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Why is It Better to Eat Starchy Carbohydrates?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 17, 2024
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Despite the emphasis on low carb diets, there are some distinct advantages to consuming starchy carbohydrates. Most dietitians recommend people to eat them regularly as part of a healthy diet.

Starchy carbohydrates are sometimes called complex carbohydrates. Examples of foods with lots of starchy carbs include legumes, brown rice, unripe bananas, and most grains that are served whole. They may also be called resistant carbohydrates because the body digests them in a different way than other carbs.

While ingesting simple carbohydrates like white flour or sugar tends to raise the blood sugar levels quickly and dramatically, the starchy type is associated with a much lower rise in blood sugar. They are also digested much more slowly and tend to reach the small intestine before being completely digested.

In the small intestine, these substances stimulate the “good” bacterial flora of the gut and promote digestion of all food. They also seem to help the body more readily absorb minerals and tend to keep one feeling full for longer periods of time.

Some starchy carbohydrates, like oatmeal, have been shown to lower total cholesterol levels, especially low-density lipoproteins (LDLs), which are considered the “bad cholesterol,” and are associated with higher risk for heart disease. They also seem to help raise high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), which are associated with decreased risk for heart disease.

Diabetics can consume these carbs because they do not significantly raise glucose levels. They are also considered to be good for dieters because they cut down on fat storage of meals consumed. Additionally, they are excellent for maintaining regularity in bowel movements and may help those with constipation or with diarrhea have a more regular bowel movement process.

Some research suggests that they may also be helpful in improving overall mood and in promoting good sleep. They tend to raise tryptophan levels in the body. Tryptophan directly stimulates the production of serotonin. Low serotonin levels are symptomatic of both depression and anxiety.

This greater production of serotonin may help those with mood disorders, and may prove particularly helpful for those who have occasional drops in mood as with pre-menstrual syndrome. Consuming starchy carbohydrates during a bout of the pre-menstrual blues may indirectly help improve mood.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By surreallife — On May 06, 2008

About 40 percent of energy should come from complex carbohydrates. So on a 2000 calorie diet about 250 grams should be in the form of starchy carbohydrates. Beans, lentils, fruits, oats are all good sources of carbs.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGEEK contributor, Tricia...
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