6 ‘Bad’ Carbs That Are Actually Good For You

05/22/2014 at 01:07 PM ET
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Thanks to the popularity of low-carb diets, some carb-heavy foods have been unfairly blacklisted. 

But there’s no need to be scared of spuds or ban bananas. We’re setting the record straight — so dig in guilt-free!


Corn gets a bad rap because it’s frequently found in packaged, processed food that can be void of nutrients. But real, straight-up corn is a healthy whole grain, points out Jessica Levinson, RD, a New York City-based nutritionist. “It’s a good source of fibervitamin C, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which promote healthy vision,” she says. Grill corn on the cob, heat up popcorn, or top a salad with fresh kernels.

Try this recipe: Grilled Chicken Cutlets With Summer Succotash

Watch the video: An Amazing 5-Minute Fat-Burning Chicken Recipe


It’s bananas to think that nature’s perfect portable snack could have ever gotten labeled as bad for you, just because of its carbs and sugar content. “The fruit is a good source of vitamin B6, manganese, potassium, and fiber,” says Henderson. And when slightly unripe, bananas are also a good source of slimming resistant starch. Snack on them whole, pop them into smoothies, or even use them as a substitute for fats in baking.

Try this recipe: Banana & Almond Butter Toast

Watch the video: Banana and Almond Butter Toast


There’s no need to shun a bowlful of flakes. Many cereals are made with whole grains these days, so they can be a healthy way to start your day. Just check the label: Look for a short ingredients list with whole grains at the top and at least 3 grams of fiber and no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving. 

Try this recipe: Almond Cereal Bars


We know we’re supposed to limit white bread, white rice, and white pasta. Somehow potatoes got swept up in that ban, too. “White potatoes are actually very good for you,” says Christian Henderson, RD, a New York City-based nutritionist. “They’re a great source of potassium and vitamin C, and they have almost 4 grams of fiber with the skin on—15% of your recommended daily allowance.” As an alternative to the classic sour cream-slathered baked potato, try cutting potatoes into cubes, tossing them with olive oil and rosemary, and roasting until crisp.

Try this recipe: Garlicky Roasted Potatoes with Herbs


You don’t always have to pick whole wheat bread. Traditional sourdough is made through a process of fermentation, so it contains beneficial bacteria known as probiotics. “When these good bacteria are present in the bread-making process they help break down some of the gluten, so sourdough may actually be easier on gluten intolerant people than other gluten-containing breads,” Henderson says. “They also lower your insulin response and make some nutrients more readily available for digestion.” 

Try this recipe: Tartine with Blackberry Thyme Salad


Sure, they’re higher in carbs and sugar than non-starchy vegetables—they’re even on some low carb diets’ “foods to avoid” lists. “But peas are a great source of phytonutrients with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activity,” Henderson says. One in the spotlight is coumestrol, which has been shown to potentially protect against stomach cancer, Henderson adds. A cup of cooked green peas also boasts more than 7 grams of filling fiber. Eat them straight up or in soups or salads, or add dried peas to a trail mix. 

Try this recipe: Mint-and-Pea Hummus on Flatbread

—Leslie Barrie


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FILED UNDER: Expert Tips , Health , Nutrition

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Showing 4 comments

jaany b on

I eat 2 – 3 bananas a day and I’ve been losing weight (mixed with 30-45 min of HIIT 5 days/week)….bananas FTW if you’re looking for a healthy, slightly sweet snack (I don’t let them get too ripe).

Michelle on

As a diabetic some of these foods are not good for you. Corn is horrible and bananas are mostly sugar. If its not dark in color, has seeds and you can eat the rind, they say not to eat it (fruit wise). Corn is high in starch and sugar…also a no-no. But high fiber cereal with dark berries is good and sourdough bread is low on the glycemic index….so if your a diabetic, go for sourdough vs. whole wheat, or white.

Guest on

The making of sourdough bread …”help break down SOME of the gluten.” As a Celiac I need to avoid all gluten or any possibility of gluten. Half of the items listed here I did not realize were blacklisted in the first place. Must be the the sugar that nixes them.

Amy Alkon on

People Mag, you’re great on reporting on stars, but this is not good science. Per Gary Taubes’ “Why We Get Fat,” it is carbohydrates — sugar, flour, starchy vegetables like potatoes, bananas — that cause the insulin secretion that puts on fat. Cardiologist Dr. William Davis makes a strong case for why there’s no such thing as “healthy whole grains.” Another terrific source for solid science on diet is the blog of Dr. Michael Eades. An other is the book recently published by Nina Teicholz, “Big Fat Surprise.” I write this as a nationally syndicated science-based advice columnist whose daily work involves vetting what is and isn’t good science.

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