The starch group incorporates everything from breads to cereal to snack foods and even starchy vegetables. Starches are produced by green plants during photosynthesis. The starchy parts of plants are an energy-dense form of food and have formed a staple part of the human diet since the agricultural revolution. Starches are relatively low in chemical poisons. Most people in the modern Western world eat at least one starchy food at every meal. This could include cereal at breakfast, bread for their lunchtime sandwich and potatoes at dinner. Common dietary sources of starch carbohydrates are detailed below.
The most common source of starch in the modern Western diet is the cereal grains wheat, corn, rice and oats. They are ground into flour and used to make staple foods such as bread, buns, tortillas, pasta and noodles. They are also flaked, rolled or puffed to make breakfast cereals. Dried rice is eaten boiled and fresh corn can be cooked and eaten from the cob. Crunchy snack foods, cakes and cookies are also made from grains.
The percentage of starch available in grain products depends on whether the grain used is whole or refined. Refined grains such as white flour and white rice are made by removing the outer bran and inner germ so that what remains is almost entirely starches. Whole grains are less starchy because they also contain fiber and protein.
Legumes are fruits or seeds that come in a pod including beans, peas, lentils and peanuts. They are high in starchy carbohydrates but also a source of protein and fiber. Legumes frequently found in the Western diet include broad beans, lima beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, green peas, split peas and black-eyed peas. For many Americans, the major source of legumes is in the form of peanut butter.
Some vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and yams are high in starchy carbohydrates. They can also be a good source of fiber if eaten with the skins left on. Most other root vegetables such as carrots and parsnips contain a balance of sugars and starches. Winter squashes like butternut and acorn are starchy whereas as summer squashes such as zucchini are not.
Most fruit contains high levels of sugars and low levels of starches. The main exception in the Western diet is bananas. Other starchy fruits include plantain and breadfruit.
Nuts tend to contain moderate amounts of starch carbohydrates balanced by fat, protein and fiber. However, chestnuts and acorns are so starchy that they can be dried, ground into flour and used to make bread. The Chinese extract the starch from water chestnuts and use it to thicken sauces.
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