Nutrition / Food

What are High-Carb Vegetables and Should I Avoid Them?

Learn whether or not they count as a vegetable or carb, and why it matters.

We don’t have to tell you that you should eat your vegetables. With their fiber, antioxidant properties, vitamin and minerals, and typically low-calorie count, they’re paramount in any healthy diet. There’s a catch, though. Not all vegetables are created equal. You can eat just about as many fibrous veggies as you want (think asparagus, celery, and spinach). However, some vegetables are particularly starchy and higher in carbs. Read on as four professionals give us the details on these high-carbohydrate vegetables.

What are high-carb vegetables?

“Vegetables can be categorized as starchy vegetables and non-starchy vegetables,” says Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN, CLC, and creator of Maya Feller Nutrition. “Both starchy and non-starchy vegetables contain carbohydrates. However, starchy vegetables are higher in total carbohydrate content, in comparison to non-starchy vegetables.” Don’t fret! This doesn’t make them any less healthy by comparison. “It’s important to note that starchy vegetables provide energy and nutrients (vitamins, minerals, and fiber). [They] can be a part of a healthy, balanced diet,” Feller assures.

Now that we know what separates these vegetables from the rest of the pack, let’s get specific. The most common high-carb vegetables are potatoes, peas, corn, and squash. Here’s a quick breakdown. Note: These amounts are all for one cup servings unless otherwise specified.

Other high-carbohydrate veggies worth mentioning are lima beans (24 grams per cup), artichokes (24 grams per cup), and black-eyed peas (26 grams per cup).

While you may be tempted to blacklist these from future grocery lists, don’t. To compare, a cup of rice has around 40 grams of carbs. A cup of beans has around 35 grams of carbs. “These vegetables can play a role in a healthy diet,” says Jonathan Valdez, MBA, RDN, CSG, CDN, ACE-CPT, and owner and founder of Genki Nutrition. “Not only that, but the body needs carbohydrates as it is the primary source of energy for the brain, blood cells, and muscles.” If you’re active and like to exercise often, the need for carbs increases. That’s not to say that these veggies are a free-for-all. But certainly don’t nix them from your diet altogether. 

How many (or how few) high-carb vegetables should I eat?

Unlike many vegetables, you probably shouldn’t eat starchy ones in bulk. You may think that they’re all vegetables and count as such. But, you’ll be surprised to find out that’s not the case. “When building your meal, the starchy vegetables count as a starch. [They] can be categorized along with all grains and beans,” notes Feller. “When I work with patients I remind them that having rice and corn counts as having two starches on the plate. [While] this is okay, I encourage them to be mindful of the serving size. I suggest that the plate has a palm or fist full of starches coming from grains or beans or starchy vegetables.” In short, keep your portions to about half a cup to one cup.

For some perspective, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommends that 45 to 65 percent of your daily calories come from carbs. Depending on your weight and body, this could be anywhere from 150 to 300 grams. To stay satisfied, distribute them evenly throughout the day. “If that sounds small, add some greens to beef up the volume and satisfaction,” adds Amy Shapiro, RDN and founder of Real Nutrition NYC. Feel free to load up on fibrous vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, celery, and mushrooms to satisfaction.

How do they affect weight loss?

“If weight loss is your goal, it’s best to practice portion control with these starchy vegetables the way you would with other carbohydrates. Whereas foods like lettuce, cucumbers, and tomatoes are low in calories and are pretty much unlimited for weight loss, these starchy vegetables should be kept to a one-half cup portion,” says Sammi Haber, MS, RD, CDN, and Founder of Nutrition Works NYC. This is especially true if you’re trying to be low-carb. Shapiro touches on this, adding, “If you’re following a low-carbohydrate diet, it would be best to eliminate or reduce these starchy vegetables in your diet. Although [they are] good sources of fiber and some starchy vegetables have many health benefits, such as antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, they do count as carbohydrates in your meal.”

However, it’s important to emphasize that these vegetables aren’t bad! If you’re not abiding by a low-carb diet, they’re nothing to stress over. They’re still vegetables, after all. “When we look at the standard American diet, people are not really overeating peas, corn, and baked potatoes. They are having an overabundance of fries, fried chicken, and fast food pizza,” Feller points out. Like many foods, just be mindful of your portion sizes and you’ll be perfectly fine.

Food Nutrition

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