Carbs get a bad rap. We’re taught that carb-heavy foods should be avoided, but the reality is that carbohydrates are essential to a balanced diet. About 45% to 65% of our daily calories should come from carbohydrates. Some are usually called “good” and others “bad,” because not all carbs are created equally when it comes to your nutrition. It helps to understand why some carbs are less healthy than others, because you shouldn’t swear off the category entirely.

© d3sign – Getty ImagesCarbs are an essential macronutrient, an important source of energy, and are part of a balanced diet—and they’re found in a variety of foods. But are some better than others?

Part of the reason there’s a rising obesity epidemic in the United States is that the typical American diet is high in refined carbs, such as those found in fast food and white bread. “When we look at the standard American diet, we are eating a very high amount of refined carbs and very little in the way of complex carbs, fresh fruits, and vegetables,” explains Julie Smith, R.D., a registered dietitian at The University of Toledo Medical Center. “We should fill half of our plate with fruits and vegetables, then a fourth on some kind of lean protein, and then limit those carbohydrate choices to the other fourth of our plate.”

What are refined carbs?

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