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Vegetables or starches?

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Old 01-31-2009, 02:29 PM   #1
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Default Vegetables or starches?

I'm afraid I may have slightly hijacked another thread (the one under General Chatter about what is the first vegetable most babies eat) in my curiosity and would like to start this thread to get a little history. The OP of that thread links to a video: the answer to the question posed is "the french fry". Somebody in the video says something to the effect that "french fries aren't a vegetable, they're a starch".

Now, I've never heard the ultimate authority in matters culinary and domestic, i.e., my mom, refer to "starches" as if they're a separate food category, and I never got that line in middle- or high-school home ec either (1970s), but I seem to hear that usage a lot lately, as in "when planning a meal include a protein (meat or fish), a vegetable *and a starch*". By "starch", they're clearly talking about potatoes, pasta, bread, rice and possibly corn as well. Just for the heck of it I Googled the food pyramid, the old "basic 4 food groups" from my home-ec years, and since our school library had some really old (1940s and 1950s) books, there were some references as well to an even older "7 food groups" and I Googled that too. Not one of those almighty authorities lists "starch" as a distinct category and they all call potatoes vegetables (although the 7-groups breakdown distinguishes between "green and yellow veg" and "potatoes and other veg"). Who decided "starches" were a law unto themselves? Anybody know?

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Old 01-31-2009, 02:40 PM   #2
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I think it was mothers because mine taught me the same thing too Corn, potatoes and even some winter squashes were considered a "starch" around our household. Every meal, in order to be healthy had to have a protein, a starch and two vegetables. If I have winter squash or corn or potato at a meal, I always make sure I have another veggie. I blame my mother.
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Old 01-31-2009, 03:25 PM   #3
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I consider starchy veggies to be in the same category as grains when meal planning. To me potatoes are not a vegetable.
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Old 01-31-2009, 03:41 PM   #4
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Technically, potato is a vegetable, but the nutrients in a potato are mainly carbs. I consider it a carb serving.

I don't use the term "starch" though unless I am referring to starching a collared shirt.
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Old 01-31-2009, 04:11 PM   #5
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Quote:
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Technically, potato is a vegetable, but the nutrients in a potato are mainly carbs. I consider it a carb serving.

I don't use the term "starch" though unless I am referring to starching a collared shirt.
The calories in all veggies are mostly carbs, but potatoes and other "starches" certainly have a lot more calories. I suppose the term is used for potatoes and the like since they have a caloric value close to "grains". Diabetics assign carb values to veggies, grains, potatoes, etc.
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Old 01-31-2009, 04:31 PM   #6
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I consider starchy veggies to be in the same category as grains when meal planning. To me potatoes are not a vegetable.
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Old 01-31-2009, 09:04 PM   #7
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Quote:
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Technically, potato is a vegetable, but the nutrients in a potato are mainly carbs. I consider it a carb serving.

I don't use the term "starch" though unless I am referring to starching a collared shirt.
A starch is a subset of the carbohydrate family. There are several types of carbohydrates. Starch is a particular type found primarily in seeds, fruit, tubers, and stem pith of plants primarily rice, corn, potatoes, etc. It is the most digestible complex carbohydrate and a large source of carbs and calories.

Other vegetables. (aka "green veggies" even if they are orange or red like bell beppers) have lower amounts of starch and more fiber and other nutrients. Most of the carbs in veggies is not all that digestible. Nutritionally "starchy veggies" and "veggies" are very different.

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High-starch vegetables tend to be roots or tubers like potatoes, yams, turnips, winter squash, carrots, and beets. Yams and sweet potatoes are high-caloric root vegetables. Fruits tend to have a high sugar content, mostly glucose, fructose and sucrose. Fruit juices have the highest free sugar content of all plant foods except for sugar cane which stores sugar in its stalk. The green leafy vegetables are more chemically diverse and interesting foods that supply less digestible carbohydrate but more vitamins, minerals, and non-digestible fiber
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Old 01-31-2009, 09:29 PM   #8
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My rule is that starchy vegetables substitute the starch for the meal. If I do have another starch then I serve 1/2 portion of each and the vegetable.
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Old 01-31-2009, 09:36 PM   #9
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I suspect that shift from seeing potatoes as a vegetable, to a "bread" and later as a starch has much to do with invention and ongoing development of the first diabetic exchange diet, created in the 1950's, and the use and adaptation of that diet for dieters. The plan broke foods into categories (I'm not sure of the original breakdown, but I believe they were low, medium, and high fat meat choices (3 categories), fat, bread, milk, fruit "hearty vegetables" (starchy vegetables) and "as desired" (unlimited) vegetables. Weight Watcher's modeled their initial plan after the diabetic exchange diets, and in fact WW remained an exchange plan until or through 1996 (I'm not certain on the exact changeover date).

My early recollection of exchange plan dieting (at 8 or so, so around 1976) was as a member of WW with my mother. At that time, the term wasn't "starches," but "bread" exchanges, and potatoes, sweet potatoes and some sqashes counted as bread servings. Corn, peas and some squashes, I believe were 1/2 bread servings. I'm not sure when the terminology changed, but eventually "meat exchanges" became protein exchanges, and "bread exchanges" became "starch exchanges" no doubt because there were many non-meat foods that fell in the meat category, and many non-bread foods fell in the bread category.

Most modern exchange plans (whether for diabetes or weight loss) don't distinguish between high, low and medium fat proteins, rather a fattier meat would be just use both fat and protein exchanges. Also the "hearty" vegetables would be starch servings.
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Old 01-31-2009, 11:33 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by murphmitch View Post
The calories in all veggies are mostly carbs, but potatoes and other "starches" certainly have a lot more calories. I suppose the term is used for potatoes and the like since they have a caloric value close to "grains". Diabetics assign carb values to veggies, grains, potatoes, etc.
I suppose I wasn't clear. Per serving potatoes have more carbs than other types of veggies I eat. So more carbs = more calories.

(yes, I've take postgraduate level nutrition classes. )
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Old 02-01-2009, 05:24 PM   #11
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Thanks kaplods, your explanation makes a lot of sense. You talk about "meat exchanges became protein exchanges", and the USDA food groups, whether 4 or 7, put beans in with meat and fish because beans are a protein source (ETA 02.02: which I suppose adds yet another wrinkle to the debate of "is it a veg or isn't it?"! Like I said in the other thread, I just assume that if it comes from a plant, isn't so sweet as to be deemed a fruit [please chicks, don't get me started on tomatoes, I know BOTANICALLY tomatoes are fruits] and isn't ground up to make meal/flour or otherwise processed beyond recognition then it's a veg, regardless of its starch, fiber or protein content).

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