Updated: May 27, 2020
Starch can be a confusing word, especially because I have heard starch be used synonymously with "carbs". Starches are a form of carbohydrate, but all carbohydrates aren't starches. For example, broccoli contains mostly carbohydrates, but it doesn't contain very much starch.
Today, I'm breaking down the difference between starchy and non-starchy vegetables, as well as the best sources of each!
What Is Starch?
Starch, aka "complex carbohydrates", is a series of simple carbohydrates (or sugars) joined together through something called glycosidic bonds. Think of starch as a bunch of sugar molecules strung together on a string. Because these starches are bound together, they require a bit of additional digestion in order to release the simple sugars for the body to use. However, starches do tend to have high amounts of sugars strung together and therefore starch containing foods tend to have higher levels of carbohydrates. Depending on the amount of fiber and water in the starchy vegetable, this can lead to more of a blood glucose and insulin spike.
Is Starch Bad?
Starches aren't inherently bad. However, it can be easy to have excessive amounts of starch, which can work against your goals. I have found that it's not the whole food sources of starch that people tend to eat high amounts of - it's the processed and refined versions. These processed starches, such as wheat based products, are most often stripped of their fiber and water content that helps add satiety to the food. This makes it easy to eat high amounts of starch which can lead to weight gain, blood glucose swings and sugar cravings/the desire to snack.
Which Foods Are High In Starches?
Putting the more obvious foods to the side, such as breads, pastas, crackers and other processed wheat ingredients, you can find plenty of naturally starch containing foods. Some notable starchy foods include beans of all varieties, lentils, squash, yam, sweet potato, corn, peas, parsnips and grains.
The Best Non-Starchy Vegetables
Some of these veggies may contain a small level of starch, but the fiber content is so high that it's negligible. Note: this is not a complete list of ALL non-starchy vegetables, rather a list of the most commonly used ones.
-Artichoke (surprisingly high in fiber too! check out my video on high fiber food HERE)
-Cabbage (amazing ingredient to boost the satiety of your salad/meal!)
-Herbs (cilantro, parsley, dill, etc)
-Beets (although low in starch, it does generally contain more carbohydrates than many other veggies)
-Zucchini (this is a veggie that does technically contain a small amount of starch, but relative to the more starchy veggies listed above, it's not very much.)
Final Thoughts: Does this mean you should ONLY use non-starchy veggies? It depends. For some, such as those suffering from epilepsy or those with a very specific weight loss goal, it may be beneficial to focus on mainly consuming non-starchy vegetables. However, it has also been found beneficial to include some starchy carbohydrates if you are an athlete or suffer from cortisol imbalance or anxiety. It's important to take your specific goals and health history into consideration before completely getting rid of a potentially beneficial food item.
You can check out a sneak peek into some specific protocols, such as The Athlete, The Gut Healing Guru and The Hormone Balancing Pro, from the Level Up Guide HERE.
Autumn Elle Nutrition