6 Healthy Carbs You Should Load Up On

Photographed by Nick Wolf.
Repeat after us: Carbs are not the enemy. In fact, carbs are a critical source of fuel, not only for our bodies, but for our brains as well. Diets lacking in carbs force the body to sub in dietary protein and fat as sources of energy, which isn't ideal.

Bread, pasta, and cake are fine things to have in your diet when you want them, but you should also know about the super healthy sources that get you the energy you want, plus fiber and other important nutrients.

This is one vegetable you’ve probably been eating since you were just six months old, thanks to its tiny size. Peas have incredible anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. They also contain coumestrol, a natural organic compound found in phytochemicals that is known to lower the risk of stomach cancer. Not too shabby. And along with the carbs (a.k.a. energy) you’re getting in your serving of peas, you’re also filling up on more than seven grams of fiber. Win-win!

Black Beans
Two things you know about beans: They’re good for your heart and, well, you know the other one. But that’s not all: They’re also naturally low in fat but high in fiber, rich in antioxidants, and dense in a slew of minerals such as zinc, iron, calcium, and selenium. Plus, they contain a serious amout of carbs. That said, these are glycemic-friendly carbs, meaning they move through your digestive system slowly and only gradually increase your blood-sugar levels, so you won't experience a rush of energy and then a crash.

Most of your favorite breakfast foods are high in carbs, and your go-to oatmeal is certainly no exception. In fact, just a single packet of plain oatmeal yields about 19 grams of the stuff, along with nearly three grams of fiber. It’s also one of the best known sources for lowering cholesterol. Throw in fruit for extra fiber and a little sweetness.

You’re starting to see it in more recipes — and not just for its creamy taste and texturally diverse ability to transform into pasta. It’s also a heart-healthy veggie. Squash contains more than 16 grams of complex carbohydrates, along with nutritional fiber, vitamins, and minerals you need to function. Start adding it to your soups, casseroles, and crockpot recipes. Your taste buds and your body will thank you.

Chances are, you know quinoa is healthy. But did you know it's a carb? This crop, which hails from Bolivia, Chile, and Peru, has been eaten for more than 5,000 years but has only recently gained popularity elsewhere. It's valued for its nutrient-dense makeup: With 5.5 grams of protein and three grams of dietary fiber in one cup, how can you go wrong?

In that one cup, there are also 30 grams of carbohydrates, along with nearly every single good-for-you vitamin in the book, including calcium, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, potassium, and more.

This staple of American history has gotten a bad rap in recent years, thanks to the fact that we most often find it in packaged, processed foods. (We taco-lovers mostly enjoy it in tortilla form.)

But when freshly picked, corn is actually one of the world’s healthiest foods. All of its varieties are loaded with antioxidants as well as manganese, a vitamin that helps the body form connective tissue, bones, and sex hormones (can’t forget those!). It’s also great for our digestive tracts, with nearly five grams of fiber in just one cup.

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