Starches are complex carbohydrates -- a long chain of sugar molecules digested and absorbed in the digestive tract. Carbohydrates provide your body with energy to function throughout the day. Eating too many carbohydrates or the wrong starches can cause weight gain, which may lead to obesity. Choose the good starches to provide your body with enough energy throughout the day without gaining weight.
Whole-grain products including breads, bagels, rolls, crackers, cereals, such as oatmeal, pasta, brown or wild rice and popcorn provide good starches to include in your diet. According to Mary Meck Higgins, Ph.D., R.D., L.D., CDE of Kansas State University, whole grain products contain fiber for digestive health, vitamins B and E, minerals such as selenium, zinc, copper and magnesium, antioxidants to protect your body against cell damage and resistant starch. Like fiber, resistant starch resists digestion in the small intestine and passes into the colon for fermentation by gut bacteria.
According to Melina Jampolis, Physician Nutrition Specialist for CNN, legumes provide a healthy starch option to include in your diet. Plant-based foods such as peas, beans and nuts offer you a good source of fiber, nutrients and antioxidants. Additionally, legumes come packed with protein to support the health of your skin, muscles and glands, according to Medline Plus of the National Institutes of Health.
Potatoes provide a good starch to eat in moderation because they can cause an elevation in blood sugar levels. However, high potassium levels in potatoes can help you maintain your blood pressure. Sweet potatoes have a higher nutrient and fiber content than white potatoes. Avoid adding high-calorie and high-fat toppings -- such as bacon, sour cream and cheese -- to keep potatoes a good starch choice. Starchy vegetables such as corn and peas contain complex carbohydrates, which provide a good source of energy. As an additional benefit, starchy vegetables contain healthy amounts of vitamins and nutrients. You should have at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
Incorporating Good Starches
Do not limit your whole grains to cereals, breads and pastas; incorporate them into some of your favorite meals, snacks or recipes. Instead of mixing your burgers, meatballs or meatloaf with breadcrumbs, use three-quarters cup of uncooked oats per pound of ground beef or ground turkey. A handful of rolled oats adds a nice crunch to your yogurt. When making cookies, muffins or pancakes, replace half the white flour with whole-wheat flour.