Countries That Rely the Most on Carbs

Carbohydrates are a major source of energy for people around the world.
Carbohydrates are a major source of energy for people around the world.

Culinary traditions, cooking methods, and local ingredients used in cuisines vary from country to country. Dishes around the world are influenced by trade, climate, economy, and religion. These things dictate what is available and acceptable to eat. Some cultures and their cuisine avoid certain meats, others consume considerable amounts of seafood, while still others are high in fat and sugar. This article will inspect the countries with the highest carbohydrate consumption.

Countries with the Highest Carbohydrate Intake

Rwanda And Burundi

The top consumers of carbohydrates are Rwanda and Burundi, both African nations where carbohydrates make up 82% of the diet. Both countries rely on local agriculture for cooking needs. The products they produce are very similar and include plantains, cassava, peas, and maize. Meat is not a common dish. In Rwanda, some tribal groups hunt for meat, but the nature of hunting does not allow for consistent meat consumption. In Burundi, the main economic activity is agriculture with not much importance placed on animal husbandry. Some dishes do, however, contain goat and sheep.

Bangladesh and The Democratic Republic of Congo

Taking second place in carbohydrate intake are both Bangladesh and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with 80% of the diet coming from carbohydrates. The cuisine of these two places, however, is very different. The DRC diet is like that of Rwanda, and Burundi and dishes here are served with a large portion of starch, often ugali, a corn-based dough that is rolled into a ball and dipped into other dishes. Fish is consumed by communities that live along the Congo River. In Bangladesh, the main staple is rice. Because of the heavy rainfall, rice grows well here. To accompany the rice, people serve lentil, vegetable, and fish dishes. Goat and chicken are also served here though the emphasis is on fish. When chicken or goat are consumed, it is in small portions due to the expense. Beef is rarely served except in Muslim communities where the religion permits.


Number 3 in carbohydrate-rich diets comes in with a 79% intake. In Ethiopia, the cuisine is heavy on starches but also vegetables and meat. A common recipe served with nearly every meal is a special bread called injera. This bread is laid out on a large plate where lentil, vegetable, and meat stews are served on top. The plate is shared by several people who all have their serving of injera. The injera is used in place of utensils, and a small piece is torn off to pick up the stews. Because of the dominant religion, Ethiopian Orthodox, many dishes are vegan to accommodate the many fasting days observed.

The Other Top Consumers

The previous five countries took up the top three positions in carbohydrate intake. The remaining nations include Madagascar (78%); Ghana, Malawi, and Lesotho (77%); and Laos (76%).

Reasons for High Carbohydrate Consumption

As noted in the list, the countries with the highest carbohydrate intake are all considered developing nations. This statement typically means they have a less developed or non-existent industrial base and rank low on the Human Development Index. The reasons for such a high dependence on carbohydrates are complex and involve household income and trade policies, among other things. The agriculture produced in these countries, particularly in Africa, is largely a result of demand from other countries and fulfills export requirements while leaving local nutritional requirements unmet. Limited crop exports (exports focused on very limited variety) has been linked to high poverty levels. In countries with high poverty levels, the reliance is on low-cost foods which are often starchy and carbohydrate heavy. Meat consumption, though increasing in recent years, is typically very low due to the expense. These dietary habits help, in part, to explain the high level of malnutrition noted (particularly in children) within these countries; malnutrition is linked to high carb, low protein diets.

Countries With The Highest Relative Carbohydrate Intakes

RankCountry% of Food Energy Derived From Carbohydrates
1Rwanda82.0 %
2Burundi82.0 %
3Bangladesh80.0 %
4DR Congo80.0 %
5Ethiopia79.0 %
6Madagascar78.0 %
7Ghana77.0 %
8Malawi77.0 %
9Lesotho77.0 %
10Laos76.0 %

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