Nutrition experts are divided on whether or not starches are a good thing for those trying to lose weight. Proponents of low-fat diets usually recommend getting a significant portion of calories from starches, while proponents of low-carb diets recommend severely limiting or avoiding starches. Diets that are starch-free can be limiting, making them difficult to stick to, and aren't guaranteed to bring about weight loss, although cutting out starches may make it easier to cut calories, as you need to do if you want to lose weight.
Foods to Avoid on a Starch-Free Diet
On a starch-free diet, you'll need to give up grains, peas, corn, potatoes, lima beans and all types of legumes, including dried beans and lentils, as all of these foods are significant sources of starch. This means no more pasta, rice, oatmeal, bread, cake or cookies. Starchy foods are broken down into sugars during digestion, which is why some diets recommend limiting or avoiding them. When a lot of sugar is quickly released into the bloodstream, it can cause your body to release a large amount of insulin to bring blood sugar levels back down. This can cause you to feel hungry again and make it harder to lose weight. Although added sugars and sugary foods aren't necessarily off-limits on a starch-free diet, eating them wouldn't make sense as it would counteract the potential benefits of avoiding starches.
Foods to Eat on a Starch-Free Diet
When avoiding starchy foods, your diet will consist mainly of nonstarchy vegetables, fruits, lean protein foods, dairy products, nuts and seeds. If you're trying to lose weight, aim to get at least 25 to 30 grams of protein at each meal, as this amount was shown to help people limit their appetite and manage their weight, reports a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2015. The fruits and vegetables will help provide you with dietary fiber, which slows down the emptying of the stomach so you feel full for longer.
Potential Benefits of a Starch-Free Diet
A study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings in 2003 found that following a starch-free diet high in saturated fat for six weeks resulted in weight loss without adversely affecting cholesterol levels. Some starchy foods, such as potatoes in any form and refined grains, were associated with weight gain in a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2011, so eating fewer servings of these foods may help with weight loss.
Another study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2010, found that a diet high in protein and low on the glycemic index may be helpful for weight loss. The glycemic index estimates how quickly foods containing carbohydrate raise blood sugar levels after you eat them. Diets that eliminate all starches can be low on the glycemic index, as long as they also eliminate sugary foods, and may be high in protein, depending on what you decide to eat to replace the starchy foods you aren't eating.
Potential Drawbacks of a Starch-Free Diet
Some starchy foods are significant sources of nutrients, so avoiding them may mean you lose some of the potential health benefits associated with these foods. For example, whole grains provide iron, B vitamins, selenium, magnesium and fiber and may help reduce the risk of heart disease and help you manage your weight. A study published in Public Health Nutrition in 2011 found that eating at least three servings of whole grains per day lowered heart disease and type-2 diabetes risk up to 30 percent. Cereal fiber is also associated with weight loss and fat loss, according to a review article published in Nutrients in 2013. Beans are nutritional powerhouses, providing fiber, protein, magnesium, iron, potassium and folate, and they may help reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
- American Diabetes Association: Types of Carbohydrates
- Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Effect of a High Saturated Fat and No-Starch Diet on Serum Lipid Subfractions in Patients With Documented Atherosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: Why Is It Important to Eat Grains, Especially Whole Grains?
- Public Health Nutrition: Wholegrain Cereals and Bread: A Duet of the Mediterranean Diet for the Prevention of Chronic Diseases
- Nutrients: Major Cereal Grain Fibers and Psyllium in Relation to Cardiovascular Health
- North Dakota State University Extension: All About Beans
- New England Journal of Medicine: Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men
- New England Journal of Medicine: Diets With High or Low Protein Content and Glycemic Index for Weight-Loss Maintenance
- Clinical Diabetes: The 3 R's of Glycemic Index: Recommendations, Research, and the Real World
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: The Role of Protein in Weight Loss and Maintenance