6 "Bad" Carbs You Should Be Eating, According to a Dietitian

You don't have to give up your favorite starchy foods to stick to your healthy diet.

You have probably heard somebody say that there are good carbs and bad carbs. While it is true that some carbohydrate sources, like berries, whole-grain bread and quinoa, are a focus on many healthy diets because of their fiber, antioxidant and micronutrient content, that doesn't automatically mean that all other carb choices are "bad."

Actually, many of these "bad" carbs are pretty good for you as long as you are eating appropriate serving sizes and you include them as a part of an overall balanced and nutritious diet. Carbs are the primary source of energy for the body, and, in many cases, they provide important nutrients you can benefit from. Of course, there are always exceptions to this rule, so always defer to your health care provider.

If you are avoiding a laundry list of carbs because you are under the impression that most of the options out there are "bad" for you, and you are generally in good health, read on to get some relief knowing that your favorite carbohydrate foods are A-OK to enjoy.

lemon rosemary melting potatoes

Pictured Recipe: Lemon-Rosemary Melting Potatoes

Are Carbs Bad for You?

It is understandable to wonder whether carbs are good or bad for you, thanks to many trendy diets that vilify this macro (we're looking at you, keto).

But the age-old question of whether carbs are bad can be answered in one word—no. Carbs are necessary for the body to function, as they are its primary energy source. Carbs (short for carbohydrates) can also supply the body with important micronutrients and fiber. And let's be honest—they can make dishes taste pretty good too.

Sure, some carb sources, like candy and other sweet treats, don't provide many nutrients or health benefits. But there are other carbs that, despite what some wellness influencers will tell you, can offer some unique benefits.

6 "Bad" Carbs You Should Eat

Whether it's the rule that "white" carbs should be avoided or that anything with natural sugar has no place on your plate, chances are you have heard about at least one carb choice being labeled as "bad" at some point in your life. But, some carbs may be surprising sources of nutrients that people should include in their diets.

White Rice

White rice is a staple food in many cultures, and it is hardly a "bad" carb by any means. Sure, most of its fiber is removed during processing, but this grain has some impressive nutritional factors to offer you. First of all, white rice is low in fat and free from added sugars and sodium. And when it comes to micronutrients, this grain provides a wide variety, including calcium, iron and magnesium, per the USDA. Enriched white rice contains even more micronutrients, including folic acid, to help people meet their nutritional needs. Rice is naturally gluten-free, making it a fantastic addition for people with celiac disease.

While eating large quantities of white rice may not be appropriate for all diets, it can be a part of a healthy diet for generally healthy people.


There is no denying that bread is a satisfying and versatile food that is a must-have for sandwich-making. And although bread might be a "no-no" on many fad diets, it can be a healthy part of a balanced diet, especially if you are leaning on whole-grain bread or other nutritious options. The nutritional profile can vary among the different types of bread. For example, whole-grain bread tends to have more fiber than white varieties, and enriched white bread can have more B vitamins than non-enriched options.

Sourdough bread can offer some unique health benefits, thanks to the process used to make it. Some data, such as a 2021 article published in Microbiology Spectrum, show that the daily consumption of sourdough bread may promote healthy microbiota metabolism in the colon, while other research shows its positive impact on glycemic response and satiety, per a 2023 systematic review in Advances in Nutrition.


Pasta is a unique refined carbohydrate because of the protein structure it contains, which makes your body digest it more slowly than foods like white bread. This slower digestion can result in a lower glucose response when compared with foods like white bread. Most pastas are considered to have either a low or medium glycemic index, per a 2021 overview in Foods.

Results from a 2021 study published in BMJ Nutrition, Prevention & Health showed that postmenopausal women who ate more than three servings of pasta every week demonstrated a reduced risk of stroke and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. And other data published in Frontiers in Nutrition in 2020 showed that those who eat pasta tend to have better diet quality when compared with non-pasta eaters. Specifically, pasta eaters tend to consume more folate, fiber, iron and magnesium than non-pasta eaters.


Biting into an ear of juicy corn on the cob can be delicious, and thankfully, eating it may offer some health benefits (just be mindful of the amount of butter you add).

More colorful yellow corn is a natural source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids that help support eye health and may help reduce the risk of macular degeneration, per a 2022 article in Nutrients. Corn also contains fiber, protein and a slew of other nutrients, including zinc, copper and magnesium.

And if you are lucky enough to get your hands on purple corn, know that every bite will deliver a boost of anthocyanin. According to a 2021 review published in Nutrients, this plant compound is linked to reduced LDL ("bad") cholesterol and a reduced risk of cognitive decline.


The delicious banana is sometimes regarded as a "bad" fruit over the internet and social media due to its fiber content. But since this claim isn't backed by science, it's safe to say that this popular and convenient fruit can be a part of a healthy diet and provides essential nutrients for your health.

One medium banana is hardly a sugar bomb. With zero added sugars, only 100 calories, 3 grams of fiber and plenty of micronutrients like potassium, magnesium and vitamin C, bananas are quite nutritious, per the USDA.

Bananas are a good source of potassium, an essential nutrient that supports heart health. In fact, the DASH diet, which is regarded as one of the best diets to support healthy blood pressure, emphasizes the consumption of potassium.

If you enjoy eating your bananas before they are fully ripe, you get the added bonus of the prebiotic fiber that this fruit provides. Underripe bananas contain more resistant starch that may help support healthy gut microbiota, per a 2022 article published in Food Chemistry.


There are many ways to enjoy a potato, from air-fried to mashed with butter and sour cream to simply baked and eaten with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Potatoes can definitelyhave a spot on your dinner plate, along with a variety of other nutrient-dense foods.

Potatoes not only provide carbohydrates, but they also are a natural source of fiber, vitamin C and potassium.

Data shows that incorporating potatoes into a healthy diet can be a safe choice for people with diabetes. Specifically, a 2021 study published in Clinical Nutrition showed that adults with type 2 diabetes who ate a mixed evening meal with skinless potatoes had a lower overnight blood glucose response than those whose meal included low-glycemic basmati rice instead.

The Bottom Line

Labeling foods as "good" or "bad" is impossible to do, for not only does each individual have their own nutritional needs, but all foods can be part of a balanced and nutritious eating pattern. Generally speaking, these carb choices that are constantly being called "bad" can offer some health benefits and can be a healthy addition to a balanced diet, especially for those who are generally considered to be in good health.

As long as you don't have any underlying health condition that prohibits you from eating these foods, carbs like a baked potato enjoyed with protein and veggies or a fresh banana included with a bowl of cereal can be a delicious and nutritious addition to your day.

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