Carbohydrates (carbs)

There's been the most understandable nutritional confusion surrounding this macronutrient the most. To start, there are several different kinds.  Good ones, bad ones, net ones, oy!  Where are we to begin?  Let's start with some distinction:

  • fibrous (both fruits and vegetables)
  • starchy (includes pastas, potatos)
  • simple  (sugary foods)

Let's simply take them in order mentioned above:


Fibrous ones includes anything you may see in this picture above, which is essentially any fruit or vegetable. In the chart following, I'm going to break them down by color. Your job is to attempt to eat from each list each day (in season) so that you get a variety of colors, vitamins, and nutrients throughout the day each day.


  • Artichoke
  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Bean sprouts
  • Bok choy
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels
  • Cabbage
  • Celery
  • Collard greens
  • Cucumber
  • Green bean
  • Green grapes
  • Green peas
  • Green pepper
  • Kale
  • Kiwi
  • Lima beans
  • Mustard
  • Okra
  • Peas
  • Romaine
  • Spinach
  • Turnip greens
  • Watercress
  • Zucchini


  • Acorn squash*
  • Apricots
  • Butternut
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Grapefruit
  • Lemon
  • Mango
  • Nectarine
  • Orange
  • Papaya
  • Peach
  • Pineapple
  • Pumpkin*
  • Sweet potato*
  • Yellow squash

*be aware that these are also considered in the starchy list.


  • Beets
  • Blackberry
  • Black grapes
  • Blueberry
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant
  • Elderberry
  • Figs
  • Plums


  • Banana
  • Cauliflower
  • Garlic
  • Mushroom
  • Onion
  • Parsnip*
  • Potatoes*
  • Shallots
  • Turnips
  • Wax bean

*be aware that these are also considered in the starchy list.


  • Apple
  • Pomegranate
  • Radish
  • Raspberry
  • Red onion
  • Red pepper
  • Strawberry
  • Tomato juice
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon

**this list is not all-inclusive


These are what most of us think of when the we use the term "carbohydrates". For most healthy people, this is our body's first preferred fuel source.

Try to remember you can store fat with any macronutrient.  Once the low to none craze has passed us by (yet again), you will find that they're not to blame for your expanded waistline.  Protein and fats can make you fat the same way carbohydrates can....if you eat too much of them.  So take some responsibility and stop blaming them for your being overweight. 

Now to hopefully help you make sense of the normal confusion, here’s a guide that can be useful in helping you choose the right types and when. You must realize that the way you look and feel is about manipulation, not so much starchy elimination. You are most likely trading in a known fuel source for a different one which will affect the way you look and feel.  It's as simple as expending more energy than you take in. 

This next list is broken down into how often to select the starchy ones. Remember, you should choose from the "most often" list for maximum results.

Select Most Often(80%)**

Select Moderately(15%)**

  • Corn tortillas
  • Couscous
  • Flour tortillas
  • Grits
  • Spaghetti
  • Pitas
  • White rice

Select Least Often (5% or less if at all)**

  • crackers
  • noodles
  • macaroni
  • most ready to eat breakfast cereals (even the "healthy" ones)
  • pretzels
  • white breads
  • white sandwich buns and rolls


  • Brown sugar
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Cakes
  • canned sodas
  • Chicory syrup
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Cookies
  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Donuts
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Glucose
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Malt Syrup
  • Maltodextrin
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • juices
  • pastries
  • pies

**this list is not all-inclusive

General rule of thumb for eating carbohydrates:

For muscle gain

  • consume anything sugary - including recovery drinks during and/or immediately after exercise
  • eat whole food (minimally processed) starchy carbohydrates within 3 hours after exercise
  • eat fruits and vegetables with each meal
  • examples: chocolate milk, sugary recovery drinks

For fat loss

  • minimize recovery drinks
  • eat whole food (minimally processed) starchy carbohydrates within 1 - 2 hours after exercise
  • eat fruits and vegetables with each meal with more emphasis on the vegetables
  • examples: spinach, apples, tomatos, broccoli, oranges, berries

Back to Nutrition for Life Basics

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