Carbohydrates Basics

By Jenn Randazzo, MS, RD, categorized in Stylish Science

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Bread. Pasta. Pancakes. Bananas.  What do these foods have in common (besides being delicious)? They contain carbs. Big. Bad. Evil. Carbs. We joke – imagine we said that sarcastically!

Poor carbs. Seriously, ever since we’ve fallen back in love with fat and protein, carbohydrates have become the macronutrient we all love to hate and hate to love.

But do carbohydrates really deserve the bad rap that we’ve given them? I’m going to argue not.  It is all about which carbs you eat, and as always, portion size!

So, keep reading to get the info you need on carbohydrates.

The Basics


  • Are one of three macronutrients (along with protein and fat)
  • Can be categorized as a starch or sugars
  • Maintain normal brain function

I’ve heard of “good” and “bad” carbs? What’s the difference?

There are two types of carbohydrates, simple and complex carbohydrates.  Each type is found in different types of foods, and is used in different ways as fuel, and can offer different benefits.


Simple Carbs (sugars)

Complex Carbs (starch, polyols)


Sugars in Fresh fruits

Sugars in 100% fruit juice

Sugars (of all kinds—even maple syrup)

Whole grains

Starchy vegetables (like corn, sweet potatoes or parsnips)



Can provide immediate energy  

Can provide slow release energy

Has less of an impact on blood sugar than simple carbs


Enjoy fruits and nuts as part of a balanced snack

At mealtime!



But why do my friends that eat a high-protein, low-carb diet lose weight?

Protein is an awesome macronutrient. There’s no denying it. However, even though protein is a key dietary component, it shouldn’t be the only one. Foods with complex carbohydrates also provide a host of nutrients, like fibre, vitamins and minerals, and are part of a balanced diet. So, don’t second-guess yourself as you reach for that apple or banana before your workout. 

What sources of carbohydrate do you recommend?

Whenever possible, I recommend nibbling on carbohydrates from whole foods. Unprocessed, unrefined, whole foods. Some of my favourite sources of simple and complex carbohydrates are:





All fruits and fruit juices




Sweet potatoes

Butternut Squash



Legumes, Nuts, and Seeds






Maple syrup



What type of carbohydrates should I eat when I work out?

Both simple and complex carbohydrates can help for that initial energy and to keep you going! But just mindlessly stuffing your face with a bunch of sweets, pasta and bread isn’t the answer. So, before you hit your fitness class, don’t forget to grab that banana, orange, or apple for energy!

What carbohydrates can you not live without!?

Jenn Randazzo, MS, RD

Jenn Randazzo, MS, RD