Starch is a carbohydrate commonly found in nature and one of the primary sources of food energy for human beings. It is regularly eaten in the form of wheat, rice, potatoes, and other staple foods cultivated throughout the world.
Alongside fiber and sugar, starch is one of the three main categories of carbohydrates. Starch is a crucial part of a diet and has many health benefits. However, it can cause health risks if eaten in too high quantities. A 2019 study found that low-quality, starchy foods accounted for as much as 42% of the average American’s diet.
Why You Should Avoid Starch
Starches are complex carbohydrates, meaning that they join different sugar molecules together. Although complex carbohydrates are considered a healthier option than simple carbohydrates like syrup or honey, there are many reasons why you might want to lower your overall starch consumption. These include:
High starch foods tend to be bulky and may leave you feeling full or lethargic. One study found that participants who ate less starchy carbohydrates experienced marked improvements in their reported fatigue, emotional well-being, and food cravings.
Because starch is a complex carbohydrate, eating less of it is believed to help people with diabetes manage their blood sugar levels. In one study of 28 participants who ate a low carbohydrate diet, 17 were able to reduce their use of blood sugar medication, and some even discontinued their use of medication entirely.
Restricting the consumption of starch and carbohydrates in general has also been shown to improve blood pressure levels. Participants in a research study were followed on a low-carbohydrate diet for two years and showed significant reductions in hypertension as a result.
Foods High in Starch
You should avoid the following foods due to their high starch content:
A cup of cooked spaghetti has 43 grams (g) of carbohydrates, 36 of which come from starch. Pasta is a simple carbohydrate which means your body breaks it down into glucose (energy) quickly which causes a spike in your blood sugar. Unfortunately, simple carbs don’t keep you feeling full for long, so you’re more likely to eat more and gain excess weight.
A single, medium-sized potato has about 31 g of starch. They are also simple carbohydrates, so they won’t keep you satiated for long. Potatoes are often consumed with unhealthy additives such as butter, sour cream, salt, and bacon bits. Popular potato dishes can be high in carbohydrates and fat leading to weight gain.
- White Bread
White bread from brands such as Wonderbread, is an iconic symbol of sandwich bread in America. However, many Americans have made the switch to healthier alternatives due to the high starch content and low levels of nutrients in white bread. Two slices of white bread have 20.4 g of starch.
- White Rice
A cup of white rice that has 44 g of starch. The processing process of white rice removes its bran and germ which contain the majority of nutrients. However, rice in the United States is often enriched with some nutrients such as iron, and B vitamins.
Corn is one of the starchiest of staple foods. A single cup of yellow corn contains 110 g of starch, which may seem like a lot. Nevertheless, corn is a good source of fiber and essential B vitamins, making it a healthful addition to your diet when eaten in moderation.
In general, it's a good idea to substitute white or refined starches for their whole-grain counterparts whenever possible. Whole-grain carbohydrates release sugar into the blood slower than refined carbohydrates, which associates them with better health outcomes. These 5 foods contain high starch content:
- Whole-grain Pasta
Whole-grain pasta has a higher ratio of fiber to starch than refined pasta, making it a better choice if you are looking to eat less starch.
To reduce your starch intake when eating potatoes, choose a low-starch variety like Russet. You can also soak potatoes in cold water for two hours to remove some of their starch contents.
- Whole Wheat Bread
Whole wheat and white breads have similar levels of carbohydrates, but their distribution of starch to fiber is different. Whole wheat bread retains an intact bran, germ, and endosperm, whereas white bread only has the endosperm. The additional bran and germ in whole wheat gives you less starch and more fiber than white bread.
- Brown Rice
A cup of brown rice has 40 g of starch. Brown rice has more fiber than white rice, meaning that it will fill you up faster and raise your blood sugar levels more slowly.