Harvard Men's Health Watch

Carbohydrates in your diet: It's the quality that counts

Not all carbohydrate-rich foods are created equal. Here's how to identify healthy carbs and add get more of them

If you've heard that carbs are "bad" for you, think again. Carbohydrate-rich foods are the foundation of a healthy diet—but some are more healthy than others. "High-quality carbs have essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in a natural 'package' that limits fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin that contribute, at least in part, to chronic illness and overeating," says Dr. Michelle Hauser, a clinical fellow in medicine at Harvard Medical School and a certified chef and nutrition educator.

What is carbohydrate quality?

Most carbohydrates in food are sugars and starches, which provide the energy you need to get up and go. Digestion converts them into blood sugar (glucose). In response, the pancreas shoots insulin into your system to help the glucose fuel enter your cells to power their activities. Fiber is a carbohydrate, too. Although we can't actually digest fiber, it does have important health benefits.

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