Carbohydrates often get a bad rap. Whether for their high calorie content or tendency to spike blood sugar, high-carb diets are often linked with weight gain and health conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

However, while it’s true that many junk foods are high in carbs, these are often refined carbs, which are very different from whole, unrefined carbohydrates. In fact, many unrefined high-carb foods have impressive nutritional profiles.

With that said, here are 10 high-carb foods with powerful health benefits.

1. Dates

Approximate carb content per 100g: 75g

From their sweet taste to their powerful health benefits, there’s lots to love about dates. However, like many dried fruits, they’re much higher in calories than fresh fruit, so it’s important to eat them in moderation.

The majority of the calories in dates comes from carbohydrates, along with a generous serving of fibre, antioxidants, and plenty of vitamins and minerals like potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, and vitamin B6.

Offering almost 7g fibre per 100g serving, dates have been linked with improved gut health and reduced symptoms of constipation. For example, in this study, people who ate seven dates a day for 21 days experienced improvement in bowel movement frequency compared to those who didn’t eat dates.

Plus, research shows that dates have the highest antioxidant content of similar types of fruit, including figs and dry plums. This includes antioxidants like flavonoids, which are linked with a reduced risk of conditions like diabetescancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Some of the most popular ways to eat dates include adding them to salads, smoothies, baking recipes – or just enjoying them as a tasty snack on their own. For more inspiration, check out these 6 creative ways to eat dates from Very Well Fit.

2. Oats

Approximate carb content per 100g: 67g

Oats are a healthy and versatile high-carb food – containing more protein than most grains, as well as plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Perhaps most notable is their rich fibre content. This fibre is called beta glucan, which research has linked with lower cholesterol levels, improved immune function, and better blood sugar management.

In one study, consuming 3g of beta glucan a day for eight weeks decreased levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol by 15% and total cholesterol by 9%. Beta glucan is also high in antioxidants and may help to reduce inflammation and protect against chronic conditions like heart disease and cancer.

Another study suggested that increased intake of beta glucan could help to activate immune cells and reduce the risk of infection.

Plus, the protein and fibre content of oats makes them very filling – so they can be an effective tool for healthy weight management by encouraging portion control and preventing overeating.

You can use oats to make plenty of delicious and versatile breakfast and snack options – from traditional oatmeal to overnight oats or baked oats – and can also be used for baking. For more inspiration, check out these healthy oat recipes from BBC Good Food.

3. Quinoa

Approximate carb content per 100g: 40g

Quinoa may be high in carbs, but it’s also dubbed a ‘superfood’ for its impressive nutritional value.

It’s a great source of protein and fibre, as well as a number of important nutrients like iron, zinc, folate, and magnesium.

Research has linked quinoa with a number of health benefits, including successful weight loss, improved gut health, and a reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, and cognitive decline.

To learn more about the benefits of quinoa and how to add more to your diet, you might like to have a read of our article; 9 health benefits of quinoa.

4. Buckwheat

Approximate carb content per 100g: 33.5g

Rich in nutrients like folate, zinc, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, copper, omega-3 fatty acids, and iron, buckwheat is an incredibly healthy high-carb food.

Among other things, eating more buckwheat has been linked with improved heart health. One reason for this is that buckwheat is a rich source of flavonoids. These are heart-healthy compounds that have been found to help lower cholesterol, manage high blood pressure, and prevent the formation of blood clots.

Plus, buckwheat is also gluten-free and has been identified as a low-FODMAP food (FODMAPs are types of carbohydrates that can cause digestive problems). This makes it a great option for people with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

If you’d like to eat more buckwheat, there are plenty of easy ways to add it to your diet. From fluffy buckwheat pancakes to buckwheat noodles and buckwheat granola, check out these delicious recipes from BBC Good Food.

5. Chestnuts

Approximate carb content per 100g: 28g

There are various different types of chestnuts, including the European chestnut, American chestnut, and Chinese chestnut – but all share similar nutritional qualities.

Despite being higher in carbohydrates than most nuts, chestnuts are lower in calories, largely due to their low fat content. For this reason, some studies have linked higher chestnut intake with reduced belly fat.

Chestnuts are also a great source of fibre and several vitamins and minerals like vitamins B5, B3, K, magnesium, and phosphorus. And they have a strong antioxidant profile too.

For example, chestnuts contain the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which research suggests can protect our eyes against damage from blue light.

Other studies have found that many of the antioxidants found in chestnuts may help to lower the risk of heart diseaseimprove insulin resistance, and prevent the growth and spread of tumours.

Chestnuts make a delicious snack on their own but also add a delightful addition to both sweet and savoury dishes. For inspiration, check out these chestnut recipes from BBC Good Food, which includes everything from chestnut hummus to chocolate chestnut cupcakes.

6. Bananas

Approximate carb content per 100g: 23g

Bananas are an excellent source of fibre, as well as beneficial nutrients like potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C.

Mostly due to their high potassium content, research suggests that adding more bananas to your diet may help to lower blood pressure and boost heart health. In fact, this study found that higher intakes of potassium may lower the risk of heart disease by around 27%.

Bananas can also be a useful food for weight loss because they’re relatively low calorie and, due to their fibre content, are much more filling than processed options.

Plus, bananas also contain good amounts of resistant starch and pectin (a type of soluble fibre) – both of which support healthy digestion by providing fuel to the beneficial bacteria in your gut. Some studies have even suggested that pectin may help to protect against colon cancer.

Bananas make a fantastic snack on their own, but if you’d like to get more creative, why not try one of these healthy banana recipes from BBC Good Food? From banana and walnut loaf to peanut butter and banana pots, these will hopefully leave your mouth watering.

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7. Brown rice

Brown rice
Approximate carb content per 100g (cooked): 23g

Although brown and white rice are similar in calories and carbohydrate content, brown rice is significantly healthier.

Brown rice is less processed than white rice, and is considered a wholegrain – retaining many of the nutrients that white rice lacks, including various vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Among other things, brown rice is high in manganese – an essential mineral needed for various body functions, including bone development, nerve function, and blood sugar regulation.

Brown rice is also high in antioxidants, which help to protect the body from oxidative stress. Oxidative stress (an imbalance between antioxidants and harmful free radicals) is linked with an increased risk of various health conditions, including heart disease and certain forms of cancer.

Studies suggest that these antioxidants could be the reason behind the low prevalence of chronic diseases in parts of the world where brown rice is a staple food.

Substituting refined grains like white rice for brown rice may help you to maintain a healthy, balanced diet, and support any weight loss goals. So, why not try one of these healthy brown rice recipes that are loaded with flavour from Taste of Home?

8. Kidney beans

Kidney beans
Approximate carb content per 100g: 21.5g

Kidney beans are a type of legume native to Central America and Mexico.

They’re a fantastic source of plant-based protein and fibre, and contain high amounts of various vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds.

This includes antioxidant compounds like isoflavones and anthocyanins, which research has linked with improved blood sugar regulation and a lower risk of colon cancer. For example, this study linked eating more legumes (including beans) with a reduced risk of colon cancer.

Kidney beans can also be a helpful addition to your diet if you’re trying to lose weight, largely due to their fibre and protein content. Both fibre and protein release energy slowly and mean that we can eat less but still feel full.

For example, this two month study of 30 obese adults on a weight loss diet found that eating beans and other legumes four times a week led to greater weight loss than those on bean-free diets.

If you’d like to add more kidney beans to your diet, check out these 30 simple kidney bean recipes from Insanely Good. You’ll find everything from hearty chillis to salads and soups.

9. Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes
Approximate carb content per 100g: 20g

While similar in their calorie, protein, and carbohydrate content to regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are generally healthier.

One reason for this is that they contain many essential nutrients like vitamins A, C, E, and manganese. For example, 100g of sweet potato contains over 100% of the daily recommended intake of vitamin E, while regular potatoes offer just 0.1%.

Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and has been found to reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease and cancer, by protecting cells from harmful molecules known as free radicals.

Sweet potatoes are also full of gut health-boosting fibre and have a lower glycemic index (GI) than regular potatoes. This means they release energy more gradually and are less likely to cause blood sugar spikes. Not only is this helpful for keeping food cravings in check, but it also makes sweet potatoes a particularly useful dietary option for people with diabetes.

If you’d like to add more sweet potatoes to your diet, why not try one of these healthy sweet potato recipes from BBC Good Food? You’ll find everything from curries and stews to sweet potato wedges.

10. Beetroot

Approximate carb content per 100g: 10g

While not as high-carb as other foods on this list, beetroot contains a lot of carbohydrates compared to other non-starchy vegetables. But it’s also packed full of vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants and plant compounds.

Beetroot is particularly high in inorganic nitrates, which our bodies convert into nitric oxide. This is significant because research has linked nitric oxide with lower blood pressure and a reduced risk of various health conditions like heart disease.

One reason for this is that nitric oxide helps to relax blood vessels, allowing oxygen to flow more efficiently.

If you’d like to start eating more beetroot, why not try some of BBC Good Food’s beetroot recipes? You could make anything from beetroot burgers to beetroot soup and beetroot risotto.

Final thoughts…

High-carb diets often get negative press. But unlike refined carbohydrates, eating plenty of nutritionally rich whole food sources of carbs can help to boost our health.

For further reading, head over to the diet and nutrition or food and drink sections of our website. Here, you’ll find everything from healthy diet swaps to tips for eating out.

What are your favourite healthy high-carb foods? Will you be adding any more of the foods on our list to your diet? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.