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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.


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