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4 High Carb Foods to Add to Your Diet

April 01, 2024

Carbs get a bad rap — especially in the age of fad diets.

But are they really something you should be avoiding?

Before you toss out all the bread, pasta, and cereal, here’s everything you need to know about carbs – plus four high carb foods you might want to eat more of.

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Some carbs are better (or worse) than others.

Refined carbs might be the reason for the bad reputation.

“When people think of carbs in a negative light, they’re often thinking of refined carbs. These can be easy to overeat and cause spikes in blood sugar,” says Jane Querido, RD, a registered dietitian with Hartford HealthCare.

Refined carbs include many of our favorite snacks such as chips, crackers and desserts. And while these might seem appealing in the moment, they won’t leave you feeling full.

Instead, she suggests choosing options like whole grains, fruit and milk. “These will help you feel full sooner, and keep you full longer,” she says.

> Related: How Much Fat and Carbs Should I Actually Be Eating?

Portion sizes plays a part, too.

Carbs have a place on a balanced plate – but the trick is finding the right portion size.

“People tend to view carbs as high in calories, particularly in common portion sizes. Think of the amount of rice or pasta served at some restaurants,” says Querido.

Not sure what the right portion size is?

“The current recommendation is to get about 45-65% of your total calories from carbohydrates each day,” she notes.

If you’re trying to eyeball it, that’s about a quarter of your plate, or a portion roughly the size of a fist.

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Four high carb foods worth keeping around.

If your weight loss plan hinges on a strict, low carb diet, here comes some bad news.

“A large, quick decrease in carbs can lead to constipation, headache, muscle cramps or ketosis. Long term, it can also cause vitamin or mineral deficiencies, or lead to digestive problems,” says Querido.

Instead of aiming for a low carb diet, try prioritizing these four high carb, healthy foods.

1. Whole grains.

Packed with fiber, these offer a more nutritious way to get your fix of carbs.

Look for options like:

  • Quinoa. With plenty of protein, fiber, B vitamins and minerals, quinoa is one of the most nutritious grains you can choose.
  • Oats. Loaded with a soluble fiber called beta-glucan, oats can slow digestion, increase satiety, and suppress appetite. These can also lower cholesterol, prevent sharp rises in blood sugar, and reduce the chronic inflammation related to heart disease and diabetes.
  • Farro. An excellent source of fiber, magnesium and iron, farro is worth adding to your diet.
  • Pasta. Whole grain, lentil, chickpea or even veggie pasta can be a great way to reach your daily fiber target of 25-35 grams.

2. Legumes.

Looking for another way to reach your fiber goals? Legumes might just be the answer.

“A ½ cup serving of legumes contain about 15 grams of complex carbohydrates and 8 grams of fiber,” says Querido.

Some of the most popular options include:

  • Chickpeas
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Peas
  • Soybeans

These make great additions to salads or soups, or can be roasted in olive oil for a tasty side dish.

3. Fruits.

Good news, produce lovers.

“Most people benefit from getting five servings of fruits and vegetables per day,” Querido says.

Known for their potassium content, bananas help in blood pressure control. And to get some extra fiber in your diet, Querido points to berries and oranges.

“Citrus is rich in vitamin C, which boosts immunity,” she says. “But if you’re taking medications, be careful with grapefruit – it can interact negatively with many common prescriptions.”

4. Vegetables.

As usual, vegetables make the list.

“Many cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, have compounds that can reduce your risk of cancer. Broccoli is also a great source of fiber and vitamin C,” Querido says.

Other healthy, low carb vegetables to look for include:

  • Carrots
  • Zucchini
  • Summer squash
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Beets

Or, if low carb isn’t for you, choose a higher carb option like sweet potatoes or parsnips.

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