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The Most Underrated Carbs for Weight Loss

Yes, these carbs can actually help you shed those pounds!

Carbs for weight loss? Yeah, we hear the snickering. No way eating more carbs could help you shed pounds…right Believe it or not, choosing the right kinds of carbohydrates actually can help you trim down. A number of foods you may have heard maligned as high-carb have hidden benefits for weight loss. Besides, your body needs these underrated carbs to power your brain, fuel your workouts, and provide fiber for healthy digestion–so it's especially important to choose them wisely.

If you're looking to drop pounds, don't drop these eight carbohydrate-rich foods. And for more healthy eating tips, be sure to check out our list of 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.

Whole Wheat Bread

whole wheat bread

You may not think the words "bread" and "weight loss" belong in the same sentence—but there's good news for bread-ophiles! Whole wheat bread is one carb to keep on your plate. In 2019, a major research analysis of 12 studies revealed that the more whole grains people ate—including whole wheat bread—the lower BMI they were likely to have. Other research has shown that, especially within a Mediterranean-style diet, eating whole wheat bread can help promote weight loss and even lower levels of belly fat.

Plus, when you make your favorite PB & J or grilled cheese on whole wheat, you'll load up on critical nutrients like B vitamins, iron, selenium, and magnesium. Look for bread labeled as "100% whole wheat" or "100% whole grain." And steer clear of these 18 Unhealthiest Breads on the Planet.


Kimchi in white bowl

The secret weapon in your carb weight loss arsenal just might be kimchi, the Korean mélange of pickled veggies. Like all vegetables, kimchi contains fiber and micronutrients, but it stands out particularly for its content of probiotics. These friendly gut bugs contribute to a healthier microbiome—which has repeatedly been linked to successful weight loss. Plus, if you're following a super low-carb diet like keto, kimchi's relatively small-carb count of about 7 grams per half-cup won't derail your efforts. Plus, kimchi is one of the 50 Foods to Lose Your Gut.

Brown rice

Brown rice bowl

Rice is a carbohydrate staple the world over. And, as it turns out, paying attention to the color of this universal grain can make a world a difference when it comes to weight loss.

One study of over 430 Japanese subjects found that, although consuming white rice appeared to cause weight gain, eating brown rice had the opposite effect. Those who regularly ate white rice for a year were at risk of gaining substantial poundage, but those who ate brown rice regularly (no matter whether they ate a lot or a little) had no such risk. This is probably due to the darker rice's increased fiber, which keeps you feeling full.

So if you plan on preparing rice as a side, be sure to avoid these 20 Worst Mistakes You Can Make When Cooking Rice.


Rolled oats

Breakfast is traditionally a carb-fest—which can make the first meal of the day seem like a minefield for your weight loss goals. Instead of sugary cereal or insulin-spiking pastry, reach for some good old-fashioned oats (or the quick-cooking kind)! All oats are whole grains, so there's no guessing or label reading required here. Regardless of the brand you choose, you can rest easy knowing you're racking up their weight loss-boosting goodness. Plus, you can top your oats with one of these 11 Healthy Oatmeal Toppings That Help You Lose Weight.


Pink lady apples

Apples can seem a bit ho-hum next to flashier fruits like colorful berries—and if you're going low-carb, you may have nixed them from your diet altogether. Still, the classic lunchbox fruits deserve their place next to your mid-day sandwich or wrap.

The reason why? Their hydrating properties. A juicy Gala, for example, contains 86% water. Increased hydration may actually boost your metabolism, while apples' prebiotic fiber content is sure to fill you up and feed a healthy gut.


cooked barley in wooden bowl

There's a fad diet going around of boiling barley in water to create a (supposedly) fat-melting beverage. We're not necessarily keen on drinking barley—but eating it is a great idea! One study found that people who ate barley-based bread had better appetite regulation and metabolic control after three days, compared to those who ate white bread. Not only is this ancient grain low-cal and high-fiber, its mild flavor and chewy texture easily slip into tasty soups, risottos, and even grain puddings.

Sweet potatoes

sliced sweet potatoes

We'd never say a steady stream of sweet potato fries and marshmallow-topped sweet potato casseroles will slash pounds–but that doesn't mean these orange taters can't be a part of a healthy weight loss diet. Ounce for ounce, sweet potatoes are lower in calories and carbs—and higher in fiber—than their white potato counterparts. They're also surprisingly high in several micronutrients, including potassium. Some research has found that the potassium you eat is a prime indicator of success with a weight loss regimen.


Teff in a bowl

Heard of teff? You're not alone if you haven't. According to the Whole Grains Council, fewer than one in five Americans are familiar with this grain, traditionally grown in Africa. But if you want to keep carbs in your weight loss plan, maybe it's time to cozy up to this Ethiopian cereal grass. Just a quarter cup provides 7 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber—both of which help curb cravings. Meanwhile, one serving will net you generous doses of iron, magnesium, and calcium. As the base for a porridge, grain bowl, or stew, this one's worth adding to your carb rotation.

Still not convinced that carbs can help you lose weight? Here are 15 Carbs Myths That Are Totally Bogus.

Sarah Garone, NDTR
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a registered nutrition and dietetic technician, and a health, nutrition, and food writer. Read more about Sarah