Food With High Complex Carbohydrates


Food with high complex carbohydrates is an important part of a healthy diet. Complex carbs are full of nutrients and fiber, which can help lower cholesterol levels and keep you feeling fuller longer. Examples of carbohydrates that are high in fiber include whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

Food With High Complex Carbohydrates

Eating a diet high in lean protein and complex carbohydrates is a healthy way to reap beneficial amino acids and antioxidants. Complex carbs provide us with a gradual steady stream of energy throughout the day as well as a hefty dose of fiber. Complex carbs are found in whole grain forms such as breads, oats and brown rice, as well as starchy vegetables and fruit; they are loaded with nutrients, slowly digested and combat hunger pangs by making you feel full for longer.

Step 1

Cereal with fruit

Start your morning off with a healthy breakfast cereal.

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Start your morning with a breakfast cereal made from whole grains. All grains can easily be made into a tasty porridge that will fill you up and give you a protein boost. Simply prepare each grain as you would oatmeal and serve warm with Greek yogurt, slivered almonds and a sliced banana to reap a hefty dose of protein and complex carbs for breakfast.

Step 2

Chili con carne with cheese in a bowl

Chili can be a good lunch meal.

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Prepare a protein-rich lunch of hearty chili and serve along with a piece of whole-grain bread topped with fresh chutney. Look for easy protein options such as beans and grilled chicken to toss into your chili or a stir-fry with brown rice. Create burritos with chili leftovers wrapped in a whole-grain tortilla with salsa and vegetables.

Step 3

Quinoa Salad

Try quinoa or buckwheat instead of white pasta.

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Skip the white pasta for dinner and try a distinctive, protein-rich grain such as buckwheat or quinoa. Toss tofu with whole grain pasta and finish with tomato sauce and pesto made from Parmesan cheese, olive oil and pine nuts. Whole-grain spaghetti with shrimp, soup with hearty grain breads and whole-wheat vegetable pizzas are other great choices.

Step 4

Trail Mix

Create a dessert that is packed with protein.

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Create a protein-packed dessert such as a trail mix with dark chocolate, nuts and seeds. Buff up your whole-grain zucchini bread and carrot cake with pureed beans, nut butters, seeds and pureed fruit, which is a sure way add a healthy dose of complex carbs.

Things You’ll Need

  • Eggs
  • Low fat dairy
  • Seafood
  • Poultry
  • Tofu
  • Beans
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Lean meats
  • Whole-grains
  • Fruits
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Sweet peas


Shop the outer perimeter of the food store and steer clear of packaged, processed simple carbohydrate products. Along the perimeter, you will encounter fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein sources.

Many grains can be purchased at your local grocery store and are sold in large bulk bins that let you portion out exactly how much you need. Barley and rice are tasty complex carbs that you can easily prep as a side dish with protein-rich tofu.

When eating complex carbs, choose sources as close to the main source as possible without refining or processing such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Eating a natural diet based on healthy carbs and lean protein will provide you with a stable supply of energy throughout your day as well as fight off illness.

Your plan for consuming foods high in protein and complex carbs will determine which foods you purchase. For instance, lean proteins such as eggs, fish, poultry, beans, nuts and seeds, dairy and lean meats make a tasty base for your meal and can be jazzed up with a vast array of complex carbs such as fruits and vegetables.

Eliminate sugary foods and sweets.

Focus on healthy, lean choices of protein and fats such as nuts, seeds, nut butters, olives and oils.

Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day to avoid dehydration and to keep the high fiber of the complex carbs moving throughout your system.

Avoid trans fats.

Shopping for a high protein, complex carb meal can be easy and enjoyable. Get creative in your kitchen and enjoy a midday lunch of legumes such as dried peas, beans and lentils atop a bed of starchy vegetables such as sweet potatoes, corn and sweet peas. A snack of fruit, especially with the skins and edible seeds are a sure way to reap the fiber benefits of a high complex carb diet. Nuts and seeds combined with dried fruit make a tasty trail mix for your protein-packed afternoon snack.

Complex Carbs You Should Def Incorporate Into Your Diet


Meet millet, which is a great go-to if your stomach is sensitive to gluten or you have Celiac disease. This gluten-free grain is a rich source of magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, not to mention protein.

Per serving (1 cup, cooked): 207 calories, 1.74 g fat (0.3 g saturated), 41.19 g carbs, 0.23 g sugar, 3 mg sodium, 2.3 g fiber, 6.11 g protein


One cup of chickpeas packs an impressive 11 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber (one-third of the minimum recommended daily fiber intake, which is about 30 grams). They’re also rich in calcium and phosphate, both of which are important for bone health.

Per serving (1 cup, cooked or canned): 270 calories, 4 g fat (0 g saturated), 45 g carbs, 8 g sugar, 11 mg sodium, 13 g fiber, 15 g protein

Old-fashioned oats

Old-fashioned oats (also called rolled oats) are packed with manganese, iron, folate, B vitamins, and other important nutrients. Regular intake of the soluble fiber in oats has also been shown to help reduce LDL cholesterol (that’s the bad kind).

Per serving (1/2 cup, dry): 150 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated), 27 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 5 g protein


Don’t dismiss this chewy, slightly nutty grain. It’s a great substitute for rice and pasta. One cup of cooked barley packs six grams of fiber, which is essential for good gut health and may help lower cholesterol levels too, boosting cardiovascular health.

Per serving ((1 cup, cooked pearled): 193 calories, 0.69 g fat (0.15 g saturated), 44.3 g carbs, 0.44 g sugar, 5 mg sodium, 6 g fiber, 3.55 g protein

Multigrain hot cereal

If you’re looking to switch up your oatmeal routine without straying completely, try a multigrain hot cereal made with oats, plus other grains like barley, rye, triticale, millet, and more. More grains means a bigger variety of nutrients, which is key to an overall healthy diet.

Per serving (1/2 cup, dry): 160 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated), 30 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 80 mg sodium, 3 g fiber, 6 g protein.

Sweet potatoes

Although they’re as sweet as their name suggests, the sugar in sweet potatoes is released slowly into your bloodstream, thanks to the fiber that comes along with it. The starchy root vegetable is also high in vitamin C, which helps boost immunity, and beta carotene, which is linked to reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

Per serving (1 small sweet potato, 130 g, raw): 112 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 26 g carbs, 5 g sugar, 72 mg sodium, 4 g fiber, 2 g protein.

Examples of Complex Carbohydrates: List of Common Foods

Carbohydrates have earned themselves a bad rap. Over time, a food that provides us with energy has been vilified as the source of obesity. People trying to lose weight say they’re going off carbs because they know they convert into sugar (the real evil). However, if you explore various complex carbohydrate examples, you’ll quickly see that not all carbs are bad.

complex carbohydrates example of oatmeal and blueberries

What Are Complex Carbohydrates?

Why do we often hear about good and bad carbs? Or complex and simple carbs? What does that mean? A carbohydrate is an organic compound made of carbon, hydrogen and water. Carbohydrates come in two different forms: complex and simple.

Complex Carbs Defined

Complex carbs are typically known as good carbs. These carbs consist of sugar molecules strung together in long, complex molecule chains. Given their complex nature, it takes more work for the body to digest these carbs, giving you energy for longer.

Simple Carbs Explored

Simple carbohydrates, on the other hand, are created from short, simple carbohydrate strains. So, they are much easier for the body to digest. Think of the rush you get from a sugary soda or candy bar. However, this also means that simple carbs lead to sugar spikes in the body.

Common Complex Carbs List

Let’s take a look at examples of complex carbohydrates and sort through the good and the bad. A complex carbohydrate (carb) food list includes healthy foods that provide the body with lasting energy rather than sugar spikes. For example, peas, beans and whole grains are complex carbs.

Nuts, Seeds and Legumes

These snacks tend to be classified as “high carb.” However, these are examples of good carbs where you’ll find they’re filling, low in sugar and provide energy.

  • Lentils
  • Kidney beans
  • Chickpeas
  • Split peas
  • Soybeans
  • Pinto beans
  • Soymilk

Whole Grains

Whole grains are complex carbohydrates that are not only filling but also nutrient-packed. Here are some of the healthiest options:

  • Buckwheat
  • Brown rice
  • Corn
  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Oats
  • Sorghum
  • Quinoa

Fruits and Vegetables

Although certain fruits have high levels of natural sugar, they’re still a healthier substitute than some of our favorite simple carb-ridden snacks. Here’s a sampling of fruits and vegetables that contain complex carbohydrates:

  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Okra
  • Dill pickles
  • Carrots
  • Yams
  • Strawberries
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Green beans
  • Zucchini
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Cucumbers
  • Asparagus
  • Grapefruit
  • Prunes
broccoli and complex carb vegetables

The Benefits of Complex Carbs

Complex carbohydrates provide the body some of what it needs to operate at peak performance. Here are a few reasons to choose complex carbohydrates over simple carbohydrates.

Provide Fuel

Complex carbs keep the body fueled for an extended period of time. Reaching for simple carbohydrates may be a quick way to fill your stomach or to fulfill a craving, but the simple sugars are quickly digested, meaning hunger will return sooner.

Slower Digestion

Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest. This makes them key to fulfilling hunger as well as providing a longer-lasting source of energy. Because complex carbohydrates often have lots of fiber, this bulks up stool, allowing it to move smoothly through the digestive tract. When this occurs, less bloating and gas exist, constipation can be lessened, and more toxins are removed from the body.

Help Weight Loss

Yes, the right carbs can actually help you lose weight, not gain weight. Eating complex carbohydrates helps you feel full for a longer period of time. As a result, cravings are lessened and the need to reach for unhealthy snacks between planned meals is diminished. Instead of reaching for a simple carbohydrate, snacking on a complex carb is an easy way to stay on track with your weight loss or maintenance goals.

Aid in Heart Health

A diet rich in vegetables has been proven to lower LDL cholesterol and help prevent heart attacks by lowering blood pressure. Complex carbs can keep your heart healthy. Whole grains and legumes also protect the heart by lowering cardiovascular and coronary heart disease risk.

How to Include More Complex Carbs in Your Diet

In order to achieve the benefits of eating more complex carbohydrates, it might be necessary to make some changes to your diet. Here are some examples of easy substitutions:

  • Instead of white bread and pasta, switch to whole grain bread and pasta. If the switch is intimidating at first, try mixing half whole grain and half white when making pasta.
  • Other alternatives to pasta are spaghetti squash and zucchini noodles (or zoodles).
  • Instead of munching on potato chips, try nuts and raw vegetables.
  • Rather than using white rice, consider brown rice, quinoa or beans as a base for dishes.
  • As a potato alternative, try some mashed or roasted cauliflower.
  • Instead of instant oatmeal in the morning, try steel-cut oats or rolled oats. Instant oatmeal tends to come with added sugar, while steel-cut or rolled oats are more natural.

Additionally, Harvard Health makes the case that a low-carb diet isn’t necessarily a smart choice. With a reduction in carbs, we have to replace our calorie intake some other way and a high-fat diet isn’t necessarily the answer.

Change the Reputation of Carbs

In the end, complex carbohydrates are the opposite of fattening. Rather, they’re filling, providing our bodies with nutrients it will appreciate. The ability to feel fuller longer will help prevent unnecessary consumption of sugar, which can be harmful to our blood sugar levels. This makes complex carbs a win-win for everyone who chooses spaghetti squash over a box of macaroni at night.

That was quite a bit of complex chatter. Let’s have some fun. Enjoy these examples of food idioms and see if you’ll go bananas over any of these catchphrases!

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