Why Is Starch Important in Our Diets?

Written by cydney walker
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Why Is Starch Important in Our Diets?
Starches provide glucose that gives energy to your brain and muscles. (spaghetti image by krynio from Fotolia.com)

Starch, or carbohydrate, is one of the macronutrients needed by the human body for energy, which makes starch an essential part of your diet. Eating starch has come under heavy scrutiny because of low-carb diet programs such as Atkins, South Beach and the Zone diet. Starch comes from plant-based foods and is made into pasta, bread and crackers, but is also part of fruits, vegetables and some dairy products. Your body converts the plant-based food starch into glucose for energy used by your brain and muscles.

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Importance

At least 55 percent of your daily calorie intake should come from starches. With adequate amounts of healthy starch in your diet, you will accumulate less body fat. When your diet has an inadequate amount of starch, you increase your intake of other food nutrients to make up for the lack of starch calories. Fibre from starches adds bulk to the diet and creates a feeling of satiety or fullness that prevents overeating. Starches provide readily available energy for physical performance that fat and protein have a difficult time matching.

Sunlight

Sunlight plays a key role in providing starches for your diet. Plants convert sunlight into glucose inside the cell walls through a process called photosynthesis. When you eat the plant-based foods, your body uses enzymes to break the starches down for energy.

Types

Starch is a general term used to classify foods made from plants that raise glucose levels in the body. Starches come from pasta, breads, cereal, fruits and vegetables, but they are broken down into various sugars. Polysaccharides, disaccharides and monosaccharides are the sugars your body uses for energy and metabolism. Each type of saccharide provides 4 calories per gram when digested by your small intestines. Your body produces enzymes to break down long chains of sugars, breaking down polysaccharides into smaller disaccharides and finally into monosaccharides, such as fructose, galactose or glucose to use for energy.

Cravings

Some people crave certain carbohydrates because of a release of endorphins and serotonin when they're eaten. Your body and brain get used to the higher level of endorphins and serotonin, causing you to constantly crave and consume starches to keep your levels higher, according to associate clinical professor at University of California Irvine, Dr. Bill Sears. Refined carbohydrates or starches that easily break down into glucose or sugar can lead to cravings and overconsumption that leads to weight gain.

Considerations

Eat a wide variety of healthy starches from vegetables, fruits, dairy products, whole grains and nuts to get the nutrients you need. Focus your diet on eating plant-based foods as close as possible to their natural state. Avoid refined or processed carbohydrates, as their fibre, vitamins and minerals have been stripped out during processing.

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