Skip to main content

Carb-Rich Foods That Actually Help Burn Calories

7 min read

By Katherine George

Medically Reviewed by Julie Ching, MS, RDN, CDE

If you’re watching your weight, the word carbohydrates probably conjures feelings of fear in you. However, carbohydrates are an essential part of our diet. Without them, we’d have trouble regulating blood sugars and be lethargic all the time.

Not all carbohydrates are bad, so it’s important to differentiate the value of carbs in various foods. In fact, some carbohydrates are not only important to your body’s functions, but can actually help you lose weight. Sound crazy? Here are 15 carb-rich foods that are purported to have fat-burning properties…

Want diet & nutrition content delivered straight to your inbox? Sign up for our exclusive diet & nutrition newsletter!


This hearty food is perfect for a nutritious breakfast with a dash of fresh fruit added to it. Health magazine notes that oatmeal is not only packed with nutrients. Oatmeal also contains something called “resistant starch”, which is a fat-burning nutrient.

Resistant starch, according to, reportedly helps you eat less while boosting energy and your metabolism. It even has other benefits such as lowering cholesterol and controlling stress, according to the source.

Whole-Wheat Pasta

This is an easy meal to prepare that most families enjoy. It is filling, inexpensive, and as Shape magazine points out, whole grains are a great way to zap abdominal fat.

While pasta is a big source of carbs, the article notes that 3 servings of whole wheat per day can take inches off your waistline. It also notes that you should control your pasta portions to a cup or less per serving, which is the equivalent of 200-calories (after cooking).


Beans come in all varieties and carry a host of essential vitamins and nutrients, while also packing a healthy dose of protein and fiber. They’re also widely considered as a “good carb”, and this LiveStrong article explains why.

The dietary fiber content alone can help aid your digestion and lead to healthy weight loss whether you’re dieting or not, notes the online health source. Protein is also a natural appetite suppressant, and eating it will trigger a feeling of fullness after a meal, and your body uses a lot of calories to break it down.


This natural food is a good substitute for certain ingredients if you’re looking for something a little “lighter.” You can eat it on its own or use it as a component in a recipe; either way, it has many health benefits including encouraging weight loss, according to Eating Well magazine.

It contains a healthy amount of those two wonderful elements we mentioned earlier, protein and fiber, to help you feel full for longer periods of time. If you have a problem with the taste of quinoa, you can rinse off the bitter protective coating, notes the magazine.


Barley is one of the oldest superfoods. Since it is rich in fiber, barley works to keep us full for longer periods of time which means when we eat this food we’re less likely to snack on empty calories. A 2015 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that high-fiber foods like barley are able to “stimulate hormones in the gut that help regulate appetite and metabolism,” writes Redbook.

There are two ways to purchase barley — either “pearled” which is with the bran removed or “quick-cooking” which is also known as parboiled. Eating Well notes that both options are quite healthy with lots of soluble fiber, however pearl barley does have a little bit more to offer. “A good source of potassium and other heart-healthy nutrients, barley can help you slim down,” writes the source.


You might be surprised to see this one on here because popcorn is typically seen as a “treat” to enjoy on weekends or while at the movie theater. While it’s true those store-bought microwave bags of popcorn or the buttery bags of popcorn sold at the movie theater aren’t good for us, plain stove-popped popcorn is actually a good source of fiber.

A 2012 study published in the Nutrition Journal reported that their participants ate fewer calories and felt more full after eating popcorn than they would have if they’d been snacking on chips. While we don’t recommend loading up on popcorn everyday, the lesson here might be to choose popcorn over chips on weekends!

Black Rice

We’ve all heard of white and brown rice before, but have you ever tried black rice? It’s similar to brown rice in that it has many more nutrients than white, but it does have a little more to offer. According to Eating Well, black rice is an ancient grain that was sometimes referred to as “forbidden” rice. It contains more antioxidants like vitamin E and anthocyanins. It’s also high in fiber and low in calories making it a health-wise choice!


Pears are such an underrated fruit. They don’t get a lot of attention and are often forgotten about because they aren’t as popular as apples, oranges and bananas. But they still have their own benefits! They are high in fiber which makes it a great fulfilling snack. In fact, one medium pear has more fiber than an apple!

Redbook refers to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine which found that adults who ate at least 30-grams of fiber every day were able to lose 5-pounds a year. This might not seem like a lot but remember, it’s without changing their diet at all!


Chickpeas are part of the legumes family which also contains foods like beans, peas, and lentils. All of these foods are useful when looking to eat a diet geared towards weight loss. In fact a 2014 study found legumes to be good food to eat when looking to manage weight.

Redbook talked to registered dietitian Shira Lenchewski who suggests eating them roasted as a healthy snack. To do this, toss them in about 3-tablespoons of olive oil and some favorite spices, then roast them at 375 F for 40-minutes.

Whole-Wheat Bread

You might be scratching your head wondering what pasta and bread are doing on this list. It’s true, these foods can be bad for us, but if we eat whole-grain bread and whole-wheat pasta it’s much better. We still want to practice moderation with these foods, but a small serving alongside veggies and a lean protein can have some great benefits.

Penn State study found that individuals who ate whole-grain bread as part of a low-calorie diet over the course of 12-weeks were able to lose more belly fat than those who ate processed grains. “What’s more, having a regular helping may extend your life — in part, by shielding you from heart disease, according to Harvard researchers,” writes Redbook.


Squash might be a little intimidating to those who don’t cook all that often or are just beginning to, but this healthy food has a lot to offer and it’s super versatile! There are several different types of squash, most of which are healthy, but one of the best is acorn squash. Redbook notes that an entire acorn squash is 172-calories and loaded with vitamin A, C, and calcium. This food can be enjoyed all year round as either a cozy addition to a hot winter meal or as a topper on a salad in the summer!

Another super healthy squash and one of my personal favorites is spaghetti squash. This squash “can give you a pretty hefty portion size but still fewer calories and carbs than pasta, plus you’re eating great fiber and nutrients,” says Laren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, and owner of Nutrition Starring You when talking to SELF.

Green Peas

Remember when your mom told you to eat your greens? Well, she had a point. Foods like green peas are super healthy for us because they have lots of important nutrients! Redbook points out that just ½-cup of green peas contains about 4-grams of protein and fiber. This means all it takes is a small amount of green peas to keep us feeling full and satisfied.

In addition to their fiber and protein, green peas are also a good source of zinc which has “been linked with higher levels of the satiety hormone leptin,” writes the source.

Sweet Potatoes

We already talked about how potatoes can be a good carb for weight loss, but what about sweet potatoes? They aren’t as popular as the latter, but they’re actually a much healthier option. And if you ask me, they taste just as good!

Sweet potatoes get their rich orange color from their beta-carotene content. This is the same antioxidant that gives carrots their bright coloring too. SELF points out that just like all the other carbs on this list, sweet potatoes are loaded with fiber to help keep us feeling full for longer.


Julie Ching is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator in Los Angeles. She decided to become a Dietitian after traveling through Europe, South America, and Asia and discovered a passion for food. She now works with people of all ages and varying disease states to improve their health. She is passionate about teaching people about nutrition so they can live their best life while still considering their cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds.

Diet and Nutrition News & Advice


Dietary Fibre Affects More Than Your Colon: How the Immune System, Brain and Overall Health Benefit Too
By Mark Wulczynski Diet and Nutrition News & Advice

Dietary Fibre Affects More Than Your Colon: How the Immune System, Brain and Overall Health Benefit Too

There’s no shortage of advice about what to eat, including hype about the latest superfoods that will help you live to 100, or about the newest restrictive diets that claim to help you lose weight and look beautiful. As a researcher from the Farncombe Family Digestive Health Research Institute, I’m well aware that there is […]

Read More about Dietary Fibre Affects More Than Your Colon: How the Immune System, Brain and Overall Health Benefit Too

4 min read

What’s the Best Diet for Healthy Sleep? A Nutritional Epidemiologist Explains What Food Choices Will Help You Get More Restful Z’s
By Erica Jansen Diet and Nutrition News & Advice

What’s the Best Diet for Healthy Sleep? A Nutritional Epidemiologist Explains What Food Choices Will Help You Get More Restful Z’s

You probably already know that how you eat before bed affects your sleep. Maybe you’ve found yourself still lying awake at 2 a.m. after enjoying a cup of coffee with dessert. But did you know that your eating choices throughout the day may also affect your sleep at night? In fact, more and more evidence […]

Read More about What’s the Best Diet for Healthy Sleep? A Nutritional Epidemiologist Explains What Food Choices Will Help You Get More Restful Z’s

5 min read

Does an Apple a Day Really Keep the Doctor Away? A Nutritionist Explains the Science Behind ‘Functional’ Foods
By Janet Colson Diet and Nutrition News & Advice

Does an Apple a Day Really Keep the Doctor Away? A Nutritionist Explains the Science Behind ‘Functional’ Foods

We’ve all heard that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but how true is that? Apples are not high in vitamin A, nor are they beneficial for vision like carrots. They are not a great source of vitamin C and therefore don’t fight off colds as oranges do. However, apples contain various bioactive […]

Read More about Does an Apple a Day Really Keep the Doctor Away? A Nutritionist Explains the Science Behind ‘Functional’ Foods

6 min read