In Defense of the Potato (and Other Starchy Vegetables)

Source: Austin-American Statesman
Vegetables are generally separated into two categories: starchy (corn, potatoes peas, carrots, beets and other tubers) and non-starchy (leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers and mushrooms). Starchy vegetables contain more carbohydrates than non-starchy vegetables, so they increase your blood sugar at a quicker rate.
Growing up, we were told to eat plenty of vegetables. So why does corn (and other starchy vegetables) get such a bad rap?
Carbohydrates are compounds that contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. They are the primary source of energy for our body and are divided into two groups: simple carbohydrates (sugars) and complex carbohydrates (dietary fiber and starches). The difference between a simple and a complex carbohydrate is how quickly it is digested and absorbed.
Simple carbohydrates, or sugars, include table sugar, honey, corn syrup and the natural sugars found in fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose). Wait, what? Fruit is a simple sugar? Aren’t simple sugars bad for us? Relax. Fruit also contains fiber, which slows down digestion, slowing the spike in blood sugar. That’s why it’s recommended to eat fruit more than you drink it.
Complex carbohydrates, which are found in potatoes, corn, beans, rice and pasta, are starch or dietary fiber. Dietary fiber is not like other carbohydrates. It is not considered a source of energy because the bonds that hold its sugar units together cannot be broken by human digestive enzymes. Dietary fiber, does, however, aid the movement of food through our bodies.
Starches, on the other hand, are excellent sources of energy. They are long chains of glucose molecules that our bodies break down into individual glucose molecules, which we can, in turn, use for energy. As a result, digesting complex carbohydrates releases glucose into your bloodstream more slowly and evenly than digesting simple carbs.
Starchy vegetables generally contain more carbohydrates than non-starchy vegetables, and we currently live in a carb-fearing world. One cup of broccoli florets contains about 4 grams of carbohydrates, while 1 cup of corn kernels and 1 cup of boiled potatoes contain 39 grams and 31 grams of carbohydrates, respectively.
So, what to do? If you eat 2,000 calories a day, you should consume about 250 grams of carbohydrates a day (50 percent of calories coming from carbohydrates). A good starting place for meals is roughly 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates and for snacks, 15 to 30 grams. If you pair that 1 cup of corn or potatoes with a lean protein and maybe a non-starchy vegetable, you’ll have a complete, nutritious meal.
When it comes down to it, what matters is the type of carbohydrates you eat. Starchy vegetables don’t have to be off-limits, even for people with diabetes. A better way to approach it is by learning how to identify them and portion-control them. Eating a variety of foods will ensure that you are meeting your daily needs for energy, vitamins and minerals.

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