If you choose the right ones, carbohydrates can help you banish belly fat, feel satiated, and score energy. After all, carbs are the body’s primary source of fuel. But when it comes to weight loss, not all carbs are created equal.
The worst carbs for weight loss—simple, processed carbs—have actually been proven to slow your metabolism, plummet your energy levels in the long run, and divert you from scoring those hard-earned weight-loss wins.
Keep reading to learn exactly which carbs you need to stay away from if you want to lose weight and why they’ll not only ruin your diet in the short term, but also how they can cause lasting health issues.
What is the worst type of carb to eat?
The worst carbs to eat for weight loss are those that are highly processed, “simple” carbs that have a high glycemic index (high-GI): rice cereal, white bread, sweeteners, and commercial pasta. What exactly is a high-GI? It means that your body metabolizes them quickly, sending your blood sugar levels soaring, resulting in an energy crash. On the other hand, eating low-GI foods won’t spike your blood sugar as much and these levels will fall at a much slower rate, helping you stay fuller for longer.
Decades of studies show that your body’s response to consuming high-GI carbs increases hunger and is more likely to promote overeating compared to eating lower GI foods. Unsurprisingly, that has an effect on your weight; In one The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study, women who followed a high-GI diet were more likely to experience increases in weight, body fat, and waist circumference compared to those with a low-GI diet over the course of six years.
And that’s not all: Another eye-opening study found that increasing your intake of refined carbs, and the lack of fiber that these stripped grains are associated with, can increase one’s risk of type 2 diabetes.
The reason why simple carbs can cause weight gain is simple. It’s because these carbs are all are void of satiating amounts of fiber. “Fiber slows digestion, which wards off blood sugar spikes and hunger and helps maintain blood sugar control—all-important keys to weight loss and management,” explains Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition, and New York City-based dietitian and fitness expert.
That’s exactly why high-GI refined carbs are the worst kind of carb to eat — and they’re the type of starch that gives carbs a bad rap!
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So should you give up carbs altogether?
Of course not—just give up the worst carb to eat for weight loss, as your body requires complex carbs for energy! Whether we consume fruits and legumes or Italian bread and pastries, your body uses up the food’s glucose to carry out essential life functions and help you power through your workout. When we deplete our diet of carbs (like on the keto diet), we are often overcome by lethargy and get bombarded with cravings. (If you have been following the keto diet and are experiencing these symptoms, you should read more about the 7 Warning Signs You Should Stop the Keto Diet Immediately.)
Instead of depriving your body of its main source of energy, rid your kitchen of nutrient-void empty carbs and choose good-for-you carbs that are full of immunity-boosting antioxidants, minerals, and body-loving nutrients such as slimming protein and fiber.
Eat This! Instead
Complementing your meals with complex carbs—including whole-grains such as quinoa, oats, and farro as well as legumes and starchy vegetables—will provide you with lasting energy because the body burns these foods more slowly.
How’s that? Besides for nourishing your body with essential phytochemicals and plant-based protein, whole-grains contain the entire grain kernel—which includes the bran, germ, and endosperm.
On the contrary, refined grains are stripped of their fiber- and nutrient-dense bran and germ in order to lend the grains a longer shelf life and arguably more palatable texture. And that’s exactly why those ubiquitous loaves of white bread you spot in the supermarket are enriched! Manufacturers add the mood-boosting B vitamins and anemia-fighting iron that have been stripped in the milling process back into the grain product—but leave the belly-filling fiber out.
And while nutritious foods such as fruits and dairy products contain quick-burning simple sugars, these natural carbs aren’t refined and come packed with a slew of healthful nutrients you shouldn’t ignore. If you want to reach or maintain a healthy weight, skip the worst carb balance your diet and fill your plate with these 28 Carbs That Won’t Make You Fat.