While carbohydrates often get a bad rap thanks to the popularity of low-carb diet crazes, carbohydrate-containing starchy fruits and vegetables aren't all bad for your diet. However, it's a good idea to eat a balance of starchy and non-starchy foods. Brushing up on your starch knowledge can help increase dietary variety.
What Are Starches?
Starches are a form of carbohydrate found in fruits, vegetables and grains. The carbohydrates found in these foods are converted into glucose or blood sugar in your cells and serve as an energy source. Starchy foods are often considered fattening; however, starchy foods have less than half the calories of fats. They also have fiber, calcium, iron and B vitamins that contribute to your daily nutritional intake.
Starchy fruits and vegetables aren't always easy to spot because they don't have obvious similarities such as color or size. Examples of starchy vegetables include corn, potatoes, peas and lima beans. Cowpeas, field peas, black-eyed peas, taro and water chestnuts belong in the starchy vegetables category too. While few fruits are considered starchy, green bananas, pumpkin and plantains contain starch.
Watching Your Starches
If you have diabetes, a condition that affects your blood sugar levels, you likely have to watch the amount of carbohydrates you eat on a daily basis. Eating excess carbohydrates can result in excess glucose that your body cannot process. Fruits and vegetables tend to be "freebies" when it comes to your diet, meaning you can eat them in larger amounts because they are less likely to impact your blood sugar. However, since starchy fruits and vegetables are higher in carbs, you may need to limit them to keep your blood sugar level optimal.
Carb Counting and Starchy Produce
Most starchy fruits and vegetables have 15 grams of carbohydrate per one-half cup, according to the American Diabetes Association. This is roughly the size of a small potato. Exceptions include 1 cup of winter squash or pumpkin, which has 15 grams of carbohydrates. The American Diabetes Association recommends no more than one-fourth of your plate comprise starchy foods to keep your blood sugar levels from rising too high.
- American Diabetes Association: Whole-Grain Foods
- University of Illinois Extension: Sports and Nutrition: The Winning Connection
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: What Foods Are in the Vegetable Group?
- National Health Services: Non-Starchy Foods
- National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse: What I Need to Know About Eating and Diabetes
- Colorado Potatoes: Colorado Potato Facts and Nutrition
Rachel Nall began writing in 2003. She is a former managing editor for custom health publications, including physician journals. She has written for The Associated Press and "Jezebel," "Charleston," "Chatter" and "Reach" magazines. Nall is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Tennessee.