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What Makes a Carb “Good?”

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August 5, 2012 by Johanna Burani

The body “runs” on glucose, its simplest form of energy.  And it gets this energy by breaking down every carbohydrate we eat.  So, all the starches we eat (like breads, pasta, potatoes rice, cereals, crackers and baked goods) and all our sugars too (like all sweetened foods and beverages, fruit, milk and yogurt products) fuel the body all day long.

The body is looking for a slow, sustained delivery of this energy because that’s how it uses it: the right amount all the time, not just after eating.  A good carb is digested slowly and slowly releases the glucose it becomes into the body for immediate use.  There is no gush of glucose into the bloodstream, just a steady trickle of energy, there for the taking as needed. This keeps the body in metabolic harmony and keeps us feeling fuller longer too.

A balanced meal containing good carbs provides the body with a steady stream of the right amount of energy it needs when it needs it.  No sugar highs or lows to deal with.  The body loves this set up and performs all of its thousands of metabolic jobs effortlessly under these conditions.

What makes a carb “good?”

  • It is slowly digested in the gut.
  • It is released as glucose into the blood as a slow, steady stream of energy over a prolonged period of time.
  • It doesn’t spike blood sugar levels.
  • It keeps us feeling fuller longer.

How do we know that the body slowly digests good carbs?  Because of the 30-plus years of research on the glycemic index.  Studies conducted all over the world have accumulated consistent and conclusive evidence that explains how specific carbohydrates behave in the body.  Some are “gushers” and some are “tricklers.”

Much, much more will appear on this blog about the virtues of the glycemic index concept.  For now though, let it be said that a good carb is also a low glycemic carb.


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Gushers vs Tricklers


"Gushers" are quickly-digested carbohydrates that cause a rapid rise in blood glucose and fuel appetite.

"Tricklers" are slowly-digested carbohydrates that are gradually released into the bloodstream and sustain satiety. These are the good carbs.


Johanna Burani
MS, RD, CDE
Nutrition Works LLC
Morristown, NJ, USA

Expert in individualized, low-glycemic index (low GI) meal planning.

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