April 2, 2012. One of the hot topics de jour in Paleo/Primal nutrition circles is the concept of “safe starches.” You might be thinking, “When did starch become dangerous?” Starch is a form of carbohydrates found in grains, beans and some vegetables. Some diets claim that if you are trying lose weight or are sensitive to sugar that you would benefit from avoiding or minimizing starchy foods. When eaten, starchy carbohydrate may quickly convert to sugar which may be undesirable if your goal is weight loss but desirable if it increased athletic performance.
Pretty much everyone in the Paleo/Primal nutrition arena agrees that eating lots of fresh vegetables is a safe bet but are all vegetables created equal?
A common way to group vegetable is to divide them into two categories, starch and non-starch. Non-starch vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, celery, cucumber, spinach and zucchini typically have fewer carbohydrates in them and therefore have fewer calories per serving. Many weigh loss diets as well as Paleo/Primal philosophy usually encourage dieter to fill up on non-starchy vegetable and avoid or minimize starchy vegetables like potatoes, yams, corn and peas.
Okay, if everyone agrees that most people should eat more non-starchy vegetables than starchy vegetables, then what is the controversy?
The controversy lies in starches found in foods like rice, white potatoes, yams, taro and plantains. Some scientists and nutritionists believe that some people benefit from eating starchy carbohydrates and others believe it is a recipe for blood sugar/insulin issues and obesity.
I personally eat a few baked sweet potatoes every week but I rarely eat rice, white potatoes, corn and peas. I will admit to enjoying a piece of corn on the cob in the summer and roasted baby potatoes at a restaurant. I know that I feel better when I include some starchy foods in my diet, especially after a tough workout. I have also discovered that too much starchy food can cause me to gain a few pounds and feel bloated so I am mindful of my portions and my activity level. Everybody has a unique biochemistry and needs to discover what foods work best for them.
This has been a very brief overview of starchy foods and the safe starch controversy. If you would like more information, I encourage you to read Jimmy Moore’s detailed blog post:
Jimmy Moore is the creator and host of Livin La Vida Low-carb Blog and Pod-cast.
If you would like more science details and promoter of “safe starches,” read Paul Jaminet’s work at Perfect Health Diet.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. Stop worrying about the sugar in carrots. Eat and enjoy your carrots! Mother Nature designed them for you.
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