Carbohydrates are not necessarily bad for you. In fact, carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet. Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy, and provide fuel to the central nervous system and brain. Carbohydrates also aid in bowel regularity and waste removal.
But not all carbs are created equal. There are two types: simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates (like soda, juice, and candy) break down quickly during digestion, which can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. Complex carbohydrates (like whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables) break down more slowly and have less impact on blood sugar levels.
Complex carbohydrates contain vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium that your body needs to stay strong and healthy. They also contain fiber which helps lower cholesterol levels, control blood sugar levels and keep you feeling full longer so that you eat less.
Healthy Food With Carbohydrates
Over the years, carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation. People often associate them with weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and a variety of other health conditions.
Yes, it’s true that processed foods high in sugar and refined grains typically lack important vitamins and minerals. However, many nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods can actually be very good for you.
While low carb diets can be beneficial for some people, there’s no reason to avoid high carb foods altogether.
Here are 12 high carb foods that are incredibly healthy.
Quinoa is a nutritious seed that has become incredibly popular among health-conscious consumers.
It’s classified as a pseudocereal, which is a seed that’s prepared and eaten like a grain.
Cooked quinoa contains 70% carbs, making it a high carb food. However, it’s also a good source of protein and fiber (1Trusted Source).
Quinoa is rich in many minerals and plant compounds and has been linked to a variety of health benefits, including improved blood sugar management and heart health.
Additionally, it does not contain any gluten, which makes it a popular alternative to wheat for those on a gluten-free diet.
Quinoa is also very filling since it’s relatively high in fiber and protein. For this reason, it may help promote healthy weight management and gut health.
Quinoa is highly nutritious and may help improve blood sugar management and support heart health. Quinoa is also high in protein and fiber, so it may be useful for weight loss, as both of these nutrients can help keep you feeling full for longer.
Oats are an incredibly healthy whole grain and a great source of many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Raw oats contain 70% carbs. A 1-cup (81-gram) serving contains 54 grams of carbs, including 8 grams of fiber. They are particularly high in a specific type of fiber called oat beta glucan.
Oats are also a relatively good source of protein and contain more protein than most grains.
Research suggests that eating oats may reduce your risk of heart disease by lowering your cholesterol levels.
Eating oats may also lower blood sugar levels, especially in people with type 2 diabetes.
Furthermore, oats are very filling, which could help support healthy weight management.
Oats contain many beneficial nutrients, including fiber and protein. Studies have also shown that eating oats lowers blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
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Like quinoa, buckwheat is considered a pseudocereal. Despite its name, buckwheat is not related to wheat and does not contain gluten.
Raw buckwheat contains 75 grams of carbs, while cooked buckwheat groats contain about 19.9 grams of carbs per 100-gram serving.
Buckwheat is very nutritious, containing both protein and fiber. It also has more minerals and antioxidants than many other grains.
Additionally, studies in humans and animals suggest that it may be particularly beneficial for heart health and blood sugar regulation.
Buckwheat is highly nutritious and contains more antioxidants and minerals than many grains. Buckwheat isn’t related to wheat and doesn’t contain gluten. Eating it may benefit your heart health and blood sugar regulation.
Bananas are a popular fruit people love to use in many different recipes.
One large banana (136 grams) contains about 31 grams of carbs, either in the form of starches or sugars.
Bananas are also high in potassium and vitamins B6 and C, and they contain several beneficial plant compounds.
Thanks to their high content of potassium, bananas may help lower blood pressure and improve heart health.
Unripe, green bananas are higher in starch. This transforms into natural sugars as the bananas ripen, turning yellow in the process. Thus, you’ll tend to get more starch and less sugar if you eat your bananas when they’re less ripe.
Unripe and less ripe bananas also contain decent amounts of resistant starch and pectin, both of which support digestive health and provide fuel for the beneficial bacteria in your gut.
Bananas are high in potassium, a mineral that plays a key role in regulating blood pressure. Less ripe bananas also contain resistant starch and pectin, both of which can improve digestive health.
5. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a delicious, nutritious tuber or root vegetable.
One-half cup (100 grams) of mashed, cooked sweet potatoes with their skin on contains about 20.7 grams of carbs, which consists of starch, sugar, and fiber.
Sweet potatoes are also a rich source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium.
What’s more, they’re packed with antioxidants, which are compounds that help neutralize harmful free radicals in your cells to protect you against chronic disease.
Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A, along with several other vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Beets are a purple root vegetable that people sometimes refer to as beetroots.
While they aren’t considered high in carbs overall, they do have a lot for a non-starchy vegetable. Raw and cooked beets contain about 10 grams of carbs per 100 grams, mainly from sugar and fiber.
They’re also packed with vitamins and minerals, along with powerful antioxidants and plant compounds.
Beets are also high in inorganic nitrates, which are converted into nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide lowers blood pressure and may decrease the risk of several diseases.
Beet juice is also very high in nitrates, and athletes sometimes use it to enhance their physical performance.
That’s because nitric oxide relaxes your blood vessels, allowing oxygen to flow more efficiently during exercise.
Beets are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds. They also contain high amounts of inorganic nitrates, which can improve heart health and boost physical performance.
Oranges are a popular type of citrus fruit.
They’re mainly composed of water and made up of about 15.5 grams of carbs per 100-gram serving. Oranges are also a good source of fiber.
Oranges are especially rich in vitamin C, potassium, and some B vitamins. In addition, they contain citric acid, as well as several potent plant compounds and antioxidants.
Eating oranges may improve heart health and help prevent kidney stones. They may also increase the absorption of iron from other foods you eat, which may help protect against iron deficiency anemia.
Oranges are a good source of fiber. They also contain high amounts of vitamin C and other healthy plant compounds. Eating oranges may benefit heart health and increase iron absorption to help prevent anemia.
Blueberries are frequently marketed as a superfood due to their rich content of antioxidants.
They consist mostly of water, as well as about 14.5 grams of carbs per 100 grams.
Blueberries also contain high amounts of many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese.
Studies have shown that blueberries are a good source of antioxidant compounds, which can help protect your body against damaging free radicals. Studies suggest that eating blueberries may even improve memory in older adults.
Blueberries are very healthy. They contain many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and they can help protect against oxidative damage.
Grapefruit is a citrus fruit with a sweet, sour, and bitter flavor.
It contains about 8% carbs and is rich in a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
According to some human and animal studies, grapefruit could enhance heart health and improve blood sugar management.
Furthermore, other research suggests that certain compounds found in grapefruit could help prevent kidney stones, lower cholesterol levels, and even potentially slow the growth and spread of cancer cells.
However, scientists need to do more studies on the effects of grapefruit in humans.
Grapefruit contains many beneficial vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It may provide numerous health benefits.
Apples are well known for their sweet, tart flavor and crisp texture.
They’re available in many colors, sizes, and flavors, all of which generally contain about 14–16 grams of carbs per 100 grams.
Apples also boast many vitamins and minerals, but usually only in small amounts.
However, they are a good source of vitamin C, antioxidants, and fiber.
Apples may also offer several health benefits, including improved blood sugar management and heart health.
Early research suggests that adding apples to your diet may even be associated with a reduced risk of certain types of cancer. However, more research is needed.
Apples contain a decent amount of vitamin C, antioxidants, and plant compounds. Eating apples may improve blood sugar management, as well as reduce the risk of heart disease and potentially even certain types of cancer.
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11. Kidney beans
Kidney beans are a member of the legume family and a variety of the common bean.
Cooked kidney beans contain about 21.5 grams of carbs per 100 grams, in the form of starches and fiber. This legume is also high in protein.
Kidney beans are a good source of many vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds. They’re also rich in antioxidant compounds, including anthocyanins and isoflavones.
Their numerous health benefits include improved blood sugar regulation and a reduced risk of colon cancer.
However, be sure to cook them first because raw or improperly cooked kidney beans are toxic.
Kidney beans contain many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Cooked kidney beans are also a good source of protein and have been linked to several health benefits.
Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are part of the legume family.
Cooked chickpeas contain 27.4 grams of carbs per 100-gram serving, along with almost 8 grams of fiber. They’re also a good source of plant-based protein.
Chickpeas contain many vitamins and minerals, including iron, phosphorus, and B vitamins.
Not only have chickpeas been linked to improved heart and digestive health, but some test-tube studies suggest they may also help protect against certain types of cancer. More research in humans is needed.
Chickpeas are an excellent source of plant-based protein and contain many vitamins and minerals. Eating chickpeas has been linked to benefits for heart and digestive health, as well as potential cancer prevention.
The bottom line
It’s a myth that all carbs are unhealthy. In fact, many of the healthiest foods are high in carbohydrates.
That said, you shouldn’t eat carbs in large amounts if you’re on a low carb diet. In addition, refined carbs, such as white bread and pasta, may be unhealthy in high amounts.
However, you can enjoy these nutritious, delicious carbs as part of a healthy, whole-foods diet.
Just one thing
Try this today: When you go grocery shopping, opt for whole grain varieties of high carb foods like bread, pasta, and rice. This will boost your intake of important nutrients, including fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
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best carbs for energy
Carbohydrates are undoubtedly demonized by adherents to low-carb diets such as the Atkins Diet, Keto, and Paleo, but many nutritionists, dietitians, and medical professionals believe that carbohydrates can—and should—be part of a healthy diet.
Carbohydrates provide energy to the cells in your body, and fiber increases satiety and aids digestion and bowel regularity. They also provide less than half the number of calories per gram compared to fat, making them a viable macronutrient for weight loss diets.
The key to capitalizing on the health benefits of carbohydrates is to choose high-quality sources of complex carbohydrates. Foods like whole grains, unprocessed fruits, starchy vegetables, and legumes provide carbohydrates with fiber and no added sugars.
These carbohydrates are lower on the glycemic index, which means they fuel the body with sustained energy and keep blood sugars more stable without creating spikes and rebound dips. Below, we share some of the healthiest foods high in complex carbohydrates.
Adding these nutritious, high-carb foods into your diet—particularly surrounding workouts—will provide lasting energy to your body and keep hunger at bay.
Legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils, are one of the most nutritious high-carbohydrate foods. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants, such as anthocyanins and isoflavones.
Diets high in legumes have been associated with lower risks of cancer, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease. Beans, lentils, and soy are also packed with soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps you feel full, bulks up stool, and promotes bowel regularity. Insoluble fiber is considered a prebiotic fuel source, which means it nourishes the beneficial bacteria residing in your digestive tract.
Your gut microbiome performs a variety of critical functions, including digesting and harnessing the nutrients in food, producing vitamins B12 and K, reducing inflammation, and defending against pathogens.
Legumes are a good source of protein for vegans and vegetarians. They are also high in carbohydrates. For example, one cup of cooked lentils contains about 40 grams of carbohydrates, of which 16 are dietary fiber. Black beans, garbanzo beans, and kidney beans provide a similar carbohydrate profile. Peas have fewer carbs, but a greater percentage of the carbohydrate content is natural sugar rather than fiber.
Quinoa is often grouped together with grains, but it’s actually a seed. It’s a nutrient-dense superfood, offering a complete source of protein with all nine essential amino acids. It’s also 70% carbohydrates by weight, offering sustained energy. Quinoa also contains B vitamins and iron, which are vital for transporting oxygen around the body. Moreover, quinoa is naturally gluten-free.
Whole grains like brown rice, buckwheat, whole wheat, millet, barley, and whole oats are excellent sources of carbohydrates. Unlike the refined grains used to make white flours, white pasta, pastries, bagels, and many kinds of cereal, whole grains leave the bran and hull of the grain intact. This not only preserves tons of nutrients like iron, B vitamins, and other minerals, but it also keeps the fiber content high. This makes whole grains more filling. Where possible, swap any refined grains with unprocessed whole grains for increased satiety and a significant boost in nutrients.
Potatoes are usually turned down by proponents of low-carb diets, but these arguably maligned spuds are actually quite nutritious. Potatoes are tubers, which are attached to the roots of a plant and serve as storage houses for nutrients. As such, they are packed with essential nutrients including vitamin C, the B vitamins, potassium, and minerals such as magnesium and phosphorus. They also store energy for the plant in the form of complex carbohydrates. One medium potato contains about 37 grams of carbohydrates, including 4 grams of fiber.
Fruits are almost entirely composed of carbohydrates and water, with little protein or fat content. While some fruits are high in sugar, all the sugar is natural and often accompanied by some fiber, water, vitamins, and minerals. The carbohydrate content varies depending on the type of fruit, with many of the tropical fruits topping the list of highest carbohydrate fruits. Bananas, mangos, pineapple, and dates are among the fruits with the highest carbohydrate content.
Dried fruit contains even more carbohydrates per gram than fresh fruit because all the water has been removed. This makes dried fruit more calorically dense, so it can be an energizing pre-workout snack that can give you the energy you need without leaving you bloated or feeling overly full. Dried fruit is also rich in nutrients. For example, dried apricots have 7.5 mg of iron per cup, or nearly the daily value for most men and about 42% for women.
Oats are a whole grain, so rolled oats or steel-cut oats made into oatmeal, porridge, or muesli make for a healthy, high-carbohydrate breakfast. Packaged granolas can be healthy as well, though many are made with lots of added sugars, so be sure to look at the ingredients list and nutrition facts before choosing granola. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, fortified cereals can be an important source of vitamin B12, so don’t shy away from enjoying your favorite bowl of low-sugar, whole-grain cereal.
Sweet potatoes and yams are tubers that are one of the best sources of vitamin A and beta-carotene, both of which support eye health and skin health among other antioxidant properties. Like potatoes, sweet potatoes are also high in complex carbohydrates, with about 37 grams per medium sweet potato (5 grams of which are fiber). Sweet potatoes have been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of diabetes.
Technically a fruit, winter squash varieties are high in complex carbohydrates. From butternut squash to acorn squash, delicata squash to kabocha squash, winter squashes are sweet, creamy, and filling, making for a hearty side dish or soup ingredient for chilly winter weather. The orange flesh is rich in beta-carotene and the nutrient-packed seeds can be roasted and enjoyed, providing everything from healthy omega-3 fatty acids to zinc.
Root vegetables like beets, carrots, and parsnips are the edible roots of the plant. As roots, these healthy vegetables store nutrients for the plant, such as vitamins, minerals, and sugars in the form of complex carbohydrates, which is what lends the characteristic sweet flavor. They also contain fiber, antioxidants, and polyphenols.
Corn is a delicious, summertime sweet vegetable. It’s juicy, tender, and versatile, enjoyed straight off the cob, grilled, steamed, sautéed, and anywhere in between. One cup of corn provides 41 grams of carbs, including 5 grams of fiber. It’s also rich in vitamin C, which supports your immune system and prevents oxidative damage. Corn also provides B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which support eye health.