There are three major types of carbohydrates -- starch, sugar and fiber. Starch is a complex carbohydrate, made up of a series of simple sugar molecules linked together. Significant amounts of starch can be found in a variety of plant foods. You should include starchy foods in your healthy eating plan, but remember to control your portion size -- many starchy foods are high in calories.
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Specifying Starch Content
Starch grams are not listed on the nutrition facts label, but you can calculate them by subtracting the fiber and sugar grams from the total carbohydrate grams. The remaining carbohydrate grams are starch grams. For example, if a food has 20 grams of total carbohydrate, 1 gram of fiber and 10 grams of sugar, the food contains 9 grams of starch.
Starchy Cereals and Grains
Cereals and grains contain starch and can be nutritious. One serving is 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup of oatmeal, 1/3 cup of rice or 3/4 cup of unsweetened cold cereal. Choose whole grains that contain more fiber and nutrients because the grain was not stripped of the endosperm, germ and bran during processing. One slice of whole-wheat bread contains approximately 10 grams of starch and 2 grams of fiber, while one slice white bread contains 12 grams of starch and only 1 gram of fiber. One-third cup of cooked brown rice contains 1.2 grams of fiber and about 14 grams of starch, while 1/3 cup of cooked white rice contains 17.5 grams of starch and only 0.2 gram of fiber.
Don't Lose the Legumes
Legumes such as beans, lentils and green peas, which are sometimes considered vegetables, contain starch as well. Legumes also provide 3 to 6 grams of protein and 3 to 5 grams of fiber per serving. A serving of cooked beans or lentils -- 1/3 cup -- provides around 10 grams of starch. A serving of cooked green peas is 1/3 to 1/2 cup. It provides between 2 and 4 grams of starch.
Not All Veggies Are Created Equal
Starchy vegetables include potatoes, yams, corn and winter squash. One serving of potato or yam is 1/2 cup. One-half cup of cooked yam provides about 15.5 grams of starch and 3 grams of fiber. One-half cup of cooked white potato provides about 13.5 grams of starch, 1.5 grams of fiber and 1/2 gram of sugar, while 1/2 cup of cooked sweet potato contains about 15.5 grams of starch, 4 grams of fiber and 9.5 grams of sugar. Consume the skin to get more fiber since one potato skin contains around 6 fiber grams. A serving of corn is 1/2 cup, providing around 10 grams of starch, while at 3/4 cup, a serving of winter squash provides around 2 grams of starch.
Fruit -- A Sweet Decision for Starch
Fruits contain natural sugar, fiber and starch. The most starchy fruits are plantain, banana and dried fruits such as figs, raisins and dried apricots. One serving of plantain is 1/2 cup, providing about 11 grams of starch; one-half of a 9-inch banana, providing about 6 grams of starch; one or two figs, containing 1/2 to 1 gram of starch; 2 tablespoons of raisins, containing about 3.5 grams of starch; or seven dried apricot halves, providing 1/2 gram of starch.
- American Diabetes Association: Types of Carbohydrates
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Nutrients List: Starch
- American Diabetes Association: The Diabetic Exchange List
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Human Nutrition: Other Sugars and Starch
- American Heart Association: Added Sugars Add to Your Risk of Dying from Heart Disease
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
- American Heart Association: Added Sugars
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Healthy Eating, Food Exchange Lists
- MedlinePlus: Food Labeling
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Foods List