilt that consumes you when eating white rice. But in reality, not all carbs are bad.

Allison Brinkley, a registered dietician and nutritionist from Ocoee, offered some tips to help differentiate between good and bad carbs and on how to choose healthy alternatives. 



Good carbs are those that take more time to break down and use in the body, therefore making you feel fuller after eating. They typically contain low to moderate amounts of calories, are high in fiber and a variety of phytonutrients, and are low in sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol. Additionally, they are unrefined, contain no trans fats and have a low glycemic index, meaning your blood sugars will not spike.

On the other hand, bad carbs typically contain more calories and have low nutritional value. They are low in fiber and may leave you feeling full temporarily, but your body breaks them down faster than it does good carbs. They are also high in refined sugar and flour, sodium, saturated fat, cholesterol and trans fats. Additionally, they have a high glycemic index, which contributes to spikes in blood sugars.

“(Because) good carbs are high in fiber, that helps to lower blood sugar, insulin levels and LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol,” Brinkley said. “It also helps you feel full longer and aids in digestion. Replacing bad carbs with good carbs can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.”

Don’t be fooled by seemingly healthy foods, either. Always check the nutritional labels before purchasing or eating them, as they can actually be filled with artificial sweeteners, sugars or refined flour. Among these foods are bran muffins — which are actually loaded with sugars and refined flour — and dried fruits, since some manufacturers will add sugars during production. Brinkley suggests finding some that do have additional sugar and limiting your intake.

“Water with added flavors and vitamins … can be shockingly high in sugar or artificial sweeteners,” Brinkley said. “It is best to add a slice of lemon, cucumber or ginger to your water infuser. (Also), pretzels. While (they are) baked and not fried, (they) still have little to no nutritional value, since (they are) made with white flour and added sodium.”



Brinkley said one thing to be aware of when choosing to eat healthy is knowing the origin of your food.

“If it comes from the Earth as close (as possible) to its pure form, then it is likely a good carb,” she said. “If it was made in a factory, then it is likely refined and considered a bad carb.”  

Brinkley said it’s important to check a food’s ingredient label to find the nutrient content per serving. Additionally, take a look at the ingredient list. If there are words you cannot pronounce, it probably isn’t the best choice.

Allison Brinkley offers a variety of services, including nutritional support, monthly accountability groups and weight-loss management.

For more, email her at [email protected].



Contact Danielle Hendrix at [email protected].


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