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People often consider the fat and protein in nuts, but not everyone knows that most nuts also contain starch. It's not always easy to tell what foods contain starch simply by looking at them. Some people must avoid starch for health reasons, so it's essential to do some research on starch sources. Starch is a polysaccharide, or carbohydrate, which contains many glucose units. A simple iodine test can determine if a food contains starch. Iodine turns from brown to dark blue or black when it comes into contact with starch. With nuts, it might take up to 30 minutes for the iodine to react with the starch.
Different Kinds of Nuts
Nuts are encased in a protective shell and are the fruits of various trees. In biology, the term nut is very restrictive, but the term has been expanded to include most edible seeds or kernels found in a shell. Almonds, cashew nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachios and macadamia nuts are a few examples of fruits and seeds that are considered nuts, even though they do not meet the strict scientific definition. Peanuts, which are actually legumes, are also considered a nut by many. Nuts, both true and those widely accepted as nuts, contain starch, but some, like the chestnut and the coconut, contain much more starch than others; the almond contains more cellulose than starch.
For those with irritable bowl syndrome, food allergies or a starch sensitivity, nuts can pose a problem in the diet. While nuts can contain many beneficial fats, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, they can also contain allergens. In addition, peanuts are susceptible to a fungus that can potentially damage the liver. Generally speaking, nuts should not be difficult to digest despite the fact that it may take a long time to digest the fat and protein in nuts. The starch in nuts is broken down rapidly for most, but for those who suffer from digestive disturbances, even nuts without much starch can be harder to digest and cause stomach distress.
Some nuts are generally low in starch once the skin is removed. It was determined that the skin of certain nuts contains a fair amount of starch, while the meat of the nut does not. Walnuts, for example, are not high in starch once the skin is removed. Nuts that are lower in starch than most are Brazil nuts, pine nuts, almonds, macadamia nuts and sesame seeds. While roasting all nuts breaks down starch for easier digestion, this process also decreases the amount of antioxidants in the nuts. Blanching nuts is one of the best ways to have less starch to ingest.
Quite by accident, it was found that a low-starch diet can ease the symptoms of a chronic inflammatory disorder and arthritic condition called ankylosing spondylitis. It was discovered that people on low-starch diets excreted a lower number of microorganisms called klebsiella. This is important because, in those with ankylosing spondylitis, the autoimmune system trying to attack the microorganism, attacks the body causing inflammation and pain. These organisms grow readily on simple sugars or starch. Klebsiella did not grow on cellulose or any other elements found in nuts.Those with irritable bowl syndrome and other digestive issues can tolerate a diet that includes low-starch nuts, and new research shows that those with ankylosing spondylitis can also enjoy almonds and other low-starch nuts.
- "The IBS Starch-Free Diet"; Carol Sinclair; July 1997
- Pub M.D.; Almonds and postprandial glycemia--a dose-response study; Josse AR, Kendall CW, Augustin LS, Ellis PR, Jenkins DJ; March 2007
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