Sources of carbohydrates

Healthy examples of carbohydrates

07 Dec 2022


Carbohydrates are a key source of energy, fibre and nutrients. However, they have been the subject of unfavourable press in recent years. But are they good or bad for us?

The answer isn’t straightforward, as there are different types of carbohydrates.

As a result, it’s easy to become confused and either try to forego carbs altogether – or embrace them but go for the ‘wrong’ type of carbs.

But before you decide carbs have no place on your healthy plate – stop!

The type of carbs that you should be eating more of are ‘complex’ carbs. Complex carbs are made from longer chains of molecules than ‘refined’ carbs (which are the ones to avoid). But what are refined carbs? You’ll find them in white bread, white pasta, white rice, pastries, fruit juice and cake.

The body takes longer to digest the longer chains present in complex carbs, meaning that your body converts them to glucose in your body at a less rapid rate than refined carbs. This prevents blood sugar spikes and provides a slow release of energy.

Here are our top picks for complex carbs you can enjoy every day.

1. Wholegrain… anything

The wholegrain versions of all your favourite stodgy staples all count as complex carbs. Wholegrain pasta, brown rice and wholegrain bread can all provide you with a steadier dose of glucose than their white counterparts. They’re more nutrient-dense, too.

Don’t let grains get dull! Have you ever tried amaranth, teff or freekeh? If not, then you could soon have a whole new superfood to add to your repertoire. Check out our tips on how to cook lesser-known grains here

2. Legumes

Legumes are amazing. Packed with fibre, protein, iron and B-vitamins, they are also a complex carbohydrate which will not only fill you up, they’ll keep you going. Used as a base for countless dishes across global cuisine, chickpeas, lentils, red kidney beans and more should be a part of your daily diet. Don’t stop there, there is a range of other legumes available which have subtly different flavours and textures. Try pinto beans, black beans, haricot beans, butter beans and cannellini beans.Try our Sweet Potato Toast with White Beans recipe.

3. Oats

A great source of soluble fibre and essential nutrients. Oats are one of the best examples of carbohydrates which will give you long-lasting energy. There are around 20g complex carbs in a 30g serving of porridge oats.

Oats are a wonderful blank canvas. A healthy and popular choice is hot porridge oats with fruit with nuts, seeds and drizzle of honey. Try our Turmeric and Ginger Overnight Oats recipe.

For something a little different, try savoury oats. You can make them with a pinch of salt or get brave by adding eggs, cheese and chilli oil.

4. Sweet potatoes

As well as being full of fibre and an excellent source of vitamin A, the sunny-coloured sweet potato is also a great source of energy-giving complex carbs.

Don’t discard the skins, as they provide most of the fibre content and by keeping the skins, you slow the rate at which the potatoes are converted into glucose by your body. If you want to get the maximum benefit, boil them rather than frying or roasting, as this prevents blood sugar spikes.

5. Quinoa

The once-unfamiliar ingredient has become mainstream in the UK and thanks to its incredible nutritional profile, looks here to stay. Quinoa is protein-rich and contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a standout among other complex carbohydrates.

Use in place of rice or couscous or add to salads and veggie bowls to make a complete meal.

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Last updated: 31 March 2020


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