By Adda Bjarnadottir Authority Nutrition
Carbs have been unfairly blamed for causing the obesity epidemic.
However, the truth is that not all carbs are created equal.
Processed junk foods high in sugar and refined grains are definitely unhealthy and fattening.
But this has no relevance to whole, fiber-rich foods that also happen to contain carbohydrates.
Although low-carb diets can be beneficial for some people, this does not mean that all high-carb foods are “bad.”
Here is a list of 12 high-carb foods that also happen to be incredibly healthy.
Unless you are on a low-carb diet for health reasons, then there is absolutely no reason to avoid these delicious foods.
Quinoa is a nutritious seed that has become incredibly popular in the natural health community.
It is classified as a pseudocereal, a seed that is prepared and eaten like a grain.
Cooked quinoa is 21.3% carbs, making it a high-carb food. However, it is also a good source of protein and fiber.
Quinoa is rich in many minerals and plant compounds. It has been linked to health benefits like improved blood sugar control (1, 2).
It does not contain any gluten, making it a popular alternative to wheat on a gluten-free diet.
Quinoa is also very filling since it is relatively high in fiber and protein. For this reason, it may be an excellent addition to an effective weight loss diet (3, 4).
Bottom Line: Quinoa is highly nutritious. It may have numerous health benefits, including improved blood sugar control. Quinoa is also high in protein and fiber, so it may be useful for weight loss.
Oats may be the healthiest whole grain food on the planet.
They are a great source of many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Raw oats contain 66% carbs, and nearly 11% of that is fiber. They are particularly high in a powerful soluble fiber called beta-glucan.
Oats are also a relatively good source of protein, containing more than most other grains (5).
Many studies have shown that oats may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels (6, 7, 8, 9).
Eating oats may also lower blood sugar levels, especially in diabetics (10, 11).
Furthermore, oats are very filling and may help you lose weight (12).
Bottom Line: Oats contain many beneficial nutrients, including fiber and protein. Oats have been shown to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Buckwheat is also a pseudocereal.
Despite the name, buckwheat is not related to wheat in any way, and does not contain gluten.
Raw buckwheat contains 71.5% carbs, and cooked buckwheat groats contain about 20% carbs.
Buckwheat is very nutritious, containing both protein and fiber. It also has more minerals and antioxidants than most grains (13, 14, 15).
Eating buckwheat may be particularly beneficial for heart health and blood sugar control, especially in people with diabetes (16, 17, 18).
Bottom Line: Buckwheat is highly nutritious and contains more antioxidants and minerals than most grains. Eating buckwheat may have benefits for heart health and blood sugar control.
Bananas are among the world’s most popular fruits.
They are made up of about 23% carbs, either in the form of starches or sugars.
Unripe (green) bananas are higher in starches, which transform into natural sugars as the bananas ripen (turn yellow).
Bananas are high in potassium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. They also contain several beneficial plant compounds.
Due to their potassium content, bananas may help lower blood pressure and improve heart health (19).
Unripe bananas also contain decent amounts of resistant starch and pectin. Both of these support digestive health and feed the friendly gut bacteria (20, 21).
Bottom Line: Bananas are high in potassium, which may help regulate blood pressure. Unripe bananas also contain resistant starch and pectin, which can improve digestive health.
5. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a delicious, nutritious tuber.
Cooked sweet potatoes contain about 18–21% carbs. This carb content consists of starch, sugar and fiber.
Sweet potatoes are a rich source of vitamin A (from beta-carotene), vitamin C and potassium.
They are very rich in antioxidants, and may help reduce oxidative damage and the risk of several diseases (22).
Bottom Line: Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A (from beta-carotene), as well as several other vitamins and antioxidants.
Beetroots are a purple-colored root vegetable, commonly referred to as beets.
Raw and cooked beets contain about 8–10% carbs, made up of sugar and fiber.
They are packed with vitamins, minerals, potent antioxidants and plant compounds.
Beets are also high in inorganic nitrates, which transform into nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide helps to lower blood pressure and may decrease the risk of several diseases (23, 24, 25).
Beet juice is also very high in inorganic nitrates, and is often used to enhance physical performance during endurance exercises (26, 27, 28, 29).
Bottom Line: Beets are loaded with vitamins, minerals and plant compounds. They contain high amounts of inorganic nitrates, which can improve health and boost physical performance.
Oranges are among the most popular fruits in the world.
They are mainly composed of water and contain 11.8% carbs. Oranges are also a good source of fiber.
Oranges are especially rich in vitamin C, potassium and some B-vitamins. They also contain citric acid, as well as several very potent plant compounds and antioxidants.
Eating oranges may improve heart health and help prevent kidney stones. They may also increase the uptake of iron from food, reducing the risk of anemia (30, 31, 32, 33, 34).
Bottom Line: Oranges are a good source of fiber. They also contain very high amounts of vitamin C and plant compounds. Eating oranges may have benefits for heart health and help prevent anemia.
Blueberries are incredibly delicious.
They have often been referred to as a “superfood” due to their powerful plant compounds and antioxidants.
They consist mostly of water, as well as about 14.5% carbs.
Blueberries also contain high amounts of many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese.
Studies have shown that blueberries help protect the body from oxidative damage. They may also improve memory in older people (35, 36, 37, 38, 39).
Bottom Line: Blueberries are incredibly healthy. They contain many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and protect the body from oxidative damage.
Grapefruit is a citrus fruit with a sweet, bitter and sour flavor.
It contains about 9% carbs and has high amounts of several vitamins, minerals and plant compounds.
Eating grapefruit can aid weight loss and reduce insulin resistance (40).
Furthermore, eating grapefruit may help prevent kidney stones, lower cholesterol levels and protect against colon cancer (41, 42, 43).
Bottom Line: Grapefruit contains various vitamins, minerals and plant compounds. It may help with weight loss and provide numerous health benefits.
Apples are a popular fruit with a sweet flavor and distinctive crunch.
They are available in many colors, sizes and flavors, but generally contain about 13–15% carbs.
Apples contain many vitamins and minerals, but usually only in small amounts.
However, they are a decent source of vitamin C, antioxidants and healthy plant compounds.
Eating apples may benefit health in several ways, such as improving blood sugar control and reducing the risk of heart disease. Apples may also decrease the risk of some types of cancer (44, 45, 46, 47, 48).
Bottom Line: Apples contain a decent amount of vitamin C, antioxidants and plant compounds. Eating apples may improve blood sugar control, as well as reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers.
11. Kidney Beans
Kidney beans are a variety of the common bean. They are part of the legume family.
Cooked kidney beans contain 22.8% carbs, in the form of starches and fiber. They are also high in protein.
Kidney beans are rich in many vitamins, minerals and plant compounds. They also contain high amounts of antioxidants like anthocyanins and isoflavones.
They may have numerous health benefits, such as improved blood sugar control and reduced risk of colon cancer (49, 50, 51, 52).
Just make sure to never eat them raw, because raw or improperly cooked kidney beans are toxic (53).
Bottom Line: Kidney beans contain many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Cooked kidney beans are also a good source of protein and have been linked with several health benefits.
Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are part of the legume family as well.
Cooked chickpeas contain 27.4% carbs, of which 8% are fiber. They are also a good source of plant-based protein.
Chickpeas contain many vitamins and minerals, including iron, phosphorus and B-vitamins.
Eating chickpeas has been linked with improved heart and digestive health. They may also help prevent cancer (54, 55).
Bottom Line: 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 cancer prevention.
Take Home Message
“Carbs” are not unhealthy. That is a myth.
The truth is that some of the world’s healthiest foods are high in carbohydrates.
Although they should not be eaten in large amounts if you’re on a low-carb diet, they can be important nutrient sources for others.
Refined carbs are bad, but whole food sources of carbs are extremely healthy for most people. Period.