Carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation in recent years, with many people choosing to cut them out entirely or significantly reduce their intake. However, not all carbs are created equal. Some high-carb foods are incredibly nutritious and can be an important part of a balanced diet.

What Are Carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are one of the three main macronutrients, along with protein and fat. They are found in many different foods and serve as the body’s main source of energy.

There are three main types of carbohydrates:

Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbs contain just one or two sugar molecules bonded together. Examples include fruits, milk, and table sugar. They provide quick energy but lack nutritional value.

Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbs are long chains of sugar molecules. Examples include whole grains, legumes, and starchy vegetables. They provide longer-lasting energy and are high in fiber.

Fiber

Fiber is a type of complex carb that the body cannot digest. It passes through the body undigested, promoting gut health. Fiber also helps regulate blood sugar levels.

10 High-Carb Foods That Boost Your Health

Just because a food is high in carbs does not mean it is unhealthy. Here are 10 nutritious high-carb foods that can be part of a balanced diet:

1. Quinoa

Quinoa is a whole grain that contains 21 grams of carbs per cooked cup. It is also high in protein and fiber. Quinoa is rich in minerals like iron and magnesium. It supports muscle and nerve function.

2. Oats

Oats provide 28 grams of carbs per cooked cup, nearly all of which come from fiber. The fiber in oats, called beta-glucan, has been shown to lower cholesterol levels and improve blood sugar control.

3. Bananas

Bananas are a potassium-rich fruit that provides 27 grams of carbs per medium banana, as well as vitamin C, magnesium, and manganese. The resistant starch in bananas may support gut health.

4. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes provide 41 grams of carbs for every baked medium potato, almost all from complex carbs. They are an excellent source of vitamin A and deliver fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium.

5. Beans and Legumes

Beans and legumes like chickpeas, lentils, and black beans are packed with fiber, protein, and slow-digesting carbs. About 21-24 grams of carbs come from a 1/2 cup serving. They support regular digestion and heart health.

6. Blueberries

Blueberries contain 21 grams of carbs per cup, as well as impressive amounts of vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese. The antioxidants in blueberries protect the body from oxidative stress.

7. Carrots

Cooked carrots provide 19 grams of carbs per cup, all from natural sugars and fiber. They are an outstanding source of vitamin A, supporting immune function and eye health.

8. Edamame

Edamame beans are immature soybeans that provide 11 grams of carbs per 1/2 cup. They offer a substantial amount of plant-based protein and fiber. Edamame is rich in folate, manganese, and antioxidants.

9. Bell Peppers

Bell peppers contain 7 grams of carbs per medium pepper. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, and vitamin B6. The powerful antioxidants promote healthy inflammation responses.

10. Tomatoes

Tomatoes offer 5 grams of carbs per medium-sized tomato, along with vitamin C, potassium, vitamin K, and lycopene, a carotenoid antioxidant. Tomatoes support heart health and help fight inflammation.

Including High-Carb Foods in a Healthy Diet

Rather than avoiding all high-carb foods, focus on getting most of your daily carbs from fiber-rich fruits, starchy vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, and legumes. Pair these nutritious foods with healthy proteins and fats.

Limit added sugars and processed refined carbs like white bread, pasta, and baked goods. Read labels and aim for whole, minimally processed high-carb foods.

With a little carb awareness, you can build meals that provide steady energy, plenty of nutrients, and digestive and heart benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions About High-Carb Healthy Foods

Are carbs bad for you?

Carbs are not inherently bad. The type of carbs matters more. Focus on getting carbs from high-fiber whole foods rather than processed foods with refined carbs.

What are good carbs to eat?

Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, lentils, and legumes provide healthy, complex carbs. aim for these over-processed carbs like white flour.

How many carbs should I eat daily?

Most people need about 45-65% of total calories from carbs, or 225-325 grams for a 2,000-calorie diet. Individual needs vary based on activity levels.

What about low-carb diets?

Very low-carb diets are not necessary for most people but can help manage conditions like diabetes. Low-carb diets may lack certain nutrients.

Should I avoid fruit because of sugar?

Fruit contains natural sugar but also fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. In moderation, fruit is very healthy. Focus on whole fruits over juice.

The Bottom Line

When planned well, higher-carb foods like whole grains, beans, lentils, vegetables, and fruits can be incredibly nourishing. Focus on getting most carbs from high fiber, minimally processed sources for good health. Balance carbs with protein, fat, and adequate physical activity. With the right foods in the right amounts, carbs provide energy for an active lifestyle.