For a few decades now, carbohydrates have been considered by many to be the be-all-end-all of worst types of foods to eat. But, not so fast; carbs are an essential building block of a healthy diet. Sure, you can technically survive without carbs, because your body will use fat and protein for energy instead, but that doesn’t mean it’s a safe—or smart—way to eat. There are plenty of great, superfood-caliber carbs, out there. Read on for some of the best carb-loaded foods you can eat.

1. Sweet Potatoes

Regular ol’ potatoes are loaded with carbs, and are lacking in plenty of other healthy nutrients. Their colorful cousin? Well, that’s another story. Sweet potatoes get their vibrant color from beta-carotene, which helps with skin and eye health. What’s more, one serving of the tuber fulfills your vitamin A quota for a whole day! They also contain vitamin C, magnesium, vitamin B6 and copper. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of potassium, fiber and biotin. What’s not to love? Enjoy sweet potatoes year-round.

2. Quinoa

Ah quinoa, that mighty Incan superfood. Yep, quinoa is one of the healthiest grains—and healthiest, foods, period—that you can eat. Loaded with protein, fiber, iron, magnesium and so much more, quinoa is an excellent way to get those healthy carbs. Need some quinoa inspiration? Here are 10 delicious recipes to try.

3. Popcorn

No, really! Before all of that butter and salt is poured on, popcorn is one healthy snack. Low in calories, popcorn is rich in fiber and easy on digestion. It even contains more polyphenols, an antioxidant that helps prevent cancer and heart diseases, than fruits and vegetables!

The trick to enjoying the taste and the nutritional benefits of popcorn? Air pop your own popcorn, and hold off on the unhealthy toppings.

4. Apples

Apples have plenty of carbs, but they also have plenty of other great nutrients, too. They are a good source of fiber and contain a number of beneficial phytonutrients, like polyphenols, which help regulate blood pressure and flavonoids, which help reduce your risk of cancer.

5. Barley

This cereal grain is rich in fiber, manganese and molybdenum. And, no, you don’t just have to eat it in soup! Barley is wonderful and delicious in place of rice or quinoa in many dishes, and its chewy texture appeals to pasta lovers looking for a healthier alternative.

6. Steel-Cut Oatmeal

This breakfast staple is one of the healthiest carbs you can eat. Steel-cut oats are a great source of protein, fiber and a good source of iron. Another great benefit? They’re low on the glycemic index, meaning that they’re a great option for people with diabetes.

7. Squash

Like sweet potatoes, squash is a healthy, carb-loaded veggie. Packed with vitamins A and C, and a good source of vitamin B6 and manganese, squash is a starchy, healthy vegetable that’s about 90 percent carbs.


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