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Importance of Starches and Diet

Starches and Diet

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Starches are long complex chains of simple sugars, also known as complex carbohydrates. They are also misunderstood. This is not surprising in the least. With a big push toward “low carb” or “no carb” diets, starches are getting a bad rap. Even the misnomer of “high in starch” implies that high means bad. This is not necessarily so. 

All foods that are starches come from a plant of some kind. Whether or not they are “high in starch” is irrelevant because that in itself doesn’t mean anything. What you want to know is if a starch is digested quickly or if it is one that metabolizes more slowly in your system. The reason for this is that all starches are a form of energy that your body needs. The rate at which they are absorbed and used determines whether that starch is a “good carb” or a “bad carb”. 

What foods contain easily digestible starches or bad carbohydrates?

Foods made from processed wheat, such as flour, contain starches that are digested much faster than starches present in whole grains. During processing, wheat goes through a myriad of processes like rolling, beating, and sifting to become flour. These are the same activities your body goes through in the digestion of whole foods. So, if the flour manufacturer is pounding the fiber out of wheat and basically beating it down before you get it, then your body is no longer required to do the hard work. Essentially, they are also removing the health benefits as they make it more palatable. 

On the up side, most store bought pastas have been so condensed to make those fun little shapes that they take longer to digest and break down putting them on the right side of the good carb, bad carb debate. 

What foods contain starches that are harder to digest, or good carbohydrates?

If your body has to work to break down the starch/carbohydrate in order to produce sugars/energy then it is a good carb. These foods tend to have a lower glycemic index and are as whole or raw as possible. Brown rice, barley, and lentils are some examples. 

Starches and Diet

We all need starches to some degree in our daily diets. Starches, also known as complex carbohydrates, not only provides our bodies with valuable fuel, but when metabolized produce oxaloacetic acid that enhances the breakdown of fats. When including starchy foods in your diet, stick to foods with high fiber content including beans and legumes, whole grains, cereals, and whole-grain breads. These high fiber carbs will help you to feel full longer, naturally curbing your appetite and help to keep your blood glucose in balance.

Tips for Eating More Starches in Your Diet

Use the following tips to help you make sure you’re eating starches in your diet in the right way and quantity.  These can help you to know you’re getting the right nutrients and fiber from the foods you choose in your meals and snacks.

Breakfast Tips

  • Opt for wholegrains in your breakfast such as wholegrain cereal (be sure to keep the sugar levels low in the product you choose.
  • Consider making a plain porridge with fruit, which is particularly appealing in colder months. Steel cut oats are particularly nutritious. In the summer, overnight oats made in the fridge are a refreshing alternative. 
  • Whole oats with a Greek style yogurt, fruit, almonds and chia seeds can make a filling breakfast bowl at any time of the year.

Lunch and Dinner Tips

  • If you like potatoes, skip the fries and have a baked potato. If you eat it with the skin, too, you’ll get a great dose of fiber along with your meal.  Just try to avoid excessive toppings such as heavy sour cream, butter, cheese and bacon.  If you must add toppings, use them sparingly. 
  • If fries really are your preference, consider making oven-baked potato wedges instead of French fries made in oil, or potato chips for that matter.
  • When you make mashed potatoes, leave the skins on and smash them instead of mashing them. The texture is incredible, it adds extra flavor and you’ll get more fiber, too.
  • Choose brown rice and whole grain pasta and make them side dishes, not the main meal. Focus on making a vegetable mix into the dish with the most real estate on your plate.
  • When you eat bread, look for whole grain varieties and choose types with extra seeds on top. This will help to boost the amount of fiber you eat, and you’ll find them more filling, too.
  • Brown rice isn’t just an ingredient that should be served hot. Use it as the base for a chilled salad, too, and you’ll discover a new and tasty way to make your lunches ultra-filing and packed with fiber.