Starch: The Good, the Bad and the Baking

A starch is a type of carbohydrate. If you have watched the news or read a magazine over the past few years, you have probably seen conflicting reports regarding carbohydrates and their impact on your diet. Are they good for you or are they leading to unnecessary weight gain?

What Is a Starch?

To begin understanding the good and the ugly side of starches, it is essential to know a few details. Starches are complex carbohydrates that are made from glucose. These complex carbohydrates are called polysaccharides. A starch is white, tasteless, odorless and typically composed of 1,000 or more chains of glucose. According to Dr. Hensrud at the Mayo Clinic, starches are the main source of energy of the human body.

The Plus Side

Due to the long chain of glucose, a starch is considered a complex carbohydrate. The body is unable to metabolize a starch into energy as quickly as a simple carbohydrate like sucrose. Because of this delayed process of breaking, starches tend to make you feel full longer than simple carbohydrates. In addition to making you feel more satisfied, starches also provide you with numerous nutrients, B vitamins and fiber.

The Negative Side

The human body originally existed on a diet of vegetables and animal proteins. Only recently have sugars and starches been readily available in the form of grains and potatoes. It is believed that due to this, your body does not know how to handle starches and sugars efficiently and this leads to weight gain, reduced life span and diabetes.

Not all carbohydrates are made equal and this is why many doctors rely on the glycemic index to rank how carbohydrates affect blood sugar. A starch is considered an intermediate or high glycemic index food. Due to this, high starch foods can negatively affect the blood sugar of insulin sensitive people. This is why many individuals who suffer from diabetes are told by their doctors to avoid starchy foods.

High Starch Foods

As plants go through photosynthesis, they store the energy that they produce in the form of starch. Due to this, high starch foods are plant-based foods. Foods that are made with wheat, such as cereals, breads and pastas, are all considered starchy foods. Other high starch foods include rice, legumes and pastas. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, starches should be consumed in moderation. When selecting starchy foods, consider selecting those that are low in fat or are made with whole grain starches.

Baking With Starches

Individuals who are looking to lower the amount of starches in their baked goods need to know that not all baking flours are created equally. Whole-wheat flours include the bran, endosperm and germ. The bran makes this type of flour a high starch flour. Cracked wheat flours are similar to whole-wheat flours and are high starch flours. Gluten flour is a wheat flour where much of the starch and bran have been removed, making this a low-starch, high-protein flour. Gluten flour is ideal for individuals looking for a low starch flour, but be aware that gluten flour makes a denser, heavier dough.


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