19 Complex Carbs You Should Def Incorporate Into Your Diet

by | Aug 18, 2023 | Nutrition

It’s become totally normal to order burgers without buns, eat meatballs on a pile of zoodles and even to make (gasp!) pizza with cauliflower. Because apparently, carbs are the enemy.

However, complex carbohydrates — starches made up of long chains of sugar molecules — are considered “good carbs” because they take longer to digest and thus don’t spike blood sugars as quickly as more simple ones, says Ha Nguyen of Yummy Body Nutrition.

While simple carbs like juice, ice cream, candy and white bread are ok in moderation, your best bet is to make sure your carb intake comes mostly from complex carbs like whole grains, legumes and starchy veggies. To make things super easy, keep this complex carbs list on hand for your next trip to the supermarket.

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Bananas

The post-5K mainstay is made up of mostly complex carbohydrates, plus a healthy kick of vitamins and potassium. Yes, it contains natural sugar, but your bod won’t absorb it as quickly as it would, say, a candy bar, because of the fruit’s high fibre count.

Per serving (1 medium):

105 calories, 0.4 g fat (0.1 g saturated), 27 g carbs, 14 g sugar, 1 mg sodium, 3.1 g fibre, 1.3 g protein.

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Millet

Meet millet, which is a great go-to if your stomach is sensitive to gluten or you have celiac disease. This gluten-free grain is a rich source of magnesium, phosphorus and potassium, not to mention protein.

Per serving (1 cup, cooked):

207 calories, 1.74 g fat (0.3 g saturated), 41.19 g carbs, 0.23 g sugar, 3 mg sodium, 2.3 g fibre, 6.11 g protein.

READ MORE: 18 Foods High In Vitamin C Beyond Just Oranges

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Broccoli

You know these green guys are good for you, but did you know they’re actually an ace source of complex carbs? The carbs primarily come from fibre, which is key for digestive health and regulating blood sugar levels.

Per serving (1 cup, chopped):

31 calories, 0.3 g fat (0 g saturated), 6 g carbs, 1.5 g sugar, 30 mg sodium, 2.4 g fibre, 2.6 g protein.

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Chickpeas

One cup of chickpeas packs an impressive 11 grams of protein and 10 grams of fibre. One-third of the minimum recommended daily fibre intake, which is about 30 grams. They’re also rich in calcium and phosphate, both of which are important for bone health.

Per serving (1 cup, cooked or canned):

1129 kilojoules, 4 g fat (0 g saturated), 45 g carbs, 8 g sugar, 11 mg sodium, 13 g fibre, 15 g protein.

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Carrots

Craving something crunchy? Get your fix with this colourful root veggie, which is a particularly good source of beta-carotene, potassium and antioxidants. We love ’em tucked into a veggie sandwich.

Per serving (1 medium):

25 calories, 0.2 g fat (0.02 g saturated), 5.8 g carbs, 2.9 g sugar, 42.1 mg sodium, 1.7 g fibre, 0.57 g protein

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Old-fashioned Oats

Old-fashioned oats (also called rolled oats) are packed with manganese, iron, folate, B vitamins and other important nutrients. Regular intake of the soluble fibre in oats has also been shown to help reduce LDL cholesterol (that’s the bad kind).

Per serving (1/2 cup, dry):

627 kilojoules, 3 g fat (0 g saturated), 27 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 4 g fibre, 5 g protein.

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Sweet potatoes

Although they’re as sweet as their name suggests, the sugar in sweet potatoes is released slowly into your bloodstream, thanks to the fibre that comes along with it. The starchy root vegetable is also high in vitamin C, which helps boost immunity and beta-carotene. This is linked to reduced risk of heart disease and certain cancers.

Per serving (1 small sweet potato, 130 g, raw):

468 kilojoules, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 26 g carbs, 5 g sugar, 72 mg sodium, 4 g fibre, 2 g protein.

READ MORE: The 9 Best Vitamins For Strengthening Your Immune System And Warding Off Sickness

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Barley

Don’t dismiss this chewy, slightly nutty grain. One cup of cooked barley packs six grams of fibre, which is essential for good gut health and may help lower cholesterol levels too, boosting cardiovascular health.

Per serving (1 cup, cooked pearled):

193 calories, 0.69 g fat (0.15 g saturated), 44.3 g carbs, 0.44 g sugar, 5 mg sodium, 6 g fibre, 3.55 g protein

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Butternut squash

Since butternut squash is starchy but relatively low in calories, it can be a great swap for more calorie-dense potatoes and sweet potatoes. It’s also high in vitamin E, which promotes healthy skin.

Per serving (1 cup, cubed, raw):

63 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 16 g carbs, 3 g sugar, 6 mg sodium, 3 g fibre, 1 g protein.

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Potatoes

Regular old white potatoes are really good for you, too! One medium potato has more potassium than a banana, which makes them great for managing blood pressure. Plus, they offer resistant starch, which is great for your gut health.

Per serving (1 small potato, 148 g, raw):

110 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 26 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 0 g sodium, 1 g sugar, 3 g protein.

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Spelt

Spelt is an ancient grain that delivers more than just a healthy serving of complex carbs. One cup of cooked spelt has 7.6 grams of fibre and 10.67 grams of protein, making it a well-balanced choice. Plus, it has higher amounts of iron, zinc, magnesium and copper compared to wheat flour. It provides roughly one-third of your recommended daily value of phosphorus, a key bone-building mineral.

Per serving (1 cup, cooked):

246 calories, 1.65 g fat, 51.29 g carbs, 10 mg sodium, 7.6 g fibre, 10.67 g protein

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Black Beans

“Beans are a good source of protein and fibre, the two key nutrients that promote satiety,” says Nguyen. “They help you feel full longer. Beans are also a cheap and easy substitute for animal protein.” For all you plant-based folks out there!

Per serving (1 cup, cooked or canned):

227 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated), 41 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 2 mg sodium, 15 g fibre, 15 g protein.

READ MORE: 3 Comforting Soups That’ll Boost Your Immune System

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Whole-Wheat Bread

There’s no reason to give up sandwiches in favour of lettuce wraps. But it’s worth double-checking labels to make sure you’re buying bread made with 100 percent whole grains (and not a mix of wheats and additives). Not only can the fibre in whole grains help you maintain a healthy weight, whole grains have also been shown to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease.

Per serving (1 slice):

81 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated), 14 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 146 mg sodium, 2 g fibre, 4 g protein.

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Whole-Wheat Pasta

Again, the key here is to make sure you’re scanning the grocery store aisles for pasta that’s made with 100 percent whole grains. The fibre in whole-wheat pasta will help you stay full and satisfied. A cup of cooked pasta is a great vehicle for other healthy foods like vegetables, olive oil, herb-packed pesto and lean protein.

Per serving (1.2 cup, dry):

200 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated), 43 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 6 g fibre, 6 g protein.

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Quinoa

While it’s technically a seed, not a grain (making it naturally gluten-free), quinoa comes with the same heart-healthy benefits as other whole grains and works the same way in recipes like stir-fries, salads and grain bowls.

Per serving (1/4 cup, dry):

156 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated), 27 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 2 mg sodium, 3 g fibre, 6 g protein.

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Brown Rice

Brown rice contains the germ, bran and endosperm of the grain, which means it’s got more fibre, protein and nutrients than white rice (which is just the endosperm, with the germ and bran removed). Its high-fibre content makes it great for satiety and weight maintenance. And it’s got a slew of other important nutrients, such as, iron, zinc, selenium and B vitamins.

Per serving (1/4 cup, dry):

150 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated), 32 g carbs, 0 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 2 g fibre, 3 g protein.

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Farro

Like quinoa and brown rice, this nutty grain has loads of heart-healthy benefits. This includes reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease. It’s also slightly higher in protein and fibre than most other whole grains (making it another great food for weight loss). One thing to note: Farro is a type of wheat, so it’s not gluten-free. Use it to bulk up this Greek Chicken Salad.

Per serving (1/4 cup, dry):

160 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated) 33 g carbs, 1 g sugar, 10 mg sodium, 3 g fibre, 5 g protein.

Image by Freepik

Lentils

Low in fat, high in protein and healthy carbs. Lentils make for a cheap, filling alternative to meat in simple meals. One cup of lentils contains 18 grams of protein and 16 grams of fibre. These inexpensive legumes are guaranteed to fill you up and keep you satisfied.

Per serving (1 cup, cooked):

230 calories, 1 g fat, 40 g carbs, 4 g sugar, 4 mg sodium, 16 g fibre, 18 g protein.

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Green Peas

They’re high in fibre, plus they contain a good amount of vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and folate.

Per serving (100 g):

81 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated), 14 g carbs, 6 g sugar, 5 mg sodium, 6 g fibre, 5 g protein.

This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com 

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