Starch, a complex carbohydrate, isn’t your enemy. Your body uses starch to provide glucose to all cells. But where you get your starch from matters. Ideally, all of the starch in your diet should come from fresh produce, whole grains and legumes. Although some of your favorite sweet treats or snacks also contain starch, they don’t have many other nutrients to offer.
Different Kinds of Vegetables
All veggies contain a little starch, but some are classified as nonstarchy. These vegetables, including lettuce, peppers, asparagus, onions, eggplant and artichokes, are very low in starch. Starchy vegetables have much higher levels of starch. Corn, parsnips, green peas, potatoes, pumpkins, winter squash and yams all fall into this category.
Fruits generally have higher amounts of sugar than starch, although some of the total carbohydrate content does come from starch. Avocados, mangoes, oranges, nectarines, peaches, apples, berries, grapefruit, pineapple, grapes and melons are just some of the fruits that have starch. Even dried fruits such as dates, prunes and raisins have a bit of starch.
Beans and Lentils
Beans and lentils aren’t just high in protein; they’re also full of starch. You’ll get the complex carbohydrate from black, kidney, garbanzo, navy, pinto, lima or white beans. Processed beans such as baked, canned and refried beans are starchy too. Brown, yellow, green or other variety of lentils provide additional sources of starch.
Breads and Wraps
No matter which type of bread product or wrap you use to make your sandwiches, you’ll be getting starch. Bagels, English muffins, loaf bread, pitas and biscuits all contain starch. Even that hot dog or hamburger bun or Kaiser roll each adds a little starch to your diet. Corn, wheat and flour tortillas all contain starch as well.
Any type of cold breakfast cereal you have in your pantry has starch -- even if it’s the unhealthy sugary kind. Bran flakes, corn flakes, puffs, wheat and oat-based cereals all provide starch. You’ll even get starch if you opt for oatmeal or grits instead. Sweet breakfast foods like pancakes, waffles and pastries are other sources of starch.
Additional Grain Foods
All grains contain starch. The majority of grain-based foods in your diet should come from whole grains, however. Aside from starch, these foods are full of other nutrients like B vitamins, iron, magnesium and fiber. Opt for whole-wheat pasta, brown rice or wild rice. As other healthy starchy alternatives, enjoy couscous, millet, polenta or quinoa.
Any food made with flour, even cake, cookies and brownies, contains starch. You’ll also get starch from crackers, pretzels, rice cakes and chips. While these processed foods give you some starch, they’re not foods you want to eat regularly. Usually you’ll get only small amounts of fiber, vitamins and minerals -- and possibly high amounts of fat and sugar -- from heavily refined foods.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Weight Management
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Carbohydrates