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.

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Composition with cooked quinoa in bowl and wooden spoon on table
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Best: Quinoa

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.

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Kidney beans
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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.

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Pink lady apples cut on a painted white rustic wood table.
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Best: Apples

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.

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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.

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Chili Lime-Roasted Chickpeas
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Best: Chickpeas

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.

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fresh blueberries

Best: Blueberries

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!

See what other superfoods nutritionists eat every day.

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Raw Organic Medjool Dates Ready to Eat
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Best: Dates

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.

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Southwest Barley & Lentil Soup
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Best: Lentils

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.

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Seasoned brown rice
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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.

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Chocolate chip PB banana sandwich
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Best: Bananas

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.

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Slow-Cooked Cajun Corn
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Best: Corn

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.

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bowl of raisins. raisins on a wooden background.

Best: Raisins

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!

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Steamed white rice in a bowl
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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.

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Granola with greek yogurt and raspberries in jar, healthy food, healthy eating concept
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Avoid: Yogurt

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.

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dried Fruits and Nut Mix bowl - banana slices, apricots, raisins, prunes, cherries and cashew on a rustic table with honey in a bowl, horizontal view from above, close-up, flatlay
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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.

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Raw Organic Sweet Light Agave Syrup in a Bowl
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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.

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juice in a glass container surrounded by fresh vegetables and fruits on white boards
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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.

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Top view of cut mango half and mango cubes on white marble cutting board and in white bowl.
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Avoid: Mango

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.

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Organic Green Peas in a Bowl on White Table
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Avoid: Peas

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.

Carrie Madormo, RN
Now a freelance health and food writer, Carrie worked as a nurse for over a decade. When she isn't hunched over her laptop with a baby in hand, you will find her cooking her grandmother’s recipes, lacing up her running shoes or sipping coffee in the bathroom to hide from her three young children.
Wendy Jo Peterson, MS, RDN
As a registered dietitian Wendy Jo touches on the science and facts behind food, but as a gardener and world traveler she savors the classical dishes our great-grandmothers once made. When she’s not in her kitchen, you can find her and her family exploring the US in their campervan, Olaf!