While whole grains are the go-to source of carbohydrates for many runners, it’s also possible to meet your carbohydrate needs entirely on a grain-free diet.
Between legumes, fruits, certain kinds of dairy, and vegetables, there are plenty of other sources of high-quality, nutrient-dense, carbohydrate-rich foods.
Vegetables arguably take the cake in terms of leading the way as the most nutritious food group but trying to meet your desired carbohydrate intake through watery vegetables like cucumbers, celery, and spinach may necessitate eating a massive quantity of veggies.
Fortunately, there are some delicious, nutritious, high carb vegetables that can leave you feeling satisfied and energized as much as your body is nourished.
In this article, we will share a list of the best high carb vegetables you should add to your plate when you’re looking for a healthy way to replenish muscle glycogen stores without deferring to bread, oatmeal, or bananas.
We will cover:
- Are High Carb Vegetables Healthy?
- 10 High Carb Vegetables
- High Carb Vegetables to Avoid
Let’s get started!
Are High Carb Vegetables Healthy?
Although you can probably find a person who adamantly demonizes carbohydrates in nearly every random group of people, many nutritionists, dietitians, and medical professionals believe that carbohydrates can—and should—be part of a healthy diet.
Carbohydrates provide energy to the cells in your body, and fiber increases satiety and aids digestion and healthy bowel regularity.
The best way to capitalize on the health benefits of carbohydrates is to choose high-quality sources of complex carbohydrates.
There are some very nutritious high-carb starchy vegetables, such as tubers, root vegetables, and legumes.
High carb vegetables provide the carbohydrates you need for energy during vigorous exercise, along with gut-healthy fiber and no added sugars.
Because of the fiber and water content, vegetables high in carbohydrates are relatively low-glycemic foods despite their high-carb content.
This means these foods fuel the body with sustained energy and keep your blood sugar more stable without creating spikes and rebound dips.
10 High Carb Vegetables
Below, we share some of the healthiest vegetables rich in complex carbohydrates.
Adding these nutritious, high carb veggies into your diet—particularly before and after your workouts—will provide lasting energy to your body, keep hunger at bay, support digestion, and reduce oxidative damage and inflammation in your body.
Whether russet potatoes, Idaho potatoes, fingerling potatoes, or otherwise, potatoes are usually the first veggie turned down by proponents of low-carb diets.
However, these arguably maligned spuds are actually quite nutritious.
Potatoes are considered tubers, which are attached to the roots of a plant and serve as silos or storage sites for nutrients.
For this reason, tubers, such as potatoes, are packed with essential nutrients, including vitamin C, B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
Tubers also store energy for the plant in the form of complex carbohydrates, which is why potatoes are one of our high carb veggies.
One medium potato contains about 37 grams of carbohydrates, including 4 grams of fiber.
#2: Sweet Potatoes and Yams
Like white potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams are tubers, so these high carb veggies are rich in nutrients.
Sweet potatoes are one of the best sources of vitamin A and beta-carotene, both of which support eye health and skin health and confer other antioxidant properties.
Yams and sweet potatoes are also high in complex carbohydrates, with about 37 grams per medium sweet potato (5 grams of which are fiber).
Given this high-carb content, it may come as a surprise that sweet potatoes have been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of diabetes.
#3: Winter Squash
Although technically a fruit, winter squash varieties are often grouped with vegetables, given their flavor profile and typical usage.
From butternut squash to acorn squash, delicata squash to kabocha squash, winter squashes are sweet, creamy, and filling, making for a hearty side dish or soup ingredient for chilly fall or winter meals.
These high-carb “veggies” are rich in beta-carotene, thanks to the orange flesh, and the nutrient-packed seeds can be roasted and enjoyed, providing everything from healthy omega-3 fatty acids to zinc.
One cup of raw butternut squash has 16 grams of carbohydrates. The carbohydrate content per cup increases significantly when the squash is cooked.
Beets, like carrots, parsnips, turnips, and celeriac, are root vegetables, which are the edible roots of the plant.
As roots, these healthy vegetables store nutrients for the plant, including vitamins, minerals, and sugars in the form of complex carbohydrates.
It is the carbohydrate content that lends the characteristic sweet flavor to all root vegetables.
One cup (136g) of raw red beetroot provides 58 calories and 13 grams of carbohydrates, of which 4 grams are fiber and 9 grams are natural sugar.
Beets are an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium, along with antioxidants and polyphenols.
The dark purple color is due to the presence of anthocyanins.
These antioxidants have been shown to reduce cholesterol, decrease inflammation, improve cognitive performance, and reduce the risk of cancer. Beets also contain flavonoids and procyanidins, polyphenols that can improve mood, cognition, memory, and learning.
The bright red color of beets is due to the betalains, a group of potent antioxidants that provide disease-fighting benefits.
You can enjoy sweet beets raw or roasted in salads with goat cheese or drizzled with balsamic vinegar, pickled, and sliced on burgers or sandwiches, among any number of other applications.
Like beets, parsnips are root vegetables, so they store energy for the plant in the form of complex carbohydrates.
One cup of sliced parsnips contains about 100 calories, nearly all of which come from the 24 grams of carbohydrates.
Of this, 7 grams are fiber, and 6 grams are natural sugar.
Carrots are also a root veggie, but they are lower in carbs and calories than parsnips, providing 12 grams per cup of raw, chopped carrots, of which 4 grams are fiber and 6 grams are sugar.
Corn is a delicious, summertime sweet vegetable that’s beloved by almost everyone.
It’s juicy, tender, and versatile, enjoyed straight off the cob, grilled, steamed, sautéed, and anywhere in between.
This one of our high carb vegetables provides an impressive 41 grams of carbs, including 5 grams of fiber, per cup.
Corn is also rich in vitamin C, which supports your immune system and helps combat oxidative damage from free radicals.
Corn also provides B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, and the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which support eye health.
#8: Lentils and Beans
Lentils and beans are legumes, which are a distinct class of vegetables that includes veggies such as beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils.
Legumes are rich in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants, such as anthocyanins and isoflavones.
For this reason, diets high in legumes have been associated with lower risks of cancer, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.
Beans, lentils, and soy are also packed with soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber helps you feel full, bulks up stool, and promotes bowel regularity, while insoluble fiber is a prebiotic fiber, so it nourishes the beneficial bacteria in your gut microbiome.
These bacteria residing in your digestive tract perform a variety of critical functions, including digesting and harnessing the nutrients in food, producing vitamins B12 and K, reducing inflammation, and defending your body against pathogenic invasion.
We often hear that legumes are a good source of protein for vegans and those on plant-based diets, and while they are, legumes are also high in carbohydrates.
For example, one cup of cooked lentils provides about 40 grams of carbohydrates, of which 16 grams are dietary fiber.
Black beans, garbanzo beans, and kidney beans provide a similar carbohydrate profile.
Peas have fewer carbs than beans and lentils, but a greater percentage of the carbohydrate content is natural sugar rather than fiber, so if you’re looking for a sweet, high-carb veggie, you can’t go wrong with peas.
One cup has 21 grams of carbs, of which 7 grams are fiber, and 8 grams are sugar.
Hands down, the highest-carbohydrate veggie is cassava, a starchy root native to central and South America.
One cup of cassava packs a whopping 78 grams of carbs and 328 calories.
Given this nutrient profile, cassava is not necessarily the healthiest high-carb vegetable to add to your diet, depending on your caloric needs.
High Carb Vegetables to Avoid
Any whole, natural, unprocessed high carb vegetables can be part of a healthy diet, as long as you don’t have diabetes or other medical conditions that require following a ketogenic diet or another extremely low-carb diet.
With that said, the method of preparation is key.
For example, baked, boiled, broiled, or steamed sweet potatoes are very nutritious.
On the other hand, taking that same raw ingredient, slicing it into fries, deep frying it in a ton of partially-hydrogenated soybean oil or cottonseed oil, and then dousing it in salt transforms a healthy food into an unhealthy one.
The same can be said for creamed corn, tater tots, and any other number of processed high carb veggies.
The method of preparation, along with any added ingredients, largely impacts the overall nutrition profile of the food you are eating.
Because most high carb vegetables are relatively palatable, starchy blank slates, they are popular starting (and starring!) ingredients in readymade food products, many of which still try to market the item as healthy.
Just because a food product is mainly a vegetable doesn’t mean the end result is all that nutritious.