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What Starches in Food Are Bad for You?

Starches, sugars and fiber are part of the total carbohydrates, but only starches and sugars are digested in the human body. Although carbohydrates are often labelled as being complex in the case of starchy foods, or simple in the case of sugar-based foods, this classification based on the length of their molecules does not reflect how these carbohydrates act in your body. Some starches can raise your blood sugar levels as quickly as sugar, which can be bad for you, especially if you have diabetes, reactive hypoglycemia or try to control your energy levels and cravings.

Starches is mainly found in grains and tubers, which actually represent a large portion of the daily carbohydrate intake of most Americans. Any food made from refined or whole grain flour or any type of grains, such as pasta, couscous, pizza dough, rice, bread, buns, muffins, crackers, pretzels, popcorn, cookies and other baked goods contain starches. In addition, foods classified as starchy vegetables, which include potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, corn, peas and winter squashes, also contain significant amounts of starches. Some starchy foods are better for you than others.

Use the glycemic index to distinguish between starchy foods that can cause a large increase in your blood sugar levels and starchy foods that will maintain your blood sugar levels more stable. For example, white and whole wheat bread both have a high glycemic index, higher than table sugar, which means that they quickly raise your blood sugar after eating. White potatoes, french fries, mashed potatoes, rice, most breakfast cereals and baked goods also have a high glycemic index. High glycemic index starches can be bad for you, especially if consumed on a regular basis or in large quantities, because they can lead to weight gain, cravings, unstable energy levels, diabetes and heart diseases.

In addition to creating large fluctuations in your blood sugar levels, many high glycemic starchy foods have a low nutrient density, which means that they provide little nutrition value per calorie. For example, most bread, rice, potatoes, breakfast cereals and baked goods provide nothing more than carbohydrates and calories. Some of these foods may contain small amounts of vitamins and minerals, especially if they are enriched, but all of these nutrients can easily be found in larger amounts and for a lot less calories in nutrient-dense nonstarchy vegetables and fruits.

Avoid starches that have a high glycemic index and low energy density and base your diet on low glycemic index and more nutritious starchy foods. For example, yams and sweet potatoes have a lower glycemic index and very high beta-carotene content compared to regular potatoes. Sourdough bread, stone-ground whole grain bread, sprouted bread, steel-cut oats, old-fashioned oatmeal, quinoa, millet and winter squashes are healthier starch options for your diet.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.