Traditional diet knowledge is famous for proclaiming that carbs only cause weight gain, and should therefore be avoided. So when you do go to enjoy a piece of toast in the morning or some rice with your chicken at lunch, you may wonder if it’s a tally in the “healthy” column, or a one in the “indulgence” column. We’re here to clear up this carb confusion!

Just like with calories in general, the classification of whether a carbohydrate is “good” or “bad” all has to do with its quality. Here’s the good news: carbs are a good thing—if they’re high quality! Never let anyone tell you that carbs have no place in a healthy diet, because they’re the primary energy source for our bodies. However, this is only true of carbs of a certain type. It’s easier to understand if we zoom in to the molecular level.

Carbohydrates are classified into two basic categories: simple, and complex.

These words refer to the molecular makeup of different foods. Complex carbohydrates have a more complicated molecular makeup, which means it takes longer for your body to break them down. Therefore, they provide you with energy for a more significant amount of time, whereas simple carbs in general are broken down more quickly.

Here’s the tricky part that some people miss, however: That fact doesn’t simple carbs should be avoided! Just remember that it’s all about quality. Simple carbs can be found in both foods like apples and bananas, and cookies and cakes. We all know that cookies and cakes won’t provide you with much energy, but if apples and bananas fall into the same “simple carb” category, where does that leave them in the “good” versus “bad” debate?

Don’t worry; apples and bananas are good for you!

One central difference between these fruits and desserts with lots of added sugar is fiber, which many fruits contain naturally. So although most fruits are considered simple carbs, the addition of fiber makes them more like the complex variety because it takes your body longer to break them down—therefore giving you more energy. So the “simple” carb classification doesn’t necessarily equate to “bad”; keep enjoying your fruits, but try to limit your consumption of fiber-lacking sodas, desserts and other sweets.

So what about complex carbs?

We know they’re better for our bodies because they give us more consistent energy without spiking our blood sugar, like sugary treats tend to do, but what exactly are they? In general, they’re nutrient-dense foods that contain whole grains and little to no added sugars. A few examples are whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa and lentils. That’s why a piece of whole-wheat toast with banana is a great breakfast choice, because the the complex whole grains in the bread and the fiber in the banana will break down slowly, giving your body a reliable source of energy that lasts longer than a low-quality, simple carb like a doughnut.

Helping you live healthfully is what we do best at Bootique Fitness in San Diego! In addition to outdoor bootcamp, personal training and Zumba classes across the city, our trained staff can also help you get on a healthy track in other areas of your life, like diet. Give us a try; contact us to arrange your trial class, whether it’s outdoor bootcamp in Hillcrest, Zumba in Mission Valley or personal training in La Jolla. Let Bootique help you be strong, be fit, and be happy!