dding more vegetables to your plate sounds like a reasonable and healthy thing to do until you find out that they come in two different types: starchy and non-starchy vegetables. Both of them are rich in essential nutrients for your body, but some veggies have more carbs, while others contain fewer calories. Suddenly, the choice doesn’t look so “easy-peasy” anymore.
Fortunately, we can help clear the air with the ultimate guide to starchy and non-starchy vegetables. After reading this article, you should be able to identify which veggies are best for your diet and your current health condition. You will discover how to portion control the greens in your meals and how much starch from fresh produce you should add to your plate.
What are starchy vegetables?
Before we dive into a comprehensive list of starchy vegetables, it is essential to know what is so special about these veggies.
Starchy veggies are rich in carbohydrates, which the body uses to convert into ready-to-use energy. Produce like potatoes, corn and peas contain a significant amount of carbs, and they are ideal for people who have an overly active lifestyle. A dish containing mash potatoes, baked pumpkin or butternut squash is the perfect fuel for hard-working farmers, cyclists or lumberjacks.
On the other hand, consuming starchy veggies too much or too often can severely affect your health, if your lifestyle includes little or no physical activity. The carbs in starchy vegetables increase blood sugar levels, which is especially dangerous for type 2 diabetes patients.
Additionally, since your body cannot consume the massive energy intake, it converts the carbs into glucose and stores it as fat, which results in rapid and unhealthy weight gain.
At the opposite side of the starch spectrum, non-starchy vegetables contain very few carbohydrates and pose fewer risks for your blood sugar levels. These veggies include green leafy produce, salad greens, cucumbers and broccoli among others.
Benefits of eating starchy veggies
Now, you might think that removing potatoes, corn and pumpkin squash from your diet is the safest way to steer clear of any carb-induced risk for your health. However, that would be a bad idea, even if your daily activity involves mainly sitting down or sleeping.
Starchy veggies provide a significant amount of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that you can hardly acquire from other vegetables. As long as you consume them in reasonable portions and in combination with high-protein foods and healthy fats, the carbs in their composition should never endanger your well-being.
Potatoes, beets, and yams contain fiber – a form of carbohydrate that is difficult to digest, and which keeps your appetite in check. Regular consumption of fiber-rich produce helps you avoid bad nutritional habits like overeating, binge-eating, and cravings for sweets and salty snacks. Fiber also protects intestinal fauna and regulates your digestive tract.
Starchy veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes, and winter squash are rich in nutrients and antioxidants. Essential compounds like beta-carotene, lutein, and Vitamin C promote and support the well-being of your hair, nails, and skin. Weekly intake of these vegetables help tissue repair and enhance your immunity against seasonal allergies and colds.
Vegetables like plantains, green peas and corn provide an important amount of B-vitamins and minerals like magnesium, potassium, and zinc. These precious compounds improve cognitive functions, reduce fatigue and alleviate muscle pain. As part of a balanced nutritional plan, starchy veggies enhance your energy, make you less prone to disease and even increase your longevity.
List of starchy vegetables
As you can see, there is a significant offer from which you can choose to add starchy vegetables to your meals. It all boils down to personal preference, taste and product availability. If you want an extensive shopping list of starchy veggies, you can have your pick from this one:
• Green Peas
• Sweet Potatoes
• White Potatoes
• Winter Squash
You can add one or more of these starchy vegetables to your everyday dishes. Most of them are easy to combine with meat, fish or vegetarian meals. They are also versatile regarding the cooking process. While carrots and plantains taste great, you can also prepare them just as easily as you cook the others: by boiling, baking, frying or steaming them.
If you are looking for non-starchy vegetables that offer a reliable amount of nutrients without the extra carbs, you should consider:
• Brussels sprouts
• Green Beans
These veggies make for a great side dish to your daily meals just as well as starchy vegetables do. They are easy to prepare, to mix into salads or to include in soups and stews. Some of them are delicious in their raw form, while others can accompany appetizers and snacks.
How to add starchy veggies to your meal
The key to consuming starchy vegetables without endangering your health is portion control. A reasonable amount should not be larger than ½ cup of cooked veggies, which is the approximate size of your fist.
Now, imagine your dinner plate and save some space for the same size as the starchy produce that you are going to cook. You can fill this empty space with a baked white potato, a spoonful of mashed sweet potatoes, carrots, beans or beets.
This simple method of consuming starchy veggies is easy and gives you flexibility in choice without having to count carbs per grams or calories per portion. In time, you will develop the healthy habit of eating enough starchy vegetables without risking your well-being.
The bottom line
We know that it is difficult to stop at only a spoonful of sweet potato mash, especially at the Thanksgiving Dinner. However, if you learn to limit the presence of starchy vegetables without missing their delicious taste, your health will benefit greatly in the long term.
Adding more vegetables to a balanced diet is always a good idea, whether they are starchy or not. Make sure that you consume them in reasonable measures, and always follow the dietary recommendations of your doctor or your nutritionist, especially if you have a health condition that may suffer from over-consuming them.