The 13 Best Healthy Carbs to Add to Your Meal Prep Plans

If you happen to’re new to studying about diet and health, you might understandably query the phrase wholesome carbs. The low-carb period of eating regimen tradition has left its mark. There might be medical so that you can scale back your carb consumption. However relating to any kind of fitness goal — fats loss included — carbohydrates should not your enemy.

Carbs are an vitality supply and one of many three macronutrients your physique wants (the opposite two are protein and fats). There are two fundamental sorts of carbohydrates: easy carbs and complicated carbs. Easy carbs should not unhealthy, however advanced carbs could pack extra well being advantages. Each varieties provide important vitality for exercises and play an element in gaining energy and muscle mass, sustaining endurance, and recovering from train.

Display of foods that are healthy carb sources.
Credit score: Tatjana Baibakova / Shutterstock

Let’s get into the science behind wholesome carbs — what they’re, how they’ll profit your digestive, metabolic, and cardiac well being, your coaching targets, and all the very best meals sources to select from. 

Editor’s Observe: The content material on BarBend is supposed to be informative in nature, nevertheless it shouldn’t be taken as medical recommendation. When beginning a brand new coaching routine and/or eating regimen, it’s all the time a good suggestion to seek the advice of with a trusted medical skilled. We’re not a medical useful resource. The opinions and articles on this website should not supposed to be used as prognosis, prevention, and/or remedy of well being issues. They aren’t substitutes for consulting a professional medical skilled.

What Are Wholesome Carbs?

When confronted with all the knowledge and sources of carbohydrates it may be powerful to slim down the info. No meals is inherently good or dangerous. However in case you have particular health targets or want to enhance or preserve your total well being, the sorts of meals you select to eat will have an effect in your physique and the way you are feeling. 

Certain, if the phrase carbs calls to thoughts scrumptious, oily, salty french fries, that’s not one thing you’re going to wish to eat in excessive portions each single day. However there’s loads of area in a nutritious diet for average quantities of all the pieces you take pleasure in. Even when a meals isn’t essentially nutrient-dense, it might nonetheless play a job in your life culturally or emotionally, and these are vital elements of a sustainable wholesome way of life. (1)

Foods that are high in carbohydrates arranged in a circle.
Credit score: Tatjana Baibakova / Shutterstock

[Read More: Nutrition for Athletes — How to Eat for Muscle and Performance]

Bearing this in thoughts, you possibly can outline wholesome carbs as nutrient-rich carb sources which are minimally processed entire meals. Wholesome carbs gives you vitality for exercises and on a regular basis life, assist your metabolic and cardiac well being, and are a key piece of your every day macronutrient puzzle.

Varieties of Wholesome Carbs

The primary kind of carbs which will come to thoughts with the dangerous fame they obtained from eating regimen tradition are easy carbs. “Easy” refers back to the variety of molecules within the carb — easy carbs are made out of one or two sugar molecules and complicated carbs are product of three or extra. (2

Easy carbs will spike your blood sugar and digest quickly. Processed sugary meals fall underneath this class, however so do entire meals like fruit and white rice.

Complicated carbs are digested slowly and can regularly affect your blood sugar slightly than spiking it. (2) Wholesome entire meals sources of advanced carbs embody entire grains, legumes, and greens. Complicated carbs could be additional damaged down into classes of starches, insoluble fibers, and soluble fibers. (2

Although some fruits are thought of easy carbs, fruits like apples and berries comprise fiber and could be thought of advanced.

Starchy advanced carbs come from plant-based meals like candy potatoes, wheat, chickpeas, and entire grain pasta. Insoluble fibers keep in your intestines and should assist improve gut health. (2) Examples embody seeds, potato skins, brown rice, and sure greens. Soluble fibers could assist decrease your ldl cholesterol and embody oats, broccoli, fruit, and beans. (2

Sources of Wholesome Carbs

Listed below are some pure meals sources of the various kinds of wholesome carbs. You can too enhance your carbohydrate consumption for vitality and restoration by means of carb supplements.

Easy Carbs

  • White rice
  • Fruits: bananas, mangoes, grapes
  • Dairy merchandise: milk, yogurt
  • Honey

Complicated Carbs

  • Complete grains: oats, brown rice, quinoa
  • Legumes: chickpeas, lentils, beans
  • Greens: candy potatoes, squash, spinach
  • Fruits: apples, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries

Advantages of Wholesome Carbs

Consuming carbs isn’t an inherently dangerous factor. Selecting comparatively wholesome carbs can gasoline your exercises, health targets, and enhance your total well being. Right here’s some advantages of packing entire meals carb sources into your eating regimen.

Power for Exercises

While you eat carbohydrates, they get damaged down into glucose, which can be utilized instantly for vitality. Further glucose is saved in your liver and your muscle groups as glycogen. (3) Your physique makes use of glycogen as an vitality supply for short-duration high-intensity training like weightlifting and sprinting. (3

Longer-duration exercises additionally use glycogen, however the stage of depth and period of your coaching will decide how a lot your physique wants. (3)

Maintaining a healthy diet carbs all through your day will help hold your glycogen shops full earlier than train so your physique has available vitality.

An athlete looking at the blue shaker bottle in his hand.
Credit score: Viktoriia Hnatiuk / Shutterstock

[Read More: The Best Foods for Energy Before, During, and After Your Workouts]

If you should eat earlier than a exercise, selecting a easy carb like white rice or fruit shall be digested shortly and can be utilized for vitality. If you happen to use a pre-workout supplement it in all probability has carbs in it as a part of its energy-boosting components.

Throughout your exercise, you burn by means of your glycogen shops and it’s vital to replenish them after coaching. Together with carbs in your post-workout shake, snack, or meal will help your train restoration and guarantee you possibly can practice arduous once more subsequent time. Choosing advanced carbs in your post-workout supplement will assist restore your vitality.

Helps Fats Loss

Carbs can profit each fats loss and muscle acquire health targets. 

In case your objective is dropping physique fats, selecting advanced carb sources received’t spike your blood sugar, digest slower, and should assist hold you full for longer. Complicated carbs usually comprise fiber. Analysis exhibits that consuming fiber can enhance emotions of satiety. (4) If you happen to’re lowering your meals consumption, guaranteeing that you just really feel full and nourished from nutrient-dense meals will help you persist with your plan.

Helps Muscle Acquire

Sure, protein is infamous for being the muscle builder extraordinaire. However don’t sleep on carbs if you wish to drive muscle hypertrophy.

In the case of building muscle, consuming carbohydrates to replenish your glycogen shops after coaching is a bit of the hypertrophy pie. Consuming protein and carbohydrates after coaching will help enhance muscle protein synthesis. (3

Recovering effectively helps you present up and proceed to raise extra at your subsequent session and the one after that which may result in constructing muscle over time. If you happen to’re following an intense coaching program to construct muscle, it’s important to supply your physique with the vitality it wants in between periods. 

Constructing muscle requires you to eat extra energy than your physique wants to keep up your present weight. If you happen to’re making an attempt to eat in a surplus mixed with resistance coaching, you should be getting a variety of protein, carbs, and energy. Opting for easy carbs like white rice that received’t hold you as full will help you eat extra quantity with out feeling sluggish.

Packed With Vitamins

Complicated carbs are sometimes nutrient-dense meals that can present your physique with the nutritional vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients to assist your total well being. These substances can even operate as antioxidants in your physique to assist battle irritation and free radicals. 

Listed below are simply a few of the methods you’ll discover vitamins jam-packed into carbs:

  • Complete grains and oats comprise fiber. Brown rice, quinoa, and chickpeas comprise some protein. Completely different coloured fruit and veggies present nutritional vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients
  • Phytonutrients come from plant-based meals and supply your physique with totally different organic advantages. (5) For instance, carrots and different orange fruit and veggies comprise beta-carotene which could be transformed to vitamin A to enhance your eye well being. (6)
  • Leafy inexperienced greens are additionally excessive in vitamin A. Broccoli, oranges, and citrus fruits are excessive in vitamin C which helps your immune system. You may get vitamin E from avocados, beets, and seeds to assist your pores and skin and mind well being
  • Chickpeas, lentils, and sesame seeds all comprise zinc, which may increase your immune system. Berries comprise flavonoids and have anti-inflammatory properties that may enhance your cardiac well being. (6)

Improves Metabolic Well being

Carbs play a job in controlling your blood sugar and insulin ranges. When you’ve got excessive blood sugar or hyperglycemia, consuming advanced carbs could also be useful as a result of they slowly launch sugar into your system and received’t trigger an instantaneous spike. (2)

Wholesome carbs usually comprise fiber, which may additionally assist regulate your blood sugar. Analysis exhibits that consuming entire grains with fiber is related to a decrease danger of growing type-2 diabetes. (7)

A person choosing between a bagel and an apple.
Credit score: Manop Boonpeng / Shutterstock

[Read more: The 10 Best Probiotic Supplements for Women (2023 Update)]

You can too select carbs with a decrease glycemic index (GI) to additional stop blood sugar spikes. Meals like berries and entire grains are thought of to be decrease GI. Low-GI diets are sometimes recommended to individuals with diabetes and could also be efficient at naturally controlling their blood sugar. (8)

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is one other situation the place of us can select to eat low-GI meals to stop blood sugar spikes. PCOS could cause insulin resistance, which may result in unexplained weight acquire and hypertension. (9) Maintaining a healthy diet carbs mixed with a protein supply is a method of managing PCOS by means of your eating regimen.

Might Defend Coronary heart Well being

Consuming entire grains has been related to decreasing your danger of heart problems. (10) Selecting wholesome carbs with soluble fiber will help decrease your LDL (low-density lipoprotein) ldl cholesterol, which contributes to cardiac well being. (2) Leafy inexperienced greens are a supply of nitrates, which may enhance nitric oxide manufacturing in your physique. Nitric oxide widens your blood vessels, will increase blood circulate, and will help decrease your blood strain. (11)

The opposite nutritional vitamins, minerals, and vitamins you get from wholesome carbs can even affect and defend your coronary heart well being.

Greatest Meals With Wholesome Carbs

Let’s see the way it all breaks down. Under are a few of the greatest sources of various kinds of wholesome carbs: entire grains, legumes, greens, and fruits. Except in any other case famous, the dietary info under comes from the FoodData Central function of the US Division of Agriculture (USDA) web site.


Quinoa is a whole-grain supply of wholesome carbs. It’s a superb supply of different vitamins like zinc, iron, and magnesium. A one-cup serving of cooked quinoa incorporates 39 grams of carbs, eight grams of protein, and three.5 grams of fats.

Brown Rice

Brown rice is a fancy carb that incorporates fiber and a few protein. It’s additionally a excessive supply of magnesium. One cup of cooked brown rice yields 51 grams of carbs, 5.5 grams of protein, and 1.96 grams of fats.


Oats are a whole-grain wholesome breakfast selection full of fiber that received’t spike your blood sugar. They’ll hold you full, too. One cup of oats incorporates 55 grams of carbs, 10.7 grams of protein, and 5.28 grams of fats.


Chickpeas comprise protein and generally is a welcome boost to a vegan or vegetarian eating regimen. They’re additionally a high-fiber food. One cup of chickpeas yields 45 grams of carbs, 14.5 grams of protein, and 4.25 grams of fats.


Lentils are a legume full of fiber and an honest quantity of protein, making them one other good vegan carb and protein source

[Read More: The 12 Best Vegan Protein Powders (2023 Update)]

They arrive in numerous colours and kinds, all of that are good sources of B nutritional vitamins and zinc. One cup of lentils incorporates 39.8 grams of carbs, 18 grams of protein, and 0.8 grams of fats.

White Beans

Many sorts of beans are nice sources of wholesome carbs. White beans comprise the amino acids arginine and methionine which will help produce creatine synthesis in your physique. (12) If you happen to don’t eat meat, consuming white beans is a solution to get some pure creatine which could be useful in your health targets.

Boiled white beans in a white bowl.
Credit score: denio109 / Shutterstock

White beans additionally comprise fiber and protein and are an important possibility for vegan or vegetarian diets as effectively. A one-cup serving of white beans has 25 grams of carbs, 17.4 grams of protein, and 0.6 grams of fats.

Candy Potatoes

Candy potatoes are a starchy vegetable and an important supply of fiber. They’re full of vitamin A and different antioxidants. One cup of cooked candy potatoes with pores and skin yields 41.4 grams of carbs, 4 grams of protein, and 0.3 grams of fats.

Butternut Squash

Various kinds of squash are starchy carbs. Butternut squash is an efficient supply of magnesium, vitamin A, and vitamin C. One cup of cooked butternut squash incorporates 21.5 grams of carbs, 1.8 grams of protein, and 0.2 grams of fats.


Spinach is full of fiber, iron, and vitamin A. Spinach and different leafy greens are additionally sources of nitrates, which may enhance nitric oxide in your physique for higher blood circulate. A 100-gram serving of spinach has 3.63 grams of carbs, 2.86 grams of protein, and 0.39 grams of fats.

White Rice

White rice is a straightforward carb and doesn’t have as many vitamins as brown rice. Nevertheless, it’s shortly digested and generally is a fast supply of vitality. Additionally it is a supply of cultural significance for communities throughout the globe, which makes it a strong addition to a sustainable, wholesome way of life. (1)

One cup of cooked white incorporates 36.7 grams of fast-digesting carbs, 3.5 grams of protein, and 0.3 grams of fats.


Bananas are a easy carb supply that comprise fiber, potassium, and different vitamins. One 126-gram banana incorporates 28.8 grams of carbs, 1.4 grams of protein, and 0.4 grams of fats.


There are numerous sorts of apples to select from. Whether or not you prefer pink, inexperienced, or a mixture thereof, apples comprise fiber and antioxidants. A 200-gram medium-sized apple incorporates 27.6 grams of carbs, 0.5 grams of protein, and 0.3 grams of fats. 


Berries are a few of the most nutrient-dense fruits you possibly can eat. Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries all have excessive fiber content material. They’re loaded with vitamin C and different antioxidants. 

They’re comparatively low in energy and will help hold you full if you’re lowering your meals consumption. Berries even have a low quantity of carbs in comparison with different fruits. So if you should restrict your carb consumption however take pleasure in fruit, berries are an important possibility.

Assorted berries in displayed in boxes.
Credit score: Verity Snaps Images / Shutterstock

[Read More: The 12 Best Meal Replacement Shakes (Spring 2023 Update)]

A 100-gram serving of raspberries yields 13 carbs. 100 grams of strawberries comprise eight carbs. A 100-gram serving of blueberries has 14.6 carbs. 100 grams of blackberries yields 9.6 carbs.

How Many Carbs Do You Want?

Completely different individuals want totally different quantities of carbs. Analysis exhibits that 45 to 65 p.c of energy in a wholesome grownup’s eating regimen ought to come from carbs — popping out to 200 to 300 grams every day. (2)

Athletes have totally different wants and should require extra. Based on the American School of Sports activities Medication (ACSM), carb wants for athletes depend upon the sort and stage of depth of their coaching. 

The ACSM suggests three to 5 grams of carbs per kilogram of physique weight for athletes performing mild coaching and eight to 12 grams of carbs per kilogram of physique weight for intense coaching. (13)

Take a look at BarBend’s macros calculator to get a customized carb vary primarily based in your targets and exercise stage.

Let’s slim it down additional and have a look at totally different health targets. 

For Energy

A 2022 evaluation of the literature on carbohydrate consumption for resistance coaching highlights totally different optimum carb ranges for various kinds of coaching. In case your objective is energy, the advice is 4.2 to eight grams of carbs per kilogram of physique weight to assist heavy lifting. (14)

For Muscle Progress

Bodybuilders trying to construct muscle can eat 2.8 to 7.5 grams of carbs per kilogram of physique weight for hypertrophy. (14) Bigger athletes would require extra carbohydrates to get well and stimulate muscle progress. 

For Endurance

Endurance athletes are suggested to eat six to 12 grams of carbs per kilogram of physique weight for long-duration endurance workouts like marathon working. (14) Once more, your personalised mileage could range and it’s useful to calculate your wants primarily based in your physique.

For Restoration

It’s vital to eat carbs for train restoration to replenish your muscle glycogen shops. The Worldwide Society of Sports activities Diet (ISSN) suggests restoration carb ranges primarily based on the extent of depth of your coaching. The ISSN mentions that energy and resistance athletes want much less carbs than endurance athletes. (15)

[Read More: The 9 Best Electrolyte Supplements (2023 Update)]

The ISSN notes that whereas common pointers could be given, it’s vital to bear in mind your bodily wants primarily based in your whole every day vitality expenditure (TDEE). In broad phrases, for train restoration, you possibly can ingest 1.2 grams of carbs per kilogram of physique weight per hour for the primary few hours after train. (15)

Carbing Up

Carbs should not the enemy. Selecting from carb sources like entire grains, legumes, greens, and fruits can profit your total well being. These meals are full of different vitamins together with nutritional vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and even protein. 

While you’re coaching arduous, replenishing your muscle glycogen shops with wholesome carbs will help you get well. You’ll be able to arrive again within the fitness center in your subsequent session with the vitality you should crush your targets and get these good points.


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  7. Hu Y, Ding M, Sampson L, Willett WC, Manson JE, Wang M, Rosner B, Hu FB, Solar Q. Consumption of entire grain meals and danger of kind 2 diabetes: outcomes from three potential cohort research. BMJ. 2020 Jul 8;370:m2206. 
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