Starchy Fruits: Yes or No?
When you hear someone say “starchy vegetables”, the name “potatoes” is the first one that pops into everyone’s mind. On the other hand, few know about starchy fruits, which are often overlooked because they are quite low in number. If you’re an avid weight-watcher, you must have picked up by now that starchy products are almost on every off-limits food list there is, as they contribute to weight gain and are linked to a higher risk of diabetes. However, there are different types of starch. The starch in pastry is considered unhealthy, whereas the one in fruits is believed to be beneficial when consumed in moderate amounts.
What is starch?
Starch is a complex carbohydrate consisting of a number of glucose molecules joined together. It is present in various products, including veggies, cereals, legumes, etc. When being digested, starches decompose into simpler sugars. After the latter reach the blood, they become the blood sugar, which is the primary source of energy in the human body. In other words, the blood sugar provides fuel for you to perform your daily physical and mental activities, such as working, studying, doing sports, and even eating and breathing (3).
Carbohydrates and starch in particular play a vital role in the human body functioning. Therefore, it is not recommended to exclude this nutrient from the diet, since this is likely to lead to malnutrition and health problems. Ideally, the daily starch intake for a person of any age should range between 45% and 60% of the total energy intake (8).
Why is starch good for you?
Starchy foods are rich in the nutrients that are useful for your health. Among these are calcium, fiber, iron, potassium, and vitamin B. In addition, starch is a valuable source of energy, which is very low in fat. Moreover, starchy fruits in particular can help you gain weight healthily, without causing harm to your body (4).
However, it is important to remember that too much starch can do more harm than good. In general, starchy fruits are healthy, but if you exceed the recommended amount, you risk weight gain and its associated health risks.
Resistant Starch: What you need to know
Resistant starch (RS), also known as “good starch” is a type of starch that is not digested in the small intestine. Unlike refined starches, RS is not absorbed in the small intestine but is fermented by bacteria in the large intestine. As a byproduct of that fermentation, RS produces short chain fatty acids. RS are believed to make a valuable contribution to one’s well-being because (4):
- It does not break down into glucose.
- It produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), which play an important role in host (human) energy metabolism and curbing appetite. Indeed, SCFA facilitate the release of gut hormones, making you feel less hungry.
- It is said to prevent colorectal cancer by reducing the deleterious effects of the red meat intake.
- There is also some evidence that RS can help to lose weight.
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There are 5 types of RS (4):
- RS1, which is inaccessible to digestive enzymes (like in bread and seeds).
- RS2, which have crystalline structure and therefore cannot be digested (like in raw potatoes and unripe bananas or plantains.
- RS3, which is a retrograded starch that appears after starchy foods are cooked and subsequently cooled.
- RS4, which is a chemically modified starch (present in some types of bread and cakes).
- RS5, which are either amylose–lipid complexes (formed during processing or by artificial means) or resistant maltodextrin (processed to rearrange starch molecules).
What are starchy fruits?
There is much RS in plantains (green bananas), which contain less sugar and are in general starchier. In fact, plantains have resistant starch (2). Starch makes up ¾ of plantains, which makes them the starchiest fruits. In the process of ripening, the starch in the plantains turns into sugars, which results in a sweeter taste. One plantain contains up to 57 g starch, which is considerably more than in the average ripe banana (9). Dried fruits, such as figs (5.07 g starch in 100 g figs), prunes (5.11 g starch in 100 g prunes), and raisins (2.7 g starch in 100 g raisins) are also high in starch (6, 7, 1).
Dried fruits can be of great danger to your health if consumed in great numbers. These are rather easy to overeat, which can result in dehydration and bloating or weight gain in the long term. Therefore, it is recommended to drink water after having a portion of dried fruits. Some packaged dried fruits can be of particular danger to you, since they contain artificial sweeteners and additives, which can result in the blood sugar increase. Consequently, overconsuming these may lead to weight gain and higher risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases (5).
Should I forgo starchy fruits?
There is absolutely no reason to exclude starchy fruits from your diet. They are very healthy and useful, and if you scratch them off your daily menu for good, you will miss a valuable source of nutrients. But always keep in mind, overeating starchy fruits can do more harm than good.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Amount of Starch in Raisins (dietandfitnesstoday.com).
- Bananas (hsph.harvard.edu).
- Carbohydrates: How carbs fit into a healthy diet (2020, mayoclinic.org).
- Resistant starch (nutrition.org.uk).
- Secret Dangers Lurking in Dried Fruits and How To Avoid Them (onegreenplanet.org).
- Starch in figs Calculator (dietandfitnesstoday.com).
- Starch in plums Calculator (dietandfitnesstoday.com).
- What is starch? (starchinfood.eu).
- Why do some fruits have starch? (recipes.howstuffworks.com).