Do you love potato fries?
How about bananas?
Well, there is a lot we do and don’t know when it comes to starch in the food we love.
Starch might have been given a bad name when you talk about a clean diet. Moreover, there are a lot of starches that should be excluded from food if you want a healthy self.
This article explains the role of starch and the do’s and don’ts of including the right type of starchy food in your diet.
What is Starch?
Most green plants use starch to store glucose for energy. Glucose is soluble in water while starch, on the other hand, is insoluble hence it is more convenient and compact energy reserve for plants.
Starch in the diet finds a good part as carbohydrates. Most of the staple food like wheat, rice, maize, buckwheat, sorghum, millet, barley, oats, corn, many kinds of beans and legumes like peas, lentils, chickpeas, mung beans, peas, root vegetables like potato, sweet potato, and fruits such as bananas are rich in naturally occurring starch.
Starch is a white tasteless and odourless powder which is insoluble in water. It is widely used in food and paper industries for binding and thickening purpose.
The processed food products made from starch in the diet are bread, pancake, cereals, noodles, pasta, porridge and tortilla.
Starch in the diet
Starch forms a part of many food items that we consume daily. Both processed and natural food products contribute to our starch intake.
Natural Food – Starch in Cereals, Vegetables and Fruits
The naturally occurring starchy food also contain good fibre content. Dietary fibre promotes many health benefits.
The fibre content is the roughage or bulk which forms the parts of plant food that is not digested by our body. It is classified into the soluble and insoluble fibre.
Soluble fibre dissolves in water and is helpful in controlling the glucose and LDL (Bad Cholesterol) levels in the body. Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in water and in passed through the body undigested aiding in proper bowel movement and good digestion. Moreover, fibre rich food keeps us satiated for a longer time period thereby decreasing the likelihood of hogging food at irregular intervals.
Good sources of soluble fibre include fruits, vegetables, oat bran, barley, seed husks, flaxseed, dried beans, lentils, peas and soy products.
Good sources of insoluble fibre include wheat bran, corn bran, rice bran, the skins of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, dried beans and wholegrain foods.
It is to note here that the foods containing starch or complex carbohydrates that occur in nature are packed with nutrients from carbohydrates along with fibre. Whole foods containing starch, including vegetables, legumes and whole grains, are valuable sources of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Glycemic Index (GI) measures the rise in blood sugar level in the body during the digestion of food containing carbohydrates. Food that has a lower GI is healthy for the body as it does not spike the blood sugar level when it is digested.
The naturally occurring starchy food products have a much lower GI as they have lesser carbohydrate content by weight as compared to the refined or processed starches. Also, the fibre content helps in slower digestion reducing the rise in sugar levels.
Processed and Refined Starch
The refined starches are the food products containing complex carbohydrates that have been processed in some way or the other from there natural form. Processing methods include industrial extraction, concentration, purification, and enzymatic transformation.
The food products containing artificial starch like corn starch, potato starch, modified food starch also come the category of refined starches. These starches are used in food processing as thickeners and stabilizers in foods such as puddings, custards, soups, sauces, gravies, pie fillings, and salad dressings, and to make noodles and pasta. They also function as thickeners, extenders, emulsion stabilizers and exceptional binders in processed meats.
The refined food products like sourdough, white and plain wheat bread, white rice, cereals made from refining wheat, corn or oats, and refined pasta are stripped of the essential fibre and nutrient content that balances the calories from carbohydrates in the whole foods. Hence consuming these food products in large quantities can cause an unregulated blood sugar spike and unhealthy fat gain.
The Glycemic index of the processed starches are very high that means they are quickly digested by the body to release high glucose levels in the bloodstream which is detrimental for the health.
Starches to avoid in the diet
The key is to include more whole foods containing starch in the diet and to avoid food products that are processed or contain refined starch.
Eat more whole grain cereals. Whole grains contain the germ, bran and endosperm that add the essential fibre and nutrition to the grains while refined grains undergo processing to remove the germ and bran components. Avoid having white rice, pasta and white bread and such products that are resultant of refining the whole grain.
Refrain from having food containing artificial starch like cakes, pastries, cookies, pizza etc. They have little nutrient value and are loaded with sugar adding to empty calories in the body leading to hoards of health problems like obesity and diabetes.
Processed potato based foods like instant mashed potatoes, french fries, potato bites, potato chips and so on, have devoid of essential nutrients in potato and cause an instant rise in blood sugar level.
Starch and Weight Loss
If you are planning to lose weight you would want to keep a check on the intake of Carbohydrates in the diet especially the starch rich food products.
Foods rich in starch can lead to an increase in glucose level in the body which if not utilized is stored as fat and lead to weight gain. This is true even for whole foods, fruits and vegetables that are needed for the growth and development of the body.
You should not completely eliminate the starch rich food from the diet instead, for weight loss, you must stick to portion control and eat the starch rich food in their natural form with moderation. Each meal must derive nutrition from proteins and healthy fats along with complex carbohydrates rich in fibre.
Starch has always been an integral part of our diet. All food containing starch must not be termed as bad for health. Alternatively, natural whole foods containing starch are a rich source of energy, vitamins, minerals and fibre that is essential for the proper functioning of the body.
We must abstain of the processed and sugary food products that are calorie dense with much lesser nutritional value as compared to the whole foods.
Including fibre rich starchy foods like whole grains, vegetables and fruits help keep the blood sugar in check and aids in weight management.