Carbohydrate Series: Starch

The buzz in the media around carbohydrates is very loud these days. This has prompted me to tackle the topic. However, carbohydrates are complex (no pun intended), so I will break it down into a few posts. This is the last post in the series and we will discuss starch.

Starch is a Carbohydrate

Carbohydrates are in everything, except meats, eggs and some cheeses. The most common forms of carbohydrates are:

  • Sugars
  • Fiber
  • and starches.

Starches, also known as complex carbohydrates, are in plant-based foods and can provide important energy, vitamins and minerals for the body. Vegetables high in starch include:

  • Corn
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Lima beans
  • Dried beans and lentils.

Fruits mostly contain sugar, but bananas and plantains are two high-starch fruits.

Grains are High In Starch

Grains, such as oats, wheat and rice, are also high in starch. There are two groups of grains, whole and refined. Grains have three parts, bran, germ and endosperm. Whole grains include all three parts. We often hear it is important to eat whole grains as much as possible, but why? Let’s break these parts down:

  1. Bran is the outer skin of the grain. It has the most fiber, B-vitamins, antioxidants and minerals of the grain.
  2. Germ is small but packed with nutrients including essential fatty acids, some protein, healthy fats and vitamin E.
  3. Endosperm is the soft center of the grain. This part contains the most starchy carbohydrates, some protein and a small amount of vitamins and minerals.

Whole grains include all three parts, therefore, they are the most nutritious. Whole grains also have more fiber so they are digested slower, keeping you feeling full longer. This can help with not overeating and weight loss. Great sources of whole grains include:

  • Oats
  • Quinoa
  • and whole wheat products like bread and pasta.

Whole Grains Keep You Feeling Full Longer.

Refined grains only contain the endosperm. Refined grains are less nutritious and digested more quickly because they do not contain as much fiber. If you remember from the previous post about fiber, it helps slow down digestion and stabilizes blood sugar. Fiber also helps lower cholesterol.

Although carbohydrates are often considered the enemy to weight loss, they can provide important nutrients and fiber.

Starchy Foods Are Digested Longer

Since starchy foods are digested slower than foods high in sugar, they absolutely can be included even if your goal is to lose weight. Which starchy foods you choose and how much you eat are the biggest deciding factors in weight loss success. The best choices of starchy foods are those that haven’t been processed, such as beans, lentils, quinoa, oats, sweet potato, boiled potato with skin and whole wheat pasta. In small quantities (1/4 of your plate is ideal), these carbohydrate foods can be part of a healthy, balanced diet that won’t sabotage your weight loss efforts.


Try this quick and delicious side dish. Be sure to eat the potato skin, it’s full of fiber. Serve with grilled chicken and a green salad for a low calorie, balanced meal.

Black Bean Salsa Sweet Potato

Serves 4


2 medium sweet potatoes

1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 large tomato, diced

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)


  1. Prick sweet potatoes with a fork in several places. Microwave on high until tender, 5-6 minutes (alternatively, place in a baking dish and bake at 425F until tender, about 1 hour).

  2. Combine beans, tomato, oil, cumin, pepper and salt in a medium microwave-safe bowl; microwave on high until heated through, 2-3 minutes.

  3. When just cool enough to handle, cut sweet potatoes lengthwise, in half. Spoon bean mixture into middle. Top each with a dollop of Greek yogurt and sprinkle of cilantro.

Nutrition Information

206 Calories 9g Protein

35g Carbohydrates 10g Fiber


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