What are Starches? And Why it is an Important Food to Have in Your Diet!
Today, a misunderstood food and often maligned are starches or carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are our primary source of energy (your body prefers glucose (sugars), from carbohydrate digestion). They’re the main source of calories in virtually every diet worldwide.
Starch is valuable to us because we can break it down into simple sugars that provide us with sustained energy and keep us feeling full and satisfied. Starchy foods are plants that are high in long-chain digestible carbohydrates—commonly referred to as complex-carbohydrates. Think of endurance athletes who “carb load” before an event. Examples of starch include grains like wheat, barley, rye, corn, and oats; starchy vegetables like winter squash, potatoes, and sweet potatoes; and legumes like brown lentils, green peas, and red kidney beans. Nonstarchy green, yellow, and orange vegetables are good for you to eat, but on their own do not give you enough calories to sustain your daily activities and keep you feeling satisfied.
The science shows after eating, the complex carbohydrates found in starches, such as rice or beans, are digested into simple sugars in the intestine and then absorbed into the bloodstream where they are transported to the cells in the body in order to provide for energy. These long chains of glucose or sugar must be broken down inside your intestine before they can be used as fuel. The process of digesting these complex sugars is slow and methodical, providing a steady stream of fuel pumped into your bloodstream as long-lasting energy. This is what keeps your energy levels high through-out the day.
Two Types of Carbohydrate:
Complex-Carbohydrates (starches) – Don’t Make You Fat!
Carbohydrates (sugars) consumed in excess of the body’s daily needs can be stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver. The total storage capacity for glycogen is about two pounds. Carbohydrates consumed in excess of our need and beyond our limited storage capacity are not readily stored as body fat. Instead, these excess carbohydrate calories are burned off as heat (a process known as facultative dietary thermogenesis) or used in physical movements not associated with exercise. It does not turn into fat like some low-carb diet people claim because starch often travels in bad company. By that I mean, people slather sour cream or butter their baked potato or oils on their pasta. I don’t’ think 1.7 billion Asians who eat high-carbohydrate (starch-based) diet of mostly rice and vegetables (that are trim and healthy) are aware of that myth.
Simple-Carbohydrates = Empty Calories
Simple carbs are refined, processed carbohydrate foods that have had all or most of their natural nutrients and fiber removed in order to make them easier to transport and more ‘consumer friendly’. Pure sugars have been stripped of many of their nutrients, except for the simple carbohydrate—thus they are called “empty calories.” Most baked goods, white breads, snack foods, candies, soft drinks and non-diet soft drinks fit into this category. Bleached, enriched wheat flour and white sugar – along with an array of artificial flavorings, colorings, and preservatives are the most common ingredients used to make ‘bad carb’ foods.
Starch: The Traditional Diet of People
All large populations of trim, healthy people, throughout verifiable human history, have obtained the bulk of their calories from starch. Here are some examples:
Caloric Engines of Human Civilization
Barley – Middle East for 11,000 years
Corn (maize) – North, Central, and South America for 7,000 years
Legumes – Americas, Asia, and Europe for 6,000 years
Millet – Africa for 6,000 years
Oats – Middle East for 11,000 years
Potatoes – South America (Andes) for 13,000 years
Sweet Potatoes – South America and Caribbean for 5,000 years
Rice – Asia for more than 10,000 years
Rye – Asia for 5,000 years
Wheat – Near East for 10,000 years
Starches are Comfort Food
Just think of starches as comfort food, and everyone usually has a favorite comfort food. With a starched-based diet you can have these same comfort foods you like but made without the meat or dairy and still have the same great flavors. Such foods as: a spinach lasagna, minestrone soup, bean and rice burrito, a pot roast without the roast, mashed potatoes and gravy with roasted vegetables and corn, and homemade three bean chili and much, much more…
Starch is Clean Fuel
• Starches are very low in fat (1% to 8% of their calories)
• Contains no cholesterol
• Do no grow human pathogens (salmonella, E. Coli, etc. – come from animal sources)
• Do not store poisonous chemicals like DDT, methyl mercury
Starch is Complete Nutrition
• Starches are plentiful in protein ( 6% to 28% of their calories)
• Contains a proper array of vitamins and minerals
• Full of dietary fiber and high energy carbohydrates
• Very energy satisfying “comfort food”
1. The Starch Solution. John A. McDougall, MD and Mary McDougall. 2012;5,7,8.