Starches, a type of carbohydrate, have had an increasingly bad reputation in recent years, with some fad diets eliminating them completely. Where has all this denigration come from? In many cases, we have only ourselves to blame. Starch is an essential part of a healthy diet, but its overabundance in the meals and snacks we eat has played a role in the escalation of obesity rates. Starches are not inherently unhealthy, it’s more a matter of eating properly and understanding how our bodies use them.

Starch with a side of starch: The problematic American diet

What’s the real problem with combo meals? First off, that gallon of soda they come with has all kinds of excess sugar in it, and diet sodas are problematic too. Also important, though, is the fact that the burger and fries are doubling down on the amount of starch in your meal. Present in bread, potatoes and lots more foods, starch should constitute one portion of a meal. The fact that the bun of the burger is that serving makes the fries redundant and thus overdoses you on starch.

Olumia Life recommends a diet heavier on protein than on starch (with lots of fruits and vegetables!) With that as a basis, it’s easy to see how often “standard” American meals create dietary problems. A sub sandwich generally consists of a bunch of protein and some veggies couched in a Grand Canyon of starchy bread. Dough, noodles, rice and more are often the foundation of meals rather than a portion, and all are starches.

Too many processed snacks

This trend extends beyond meal time. The most popular snacks generally fall into the category of things you might purchase from a vending machine. They are generally starch or sugar-based, like potato chips and candy, respectively. While non-processed, starch-based foods can contain fiber naturally (potato skins and whole-grain bread and rice), most prepackaged snacks don’t. These fiberless snacks don’t particularly satiate appetite, meaning we end up wanting more food instead of less.

The consequences of too much starch

Obviously, the immediate concern is weight gain and over-starching’s ability to sabotage your weight-loss goals. Starch is a type of sugar, meaning too much can cause your body to store it as fat. The potential adverse side effects of being overweight and obese includes diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and myriad others.

The benefits of eating starch

All that aside, unprocessed starchy foods often contain a lot of other vitamins and nutrients we need, like fiber. Potatoes with the skin left on provide lots of fiber and even a bit of vitamin C, for example. Primarily, starch becomes glucose and that means quick energy. It’s the reason why carb-heavy snack bars are so popular among rock climbers and long-distance athletes. On an average day, you don’t need that much starch, but it does help to understand why keeping it in your diet, but moderated, is so important.

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