The Best and Worst High-Carb Foods for Your Health
We can have our carbs and be healthy, too! For a smart energy boost, turn to high-carb foods with something to offer—and avoid the ones that don't.
Quinoa may look a grain, but it’s actually a seed. Not only is this powerful little seed high in carbs, but high in fiber and protein as well. Try swapping your favorite rice dish for quinoa or simmer it on the stove for an oatmeal alternative in the morning.
Best: Kidney beans
Kidney beans are not just a chili staple; they’re full of vital nutrients as well! And there are so many ways to cook with them. Cooked kidney beans are high in fiber and protein, keeping you full and satisfied all afternoon. They may even be linked to a lower risk of colon disease.
Does an apple a day really keep the doctor away? Turns out yes! Apples are rich in healthy carbs, vitamin C and antioxidants. Eating apples can help control blood sugar, reducing your risk for diabetes and heart disease. These are the best apples to snack on.
Best: Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are a staple at our dinner table. They’re delicious, easy to cook and full of vitamins and minerals. They’re also rich in antioxidants, protecting us from a variety of chronic health conditions. Try roasting them in the oven or making your own sweet potato fries.
Chickpeas are a favorite among vegetarians and vegans, as they contain high levels of fiber and plant-based protein. They’re also the perfect base for dips like hummus. Eating chickpeas has been linked with improved heart health, digestive health, and a lowered cancer risk. See our best chickpea recipes.
Blueberries achieved superfood status because they are an antioxidant powerhouse. They guard against chronic diseases and may even improve memory in older adults. Pass the blueberry pancakes, please!
Dates are chewy and sweet, making them a tasty snack or healthy dessert. Dates are also rich in fiber, vitamin A and calcium. Add a date or two to sweeten up your morning smoothie or bake them in these date oatmeal bars for an after-school snack.
Lentils are another high-carb, high protein legume. They provide the perfect fuel for elite athletes, as well as the weekend warriors. Lentils are rich in folate, potassium, calcium and fiber. Try simmering them over the stove for a comforting lentil soup this week.
Best: Brown rice
Brown rice is the perfect substitute for white rice. You still get all that starchy goodness in your favorite side dish, but with added fiber and antioxidants! Try whipping up your own healthy version of fried rice at home. Just try to avoid these common rice cooking mistakes.
Bananas are a starchy fruit high in nutrients like potassium and vitamin B6. Eating a diet rich in potassium can lower blood pressure and improve your heart health. Grab a banana on the go or add one to your favorite recipe, like these banana oatmeal pancakes.
Corn is not only the perfect summer food (hello, corn on the cob), but it will keep you healthy all year long, too. Corn is a starchy vegetable high in protein and vitamin C. It can also lower blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
Raisins make the perfect kids’ snack on the go and are full of nutrients like fiber, potassium, and calcium. They’re also rich in antioxidants. Raisins in cookies and other desserts may be controversial in your family, but sneak them in anyway!
Avoid: White Rice
Just one cup of cooked white rice has 44.5 grams of carbohydrates and 0.6 grams of fiber. If you’re a fan of rice, stick to a ⅓ cup portion or opt for brown to boost the fiber. Remember to balance out the plate with vegetables, too.
Be sure to check the labels, as not all Greek yogurts are created equal! You should pay particular attention to whether it’s flavored yogurt or plain. An 8-ounce serving of flavored yogurt can easily have over 40 grams of carbohydrates; however, a quality Greek yogurt can have around 8 grams of carbs and 20 grams of protein.
Avoid: Most Dried Fruit
In general, dried fruit is high in fiber but also dense with carbohydrates. Just a small 1-ounce portion can have 20+ grams of carbohydrates. Dried fruit is great to accent a salad, but not ideal for a daily snack. If you do pick up dried fruit, make sure that the manufacturer doesn’t add more sugar to the ingredients. A ⅓ cup portion of dried cranberries can have over 24 grams of carbohydrates and only 2 grams of fiber.
Avoid: Agave Syrup
This syrup has gained popularity as a “healthy” sugar; however, there is nothing special about agave syrup. In fact, from a carbohydrate perspective, it packs a punch of 16 grams of carbs per tablespoon. Your regular granulated sugar has 13 grams per tablespoon, and neither provides nutritional benefits.
Avoid: Vegetable Juice
If you’re thinking you should “drink your vegetables” over eating them, you may want to think again. One cup of vegetable juice can contain 18 grams of carbohydrates, and if it’s blended with fruit juice, that number will go up quickly. Plus, you lose out on all the fiber. It’s better to eat your vegetables instead.
Mango is a fun tropical fruit to enjoy, but when it comes to carbohydrates, it tops the charts. A 1-cup serving of mango has 28 grams of carbs and only 3 grams of fiber. You’re better off opting for raspberries or blackberries that have 8 grams of fiber per cup.
Peas have gained traction recently for their protein content and are often found in vegan protein powders, but you may be surprised that one cup of peas can have 21 grams of carbs. Peas balance out with 7 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein. But if you’re being careful with your carbs, you’ll want to skip the split pea soup.