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What Are Some Sources of Carbohydrates?

author image Ellen Swanson Topness
Ellen Topness has been a counselor in the mental health field for more than 25 years. She has a Master of Arts in counseling. Throughout her career, Topness has enjoyed writing articles, poems and vignettes for pleasure. She also released a new ebook, "A Natural Disaster: Learning to Survive Myself."
What Are Some Sources of Carbohydrates?
A bowl of granola with sliced bananas and kiwi on a table. Photo Credit: AudreySmiths/iStock/Getty Images

Carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, cereal, grains, bread, milk and foods that contain sugar. Your body turns carbohydrates into glucose, the substance that energizes your cells, tissues and organs. Your best option for a balanced lifestyle is to understand the various types of carbs to choose the ones that will provide optimal nutritional benefits.

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Choosing the Best Carbs

A bowl of white bean and pasta soup on a table with a napkin and spoon.
A bowl of white bean and pasta soup on a table with a napkin and spoon. Photo Credit: msheldrake/iStock/Getty Images

The best carbohydrates promote health by providing fiber, vitamins and minerals. These include whole grains, vegetables, beans and fruit. Processed foods, sodas and pastries are examples of carbohydrates you should avoid or eat infrequently as they do not provide additional nutrients and can contribute to or promote weight gain, heart disease and diabetes.


Fresh green smoothies made with apples and spinach.
Fresh green smoothies made with apples and spinach. Photo Credit: tashka2000/iStock/Getty Images

There are three types of carbohydrates: starches, sugars and fiber. Sugars are easily absorbed in the body. Some foods that contain sugars include honey, fruits, vegetables, milk, processed foods, candy and desserts. You don't have to completely forgo simple carbohydrates, but the best choices for optimal nutritional benefit are fruits, vegetables and milk as these contain vitamins or fiber in addition to sugar.

Starches and Fiber

A girl is having a bowl of whole wheat cereal for breakfast on the patio with her family.
A girl is having a bowl of whole wheat cereal for breakfast on the patio with her family. Photo Credit: Fuse/Fuse/Getty Images

Starches, or complex carbs, take longer to digest than sugars. These starches include whole grain breads and cereals, starchy vegetables and legumes. This type of carbohydrate usually contains vitamins and minerals and is a good source of fiber. Fiber, the indigestible part of a plant, is important in maintaining digestive health. It also helps create a sense of fullness so it may be beneficial in weight-loss plans.


A family eats dinner together.
A family eats dinner together. Photo Credit: Fuse/Fuse/Getty Images

Carbohydrates are so important to health that Harvard School of Public Health's Healthy Eating Plate recommends that most of your plate be made up of healthy carbohydrates, half with vegetables and fruits and one-fourth with whole grains. Harvard suggests that counting carbohydrate grams or strictly limiting intake is less important than eating healthy carbohydrates of primarily starches or fiber while avoiding simple carbohydrates unless they also contain fiber or nutrients.

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