Carbohydrates are often the first food component to be blamed for empty calories, excess sugar, and weight gain. The truth is that carbohydrates play an important role in health. They are the body’s main source of energy, and they fuel the central nervous system and influence mood. There are plenty of refined, high-fat, and high-calorie carbohydrate sources with little nutritional value, but don’t label all foods that contain carbohydrates as bad. The following healthy foods are high in carbs and provide many nutritional benefits.
Bananas contain natural sugar, but they also contain pectin, potassium, soluble fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin C, and manganese. Pectin aids digestion and regulates the impact a banana has on spiking blood sugar; potassium helps to maintain normal blood pressure; and soluble fiber is linked to a reduced risk for heart disease.
Oats, oatmeal, and oat bran are another valuable source of soluble fiber. Research shows that the soluble fiber in oatmeal can lower total cholesterol, which can lead to a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Research also suggests that unique antioxidants in oats may also help to protect against heart disease. The beta-glucan in oats has been found to reduce a rise in blood sugar in type 2 diabetes patients, when compared to white rice and bread.
Beans provide complex carbohydrates with heart-healthy soluble fiber, as well as plant-based protein. Beans are full of vitamins and minerals, such as folate, iron and potassium, many of which are linked to reduced cholesterol and blood pressure. Different varieties of beans also contain unique phytonutrients that act as antioxidants.
Peas contain unique phytonutrients that act as antioxidants to fight inflammation. These phytonutrients have also been associated with protecting against stomach cancer. Peas contain omega-3 fatty acids, and each cup provides about 7 grams of protein.
Sweet potatoes are full of vitamin A, which plays a role in the health of the eyes, skin and teeth. Substances responsible for the color of sweet potatoes, such as anthocyanins, help to fight inflammation that is often associated with chronic disease. Sweet potatoes have also been found to help regulate blood sugar.