No -- starch and fiber aren't the same. Whether you are thinking of jumping on the low-carb bandwagon or just want to eat healthier, knowing the difference between the three types of carbs -- sugar, starch and fiber -- will help you choose the right foods. Fiber is the healthiest type of carb, but you will also want to eat some starchy foods to get energy.
Simple vs. Complex Carbs
One way to separate carbs into groups is by sorting them into simple and complex carbs. Sugars are simple carbs because they are made up of only one or two molecules combined. Both fiber and starch, on the other hand, are made up of at least three sugar molecules combined, so they are complex carbs. It is better to eat complex carbs than simple carbs, since these take longer for your body to digest and help keep you full for a bit longer.
Fiber vs. Starch
Even though both starch and fiber are complex carbs, they act very differently in your body. If you are looking for something to give you energy, choose a starchy food. If you want something filling that isn't loaded with calories, opt for something high in fiber. Enzymes in your body can easily break the bonds that form starches, turning them into sugars for energy. You can't make the enzymes to break down fiber, so it isn't digested, although it does have health benefits, including lowering your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity and digestive problems like constipation.
You should get between 40 and 60 percent of your calories from carbohydrates, with most of these coming from complex carbs like starch and fiber. Aim for 25 grams of fiber each day. An easy way to get the right amount of carbs is to fill your plate half full of fruits and vegetables and split the other half of the plate between grains and proteins. You get more nutrients and fiber from whole grains, so choose these at least half of the time.
You can only get fiber from plant foods like fruits, vegetables and grains. Whole grains contain more fiber than refined grains, which contain mainly starches. Starches are also found in vegetables like potatoes, corn, peas and dried beans. Just remember that vegetables that are high in starches are higher in calories than those that are lower in starches and higher in fiber.
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.