What are High Carb Foods?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

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."

Barley is high in carbs.
Barley is high in carbs.

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.

Cornmeal is a high carb food.
Cornmeal is a high carb food.

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.

Candy is typically high in simple carbohydrates.
Candy is typically high in simple carbohydrates.

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.

Peas are relatively high in complex carbohydrates.
Peas are relatively high in complex carbohydrates.

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.

Pasta is typically high in complex carbohydrates.
Pasta is typically high in complex carbohydrates.

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.

Oatmeal cookies and other snacks are often high in carbohydrates.
Oatmeal cookies and other snacks are often high in carbohydrates.
Lentils are high in complex carbs.
Lentils are high in complex carbs.
Grains are complex carbs.
Grains are complex carbs.
Muesli has a large amount of complex carbohydrates.
Muesli has a large amount of complex carbohydrates.
Whole grain cereals are high in carbohydrates.
Whole grain cereals are high in carbohydrates.
White rice is a simple carbohydrate food.
White rice is a simple carbohydrate food.
Yams are high in complex carbohydrates.
Yams are high in complex carbohydrates.
Potatoes are high in complex carbohydrates.
Potatoes are high in complex carbohydrates.
Whole-wheat pasta is a healthy high-carb food.
Whole-wheat pasta is a healthy high-carb food.
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments

truman12

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.

nextcorrea

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.

summing

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.

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