12 High-Carb Foods That Are Actually Super Healthy

August 8, 2015 Updated: May 10, 2020

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.

1. Quinoa

Quinoa is a nutritious seed that has become incredibly popular in the natural health community.

(cheche22/iStock)
Quinoa is very filling since it is relatively high in fiber and protein. (cheche22/iStock)

It is classified as a pseudocereal, a seed that is prepared and eaten like a grain.

Cooked quinoa is 21.3 percent 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.

It does not contain any gluten, making it a popular alternative to wheat when 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.

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.

2. Oats

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 percent carbs, and nearly 11 percent 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.

(iStock)
Eating oats may also lower blood sugar levels, especially in diabetics. (iStock)

Many studies have shown that oats may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels.

Eating oats may also lower blood sugar levels, especially in diabetics.

Furthermore, oats are very filling and may help you lose weight.

Bottom Line: Oats contain many beneficial nutrients, including fiber and protein. Oats have been shown to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

3. Buckwheat

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 percent carbs, and cooked buckwheat groats contain about 20 percent carbs.

(YelenaYemchuk/iStock)
Eating buckwheat may be particularly beneficial for heart health and blood sugar control. (YelenaYemchuk/iStock)

Buckwheat is very nutritious, containing both protein and fiber. It also has more minerals and antioxidants than most grains.

Eating buckwheat may be particularly beneficial for heart health and blood sugar control, especially in people with diabetes.

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.

4. Bananas

Bananas are among the world’s most popular fruits.

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Bananas are high in potassium. (khalus/iStock)

 

They are made up of about 23 percent 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.

Unripe bananas also contain decent amounts of resistant starch and pectin. Both of these support digestive health and feed the friendly gut bacteria.

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 percent 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.

(IngaNielsen/iStock/Thinkstock)
(IngaNielsen/iStock/Thinkstock)

Bottom Line: Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A (from beta-carotene), as well as several other vitamins and antioxidants.

6. Beetroots

Beetroots are a purple-colored root vegetable, commonly referred to as beets.

Raw and cooked beets contain about 8–10 percent carbs, made up of sugar and fiber.

They are packed with vitamins, minerals, potent antioxidants, and plant compounds.

(nata_vkusidey/iStock)
(nata_vkusidey/iStock)

 

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.

Beet juice is also very high in inorganic nitrates and is often used to enhance physical performance during endurance exercises.

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.

7. Oranges

Oranges are among the most popular fruits in the world.

They are mainly composed of water and contain 11.8 percent 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.

(franny-anne/iStock)
(franny-anne/iStock)

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.

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.

8. Blueberries

Blueberries are incredibly delicious.

They are often referred to as a “superfood” due to their powerful plant compounds and antioxidants.

(BrianAJackson/iStock)
Blueberries help protect the body from oxidative damage. (BrianAJackson/iStock)

They consist mostly of water, as well as about 14.5 percent 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.

Bottom Line: Blueberries are incredibly healthy. They contain many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and protect the body from oxidative damage.

9. Grapefruit

Grapefruit is a citrus fruit with a sweet, bitter, and sour flavor.

(RomarioIen/iStock)
Eating grapefruit can aid weight loss and reduce insulin resistance. (RomarioIen/iStock)

 

It contains about 9 percent carbs and has high amounts of several vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds.

Eating grapefruit can aid weight loss and reduce insulin resistance.

Furthermore, eating grapefruit may help prevent kidney stones, lower cholesterol, and protect against colon cancer.

Bottom Line: Grapefruit contains various vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds. It may help with weight loss and provide numerous health benefits.

10. Apples

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 percent carbs.

Apples contain many vitamins and minerals, but usually only in small amounts.

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Eating apples may improve blood sugar control. (Ls9907/iStock)

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 and reducing the risk of heart disease. Apples may also decrease the risk of some types of cancer.

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 common variety of beans. They are part of the legume family.

Cooked kidney beans contain 22.8 percent carbs, in the form of starches and fiber. They are also high in protein.

(ajafoto/iStock)
Cooked kidney beans contain 22.8 percent carbs in the form of starches and fiber. (ajafoto/iStock)

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.

Just make sure to never eat them raw, because raw or improperly cooked kidney beans are toxic.

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.

12. Chickpeas

Also known as garbanzo beans, chickpeas are part of the legume family as well.

Cooked chickpeas contain 27.4 percent carbs, of which 8 percent are fiber. They are also a good source of plant-based protein.

(VeselovaElena/iStock/Thinkstock)
Eating chickpeas has been linked with improved heart and digestive health. (VeselovaElena/iStock/Thinkstock)

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.

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 if you’re not.

Refined carbs are bad, but whole food sources of carbs are extremely healthy for most people. Period.

Adda Bjarnadottir has a Master’s degree in human nutrition from the University of Iceland. This article was originally published on AuthorityNutrition.com