Starches are complex carbohydrates found in rice, wheat, legumes, potatoes, corn and many other foods. These carbohydrates turn into sugar during digestion, providing energy for the body’s functions. Carbohydrates should account for 40 to 60 percent of your total daily calorie intake.
Starches are polysaccharides, which plants store as energy reserves. Starches contain 300 to 1,000 conjoined units of glucose, a type of sugar. Your body must break starches down before it can use their glucose for energy. Starches and other complex carbohydrates, including soluble and insoluble dietary fiber, take longer to digest than simple carbohydrates, or sugars, which your body can use for energy immediately.
During digestion, enzymes in your body break starches down, turning them into glucose. Your body can then use the glucose for energy immediately or store it in the liver or muscles. Starch digestion begins in the mouth, where enzymes in your saliva start to turn starch into sugar.
High-starch carbohydrates include legumes, such as dry beans, peas, lentils and soybeans, starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, pumpkin, corn and green peas and grains such as rice and wheat. Diabetes exchange lists group starchy vegetables with other carbohydrates, because your body processes them more like grains than other vegetables.
Current dietary guidelines do not provide a recommended daily intake for carbohydrates other than dietary fiber. You should get at least 14 g of dietary fiber for every 1,000 calories in your diet. Whole grains should account for at least half of your daily grain intake. Limit your intake of added sugars. Women should consume no more than 100 calories of added sugars per day, and men no more than 150, according to the American Heart Association. Consuming too many added sugars or more than the necessary amount of starches and other carbohydrates may contribute to weight gain.