What foods contain healthy carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates, or carbs, are nutrients in your food that are converted into sugar after you digest them. They give your body energy. Although you need some carbs to maintain your energy level, too many can cause weight gain and harm your health. Carbs are generally found in grains, milk and yogurt, vegetables, fruits, and sweets.

So, which carbs are the healthiest? The best choices are those that aren’t processed. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are good carbs because they contain vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber.

In contrast, refined, or processed, carbs like white pasta, sugary drinks, and pastries have little or no nutritional value and should be consumed in moderation or not at all.

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A List of Healthy Carbs

Some people who are trying to lose weight may adopt a ketogenic diet, which limits carbs and increases fat intake. While this diet can work for some people, it’s not always sustainable and can be too low in fiber.

It’s best to get the carbs you need from foods that have other health properties. Some carbohydrate-rich foods like beans, lentils, and many fruits and vegetables are also high in fiber. Others are high in vitamins or minerals. Sweet potatoes contain vitamins A and C as well as fiber and potassium. Milk and yogurt are high in calcium.

RELATED: Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Which Is Healthier? 

What are healthy carbs? Healthy carbs have added nutritional value, not just empty calories. Foods containing healthy carbs that are part of a healthy diet include:

  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Corn
  • Berries
  • Oats
  • Apples
  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Popcorn

If you’re trying to lose weight, use butter sparingly on popcorn and sweet potatoes. Instead of adding sugar to your oatmeal, add fresh berries for sweetness. And although brown rice and whole wheat pasta are healthier choices, you should still practice portion control when eating them.

For nutritional advice tailored to your specific needs, make an appointment with a UPMC registered dietitian by calling 1-800-533-UPMC (8762).


About UPMC

Headquartered in Pittsburgh, UPMC is a world-renowned health care provider and insurer. We operate 40 hospitals and 800 doctors’ offices and outpatient centers, with locations throughout Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York, West Virginia, and internationally. We employ 4,900 physicians, and we are leaders in clinical care, groundbreaking research, and treatment breakthroughs. U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the nation’s best hospitals in many specialties and ranks UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh on its Honor Roll of America’s Best Children’s Hospitals. We are dedicated to providing Life Changing Medicine to our communities.