In classic food pyramid Foods starchy are the basis, since they constitute that 50-60% of the daily calories recommended in a healthy diet.
We will not stop to discuss and comment which are the correct combinations to compose meals, but we begin to understand what starchy foods are and to see some examples, in order to be able to approach our diet in a more conscious way.
Starchy foods: what they are
They are considered "starchy" different foods and food products accumulated by the prevalent presence, in their composition, of starch, the reserve carbohydrate typical of the plant world.
In fact, starch is in the plant world the energy reserve to cope with periods of scarce availability of nutrients in the soil, such as winter (tubers such as potatoes are particularly rich in them) or to allow the first moments of seed germination and the subsequent development of the seedling.
For humans, starch has been the main food source of energy. The starch molecule has a complex structure that makes it indigestible for humans in the form present in raw foods: potatoes and rice, for example, must be consumed exclusively cooked.
Once ingested, through saliva, chewing and intestinal enzymes, the starch is broken down in the individual sugars that constitute it, or in the individual glucose units.
In the intestine, glucose deriving from starch is absorbed and released into the bloodstream and subsequently used by the cells for the related metabolic processes, or stored as a short-term energy reserve (such as glycogen deposits in muscles and liver) or long-term (by converting liver and adipose triglycerides into triglycerides).
Read also Comparing starchy foods >>
Starchy foods: some examples
Where do we find starchy foods, that is, foods with a prevalent content of starch?
The main foods are those best known to us, namely i cereals: wheat, rice, corn, barley, rye, oats, spelled.
Cereals can be eaten in the form of grains (such as rice, spelled, barley for example) or flour (such as polenta), or used to make the food products derived from them (pasta, bread, rice, flour, starch, biscuits, breakfast cereals ...), but also in flakes (famous are those of corn or rice).
There are other large "families of starchy foods often frequent on our tables: tubers, starchy fruits and legumes:
> Starchy tubers and fruits: potatoes, American potatoes, Jerusalem artichoke, cassava (tropical tuber) taro, yam: roots rich in starch, with a nutritional value relatively similar to that of cereals. Chestnuts (which are technically fruits) also contain a lot of starch.
> Legumes:Legumes are also a good source of starch, although - due to their generous protein content - they are generally classified as protein foods.
The so-called "pseudocereals”Used - as they are gluten-free - to replace wheat or wheat-based flours and their derivatives, such as: buckwheat, teff, quinoa, millet, amaranth.
Starchy foods: some nutritional advice
It is good to remember that natural starchy sources do not contain only starch, but also the other nutrients necessary for the plant and for the germination of the seed: proteins, vitamins, mineral salts, unsaturated fats, and fibers.
The majority of these nutrients are lost in the refining processes: as a consequence, they are obtained products rich in "empty" calories, because they are too abundant in energy and poor in essential nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals.
Therefore excessive consumption of starchy foods - especially if refined - protracted over time, and without regular and demanding physical activity, it can be responsible for overweight, obesity, insulin resistance and diabetes.
Compared to the daily food balance it will therefore be essential - to reduce the incidence of the aforementioned "diseases of well-being" - to moderate the quantities of starchy foods, preferring them full versions, richer in nutrients and more satiating, give more space to fresh vegetables and lean proteins.
Read also Foods rich in fiber, what they are and what they are for >>