In the modern Western diet, starches, commonly called carbohydrates, occupy an important position. They have, however, developed a rather bad reputation. This is because many meals, especially when dining out, go overboard with the starch serving-size. Too much starch in your eating habits will cause numerous problems, like gaining weight. Asian and European cultures have demonstrated that starch in moderate amounts can lead to long life. The best way to maintain a healthy level of starch intake is to know which foods are starch-heavy and what starches are in the first place.
Starches: They’re a bit complex
To understand starches, you first need to know about carbohydrates. More often than not, you have probably heard starch and carbohydrate used almost interchangeably. And while it may be true that all starches are a form of carbohydrate, carbohydrates themselves are split into 3 different categories: fiber, starch and sugar.
Sugars are a simple undesirable form of carbohydrate, and starch is a complex one. That’s right, starch is actually comprised of numerous sugar molecules. (You can learn all about sugar and why fiber is so important elsewhere.)
Sources of starch
Starch is really common in the healthy foods we eat, like rice, corn and other vegetables, potatoes, and whole grains, including bread and oatmeal. However, you may not know that many processed (often frozen) foods are made with starch-heavy refined flour, or have starch added to them as well. Usually food manufacturers do this in order to prolong shelf-life or to improve the taste and consistency of fat-free/low-fat foods.
Eating starch and eating healthy
For short- and long-term success, you simply need the proper moderation. Starch is essential to your diet, but a healthy diet should have more protein than starch. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, recommends that all carbohydrates (starches, sugar and fiber) represent only about half of our daily caloric intake. Basically, if you’re eating 2,000 calories a day, you shouldn’t eat more than 1,000 calories-worth of starch. But there is an easier way than counting calories.
Moderating starch intake can actually be pretty tough if you’re sticking to the some of the common staples of American casual eating.
If you look at the basic burger and fries meal, it’s flipped from what would be healthy. With the bread in the hamburger bun and the potatoes in the french fries, you have about twice as much starch by size as you do protein (the hamburger meat). Ideally, you should have twice as much protein as starch. Pizza is another problematic food, as the crust is loaded with starches, but the rest of the ingredients of pizza (sauce, cheese and toppings) don’t have a comparable amount of protein or vegetables.
Maintaining a routinely healthy diet is extremely important to your overall, long-term health. Starch is a part of this, but is also a primary culprit in the obesity epidemic. Switch to eating more proteins than starches.
Olumia Life will guide you through each meal with great recipes for cooking at home. When eating out, you’ll receive physician-written recommendations on how to eat healthy at different types of restaurants and even specific menu items to select or avoid. Starches are important, but it’s OK to skip that order of french fries!
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