Let’s be real: whether you cut them out or consume them, hardly anyone can deny that carbohydrates are delicious. However, there are some distinctions regarding the effects of different carbs on your body — for instance, their glycemic index. The glycemic index measures certain foods’ impact on your blood sugar levels (via the Mayo Clinic).
A food’s glycemic value, known as its glycemic load, indicates the expected shift in your blood sugar from eating that food. A tall pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks, for example, has a glycemic load of 21, meaning it would significantly raise blood sugar levels from their starting point. However, if you were to consume a cup of cooked pumpkin, you’d find its glycemic load at just three (via Nutrition Data).
While this system isn’t foolproof, it can help you identify foods that are simple or complex carbohydrates. “Eating foods with a lower glycemic index means they will cause a slower and lower rise in your blood sugar,” Dr. Alexander Williams tells the Cleveland Clinic. Simple, high-glycemic carbohydrates quickly spike blood sugar, whereas complex, low-glycemic carbs require more effort for your body to break down. It would be fair to say that many “good” carbs are considered complex and fall into the low glycemic category, while those thought to be “bad” are simple carbs or high glycemic.