Starchy vs. Non-Starchy Vegetables

Medically Reviewed by Zilpah Sheikh, MD on March 18, 2024
4 min read

Starchy and non-starchy vegetables differ in the amount of starch they have. Starch is a type of carbohydrate that gives you energy. Both types of vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals and can be part of your healthy diet.

As the name implies, starchy vegetables contain more starch than non-starchy vegetables. Starch is a type of carbohydrate that your body breaks down into glucose. Starchy vegetables are higher in carbohydrates and calories than non-starchy vegetables. But they're also high in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals and should be included as part of your healthy diet.

Starchy vegetables list

There are many types of starchy vegetables eaten around the world, such as:

  • Corn
  • White potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes 
  • Taro
  • Green peas
  • Lima beans
  • Winter squash
  • Turnips
  • Cassava
  • Plantain

How much should you eat?

Because starchy vegetables are higher in carbs and calories, you should eat them in moderation. This is especially important if you have diabetes or are trying to watch your calorie intake for weight loss. Experts recommend eating about four to six cups of starchy vegetables a week. If you have diabetes, you should talk with your doctor about how much you should eat.

Non-starchy vegetables are much lower in starch than starchy vegetables. They usually contain about 5 grams of carbohydrates or less per serving. A serving is one cup of leafy greens or 1/2 cup of other fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables.

Non-starchy vegetables list

Examples of non-starchy vegetables include: 

  • Purple cabbage
  • Eggplant
  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Celery 
  • Jicama
  • Swiss chard
  • Kohlrabi
  • Cabbage
  • Red peppers

How much should you eat?

Since non-starchy vegetables are low in calories, you can load up on these nutritious foods. Adults should eat between two and three cups of vegetables per day. It's a good idea to aim to meet 75% of this goal with non-starchy vegetables.

Some starchy vegetables contain resistant starch. This is a type of starch that isn't digested in the small intestine. Because of this, it doesn't raise your glucose. Instead, resistant starch ferments in the large intestine. As it ferments, it improves your gut bacteria. Resistant starch can make you feel more full and it can:

  • Improve your glycemic control
  • Prevent constipation
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Lower your odds of colon cancer

Good sources of resistant starch include:

  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Lentils
  • Plantains

One type of resistant starch is created by heating and cooling. To get more of this type, cook your starchy vegetables the day before you plan to eat them. Let them cool in the refrigerator overnight. You can then heat them up without changing the amount of resistant starch.

Both types of vegetables are high in nutrients. You should include a variety of vegetables in your diet. The color of the vegetables is a sign of their nutrients and antioxidants.  

A diet high in antioxidants can lower your risk of heart disease and cancer. You want to get a lot of different colors to make sure you get a lot of different antioxidants, including:

Red. Red vegetables such as beets and tomatoes contain antioxidants that lower your chances of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and clogged arteries. The red compounds may also help protect against cancer and help your brain work better.

‌Blue and purple. Vegetables with these colors, including eggplant and purple cabbage, contain antioxidants that help prevent cancer, stroke, and heart disease. They're also important for healthy aging and memory. Additionally, they can help with urinary tract health and digestion. 

Green. Broccoli and spinach are two types of green vegetables that can help protect your eyes from macular degeneration. Green vegetables also help protect you from cancer and bad cholesterol.

These antioxidants help your immune system work better and help regulate digestion. It's especially important for pregnant women to get enough green vegetables since they contain folate, which helps prevent congenital (from birth) disorders.

Orange and yellow. Vegetables with these colors include carrots, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes. They include nutrients and antioxidants that can help prevent heart disease, improve your eye health, boost your immune system, and build strong bones.

White. White vegetables such as onions and cauliflower help your immune system function. They contain nutrients that help protect you from some types of cancer. They can also lower bad cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Both starchy and non-starchy vegetables are healthy for you, packed with nutrients that boost your immunity and help you avoid illness. Starchy vegetables are higher in carbohydrates and calories, and it's a good idea to eat a little bit less of them than the non-starchy types.

What are starchy vegetables to avoid?

Fresh, unprocessed starchy vegetables are good for you. You don't have to avoid them, even if you have diabetes or want to lose weight. But you should speak with your doctor about what amount fits your needs and diet. You should avoid any starchy vegetables that have been processed, fried, cooked in fats, and topped with high-fat sauces. 

Are chickpeas a starchy vegetable?

Chickpeas are considered a starchy vegetable. They belong to the legume family, which also includes beans, lentils, and peas.

What vegetable has the most starch?

White potatoes and corn are the starchiest vegetables. One medium potato has more than 30 grams of starch, and a cup of cooked sweet corn kernels has just under 30 grams.