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What are High Carb Foods?

Diane Goettel
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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High carbohydrate foods are foods that contain a higher than average amount of carbohydrates, which are the primary source of energy for humans. Carbohydrates, which are often simply referred to as "carbs," can be broken down into three major groups. The groups are complex carbohydrates, simple carbohydrates, and dietary fibers. Complex carbohydrates are also often referred to as "starches."

Simple carbohydrates are most commonly found in fruits, sugar, and dairy products. Complex carbohydrates come from cereals, grains, and foods made from these sorts of sources. Dietary fiber can come from foods in both the simple carbohydrate category, such as fruits, and from the complex carbohydrate category, such as grains.

Many people try to stay away from high carb foods because these kinds of foods, especially those that contain high quantities of complex carbohydrates, can also be high in calories. A healthy diet, however, should include some high carb foods simply because of their health benefits. Dietary fiber, for example, can be important for colon health. Also, high carb foods, especially grains, can help to lower blood cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels. There is also evidence that an inadequate level of carbohydrates in one's diet can lead to problems that affect the central nervous system.

High carb foods that are rich in complex carbohydrates include oatmeal, bran, barley, maize, buckwheat, cornmeal, and pasta of all varieties. Other foods that are also high in complex carbohydrates are potatoes, brown rice, shredded wheat, muesli, cereals made with whole grains, lentils, corn, yams, beans, and peas. High carb foods that are rich in simple carbohydrates include sugar, simple syrup, candies, pastries and cakes, cookies, fruit juice, and many cereals that are made without whole grains.

Sometimes high carb foods are broken down into categories of "good carbs" and "bad carbs." The foods that fall into the good category are the ones in the complex carbohydrate category. The goods that fall into the bad category are the ones that fall into the simple carbohydrate category.

People who are trying to gain weight or regularly perform very strenuous activities often have to rely on high carb foods. Athletes commonly indulge in meals rich in complex carbohydrates in order to prepare for long workouts or periods of exercise. Sometimes this is called "carb loading". A cross country skiier, for example, preparing for a full day of exercise, might have a breakfast that contained muesli and a bran muffin, both of which are excellent sources of complex carbohydrates.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel , Former Writer
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"

Discussion Comments

By truman12 — On Apr 07, 2012

I used to be a very scrawny guy and it always made me self conscious. I wanted to gain muscle and bulk but I knew that I could not do it just by eating pasta. I went to a local nutrition store and bought a high calorie high carb powder that I mix into a shake and drink every morning. It is suppose to help me add more bulk than I could through eating food alone.

That was about 6 months ago and I have gained almost 15 pounds with a lot more noticeable muscle tone. I couldn't be happier. I don't know how long I will continue to take the powder but it is working for me now.

By nextcorrea — On Apr 06, 2012

I once saw a list of high carb foods that claimed to list the best high carb foods for runners. Runners often struggle to get the right amount of carbs because you want to have the necessary amount of energy but not feel full or heavy inside.

Right at the top of the list was oatmeal. I couldn't agree more. I have stated every day for the past ten years with a bowl of oatmeal. I usually go for a run about 30 minutes after I eat. I have all the energy I need to get through a hard run but I never feel like I have a bunch of oatmeal sloshing around in my stomach. It really is a super food.

By summing — On Apr 06, 2012

When people think of high carb foods they often think of power bars or cliff bars or some other kind of "energy" bars. But the dirty truth is that these processed food products often have high amounts of fat, sugar, salt, preservatives and other chemicals that you probably don't want in your body. If you are going to be doing high intensity things why would you want to eat things that are bad for your body?

For me the best high carb low fat food is a good thick slice of multi-grain bread. It is delicious, nutritious, and likely has everything you need to meet the demands of your labors.

Diane Goettel

Diane Goettel

Former Writer

"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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