When you think of foods high in starch, you probably think of bread, pasta, and cereals (1).
But many foods contain starch. Starchy foods are be excellent for energy production, and they provide key nutrients like fiber, calcium, iron, and even B vitamins (2). There are a plethora of foods high in starch, and most of them are a beneficial addition to a well-balanced diet. There is a misconception that all starchy foods can lead to inflammation, but that is not always the case (3).
There are two main structures of starches, amylose, and amylopectin, and they are both long chains of the sugar glucose. Starches are considered complex carbohydrates because of their long-chain-type structure (4). The complex structure of the carbohydrates slow the breakdown of carbohydrates into glucose, causing a gradual release of sugar into the blood rather than causing blood sugar to spike quickly (5).
Unprocessed starches can be a beneficial part of a healthy diet. However, when starches are processed and refined, much of the beneficial fiber, vitamins and minerals are removed (6). Unlike unprocessed starches, refined starches cause rapid spikes of blood sugar (7). Diet high in refined starches are associated with increased risk of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease (8), (9), (10).
Summary: Starches are a type of carbohydrate that provide energy and key nutrients, including fiber, vitamins and minerals. Unprocessed starches are complex carbohydrates, and they are a beneficial addition to a well-balanced diet. Refined starches, often have the beneficial nutrients removed. Diets high in refined starches are associated with increased risk of chronic disease.
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Foods High in Starch
There is an abundance of healthy foods high in starch that you can start adding to your regular routine. Check the list below to learn more about healthy foods high in starch and how they can benefit your health.
1. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are extremely high in starch, but they are a great example of a complex starch that can be a part of a healthy balanced diet (11).
They are high in many essential vitamins and nutrients, like beta-carotene, which the body can convert into vitamin A, and vitamin C, D, B vitamins, magnesium, iron, potassium, and more (12).
Do not be afraid to add some sweet potatoes to your diet to benefit from all the nutrients it offers.
Summary: Sweet potatoes are a starchy food that is high in many other beneficial nutrients, including vitamin A, C, D, iron, and potassium.
Chickpeas are another healthy legume that is high in unrefined starch. These nutritious beans are full of essential vitamins and minerals, fiber and plant-based protein (13).
This legume aids digestion, is associated with improved blood sugar control, decreased risk of, and it is an easy way to get in more plant-based protein (14).
Chickpeas are high in many nutrients. They contain high amounts of iron, folate, copper, phosphorus, and more.
Summary: Chickpeas are a nutritious starchy food that is high in many beneficial nutrients, including fiber, iron, and plant-based protein.
3. Butternut Squash
Butternut squash is a seasonal vegetable high in many nutrients and starch.
Full of vitamin E and many of the B vitamins, butternut squash is an excellent starchy vegetable to include in most diets (15).
This is great to have when it is in the season for a tasty cinnamon and squash side dish. It can be a holiday favorite for that reason alone. But you can eat it any time of the year, too. Simply bake this sweet and starchy vegetable in the oven with some of your favorite seasonings, and you’re on your way to a delicious side dish.
Summary: Butternut squash is a starchy food that also is full of many nutrients including fiber, vitamin E, and B vitamins.
This common vegetable is highly nutritious and extremely high in starch (16). Corn is rich in fiber, iron, and potassium.
Corn is a common example of how to cook it for the healthiest possible dish. Frozen, canned or fresh corn can be an excellent side dish to a meal. Corn can be a healthy part of your routine when it is prepared well.
Summary: Corn is another starchy food that is also rich in fiber, folate and potassium.
Lentils are another excellent source of starch, plant-based protein, and many key nutrients (17).
High in starch, lentils are a powerful anti-inflammatory food that can decrease your risk of chronic disease (18). Diets rich in lentils are associated with reduced risk of heart disease (19).
Summary: Lentils work great in meals as a plant-based replacement for meat. They also provide anti-inflammatory benefits and are associated with a reduced risk for heart disease.
Beans like navy, black, cannellini, pinto, and kidney beans are other healthy starchy foods.
All these beans are full of fiber and protein. They are great staple foods for vegetarians and vegans for that reason (20).
Whether herbivore or carnivore, many can benefit from adding more beans to their diets. Diets with lots of beans are associated reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes (21). If you have a hard time digesting beans, it is likely because they need to be soaked more before cooking (22). That helps to remove some oligosaccharides, which can negatively affect digestion (23).
Summary: Beans are a healthy source of starch, fiber, and protein. They provide many health benefits. If you have difficulty digesting beans, try soaking them before cooking to remove excess lectins.
Peas are another healthy legume full of starch and many health benefits. Peas are high in vitamin A, C, K, iron, folate, and more (24).
Green peas have a ton of health benefits as well. They contain anti-oxidants, and they are another powerful food source to manage blood sugar control, too (24), (25).
These vegetables are easy to add to many dishes, even if you do not want to eat your vegetables. You can mix green peas with your favorite delicious pasta with onions, for example. This is a common Italian dish that even most kids enjoy.
Summary: Peas are another starchy legume that contains many beneficial nutrients and provide many health benefits.
Parsnips are a starchy vegetable full of soluble and insoluble fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C, and vitamin K (26).
This potent vegetable may help to lower inflammation in the body and may help prevent chronic health issues. That is because they are extremely high in antioxidants, particularly vitamin C and polyacetylenes (27).
Parsnips are similar looking to carrots but with a much lighter color. These vegetables can be a healthy addition to your diet. If you haven’t tried a parsnip before, they have a crunchy and similar taste to a potato and a carrot.
Summary: Parsnips are a starchy vegetable rich in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, and other antioxidants.
Many people think yams and sweet potatoes are the same, but they are quite different.
Although they are both high in starch, there are some key differences. Yams are more like yucca root vegetables than sweet potatoes in color and texture. They also contain more starch and taste less sweet than sweet potatoes (28).
Yams are high in beneficial nutrients like vitamin B5, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, and manganese (28). They are also an excellent source of dietary fiber (28).
Summary: Yams are another nutrient-rich source of unprocessed starch. They contain many beneficial nutrients, including fiber, vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium.
Potatoes are a very popular source of starch.
Many throw potatoes into the unhealthy category because they are often served fried, but you can eat these nutritious vegetables many different ways (29). Baked potatoes can be an excellent addition to a balanced diet.
These starchy vegetables are high in vitamin B6, vitamin C, and many antioxidants (30). Potatoes even have more potassium than a banana (31). They are naturally gluten-free, so they are also a great choice for those who avoid gluten in their diet. They can even help with digestion due to their fiber content.
Summary: Potatoes can be a healthful source of starch, fiber, vitamin C, and potassium. While they are often served fried, there are many healthful preparations of potatoes that can be a great addition to a well balanced diet.
Foods high in starch are not typically a cause for concern among most people. Starchy foods can be a part of a healthy balanced diet.
Starchy foods, especially starchy vegetables come with many essential nutrients like key vitamins and minerals. They are also associted with a lower risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
Try not to buy into the hype that all starchy foods are bad for your health, and see where your health can benefit from these healthy foods high in starch.
Summary: Foods high in starch can be a part of a healthy, balanced diet. They are rich in many beneficial nutrients and are associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases, including heart disease and diabetes.