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What Are Starches and Carbohydrates?

By Anthony Isaac Palacios

Carbohydrates are an essential macro-nutrient necessary for proper energy production. Starch is a particular type of carbohydrate, referred to as a complex carbohydrate because of its structure. Starches are found in a variety of natural foods, including vegetables, legumes and grains. When consumed in reasonable portions, starches are an important part of a balanced diet.

Recommendations

The majority of your calories, approximately 45 to 65 percent, should come from complex carbohydrates and starches. Consult a registered dietitian for your exact nutritional needs. A person who consumes 2,000 calories daily should aim for at least five servings of mixed fruits and vegetable, recommends the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For example, one serving is equivalent to a cup of raw vegetables. You can also eat 6 to 8 oz. of grains daily and a serving of legumes four to five times a week. In addition, aim for 25 to 35 grams of dietary fiber daily.

Starchy Vegetables

Starchy vegetables and plant-based foods are good sources of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Examples of these foods include dark green vegetables, legumes, carrots, squash, pumpkins and sweet potatoes. Legumes include dry beans, lentils, peas and corn. One-half cup of cooked navy beans provides 9.5 grams of dietary fiber, which is 38 percent of your total daily value for fiber. Starchy vegetables can be added to a variety of green salads and soups to increase fiber and nutritional content.

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Starchy Grains

Starches also are primarily found in many breads, pastas, cereals and grains. More than half of your grains should come from whole-grain sources. Popular whole grains include brown rice, buckwheat, wild rice, quinoa, whole oats, rye and whole wheat. Oatmeal topped with fresh fruit makes a nutritious breakfast packed with dietary fiber and other nutrients. At the grocery store, choose unrefined starches and grains that are unprocessed and contain more nutrients.

Diet Considerations

Non-starchy foods include fruits and dairy products. These also can be incorporated into your diet daily. Choose low-fat dairy products to reduce saturated fat and calorie intake. Limit highly-processed foods with added sugars, because they typically provide many calories but few nutrients. Highly-processed foods with refined sugars include candy, regular carbonated soda, syrups, sauces, packaged and canned foods.

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