Carbs are not the enemy, even though people have painted them out to be. Whole, complex carbs like fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are excellent sources of fiber and many different vitamins and nutrients. Eating these types of carbs along with a healthy diet can help you manage your blood sugar, improve your gut microbiome, slow the aging process, and achieve your weight loss goals.
Not all carbs are the same, though. While complex carbs can provide plenty of health benefits, refined carbs are heavily processed and the foods they’re found in may contain added sugars. Larger amounts of these can contribute to certain health issues and have even been known to contribute to weight gain if consumed on a regular basis.
To learn more, we talked with a few dietitians about the worst types of carbs for weight loss. Read on, then check out 6 Best High-Protein Foods for Weight Loss.
Although they’re a breakfast staple for many, bagels are one of the worst carbs for weight loss. “White bagels are around the equivalent of eating 4-5 slices of bread and most people do not realize that,” says Lisa Young, Ph.D., RDN, author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and member of our medical expert advisory board.
Bagels are hardly ever enjoyed plain, so adding certain toppings typical to a breakfast bagel can add in extra calories, too.
“These are often used as a breakfast meal with various toppings like cream cheese, peanut butter, and other high-calorie foods,” says Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements.
Many brands are making breakfast cereals that are healthier than the typical choices, but it’s important to watch out for the extra sugary, heavily-processed breakfast cereals.
“People often associate cereal with health food, but sugary cereals often have as much or more added sugar than a cookie, and it’s easy to pour too much cereal into your breakfast bowl,” says Dr. Young.
Not only are they usually sugary and void of helpful nutrients, but eating certain cereals first thing in the morning may have some consequences. “The morning is the worst time to eat these because it leads to a quick spike in blood sugar,” says Morgyn Clair, MS, RDN, author at Fit Healthy Momma.
When it comes to carbs that are the worst for weight loss, soda takes the cake.
“Soda and sugary drinks are some of the worst carb choices in my opinion because it provides virtually no other nutrients besides a high dose of sugar,” says Clair. “Further, there is no fiber no help slow the body’s absorption of the sugar, meaning it leads to a quick spike in blood sugar.”
One study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity found that drinking soda led to increased weight gain regardless of the person’s physical fitness and activity levels.
A white bread like Wonder Bread might bring a lot of us back to our childhoods, but white bread is heavily processed, stripped of almost all of its nutrients, and can potentially contribute to weight gain if consumed on a regular basis.
According to a study from the British Journal of Nutrition, reducing your intake of white bread (not wheat bread) and sticking to a Mediterranean-type eating plan was associated with less weight gain and less abdominal fat.
When it comes to pasta, the culprit behind why this carb causes weight gain is more about portion than it is about the pasta inherently. “Pasta may cause weight gain when eaten in America but not in Europe because we tend to eat a big portion,” says Dr. Young. That being said, refined pasta is still one of the worst carbs for weight loss because it’s lacking digestion-slowing nutrients like fiber. “There is no fiber in refined pasta so we don’t feel full and will most likely keep eating,” says Dr. Young.
Thankfully, there are plenty of whole-grain pasta options or kinds of pasta made with alternative ingredients like chickpeas or lentils that provide more fiber and fewer refined carbs.