Starchy Foods and Diabetes

Starchy Foods and Diabetes

What are Starchy Foods?

Starchy foods are often thought to be the only type of carbohydrates. While this may seem quite misleading, they belong under a class of food called carbohydrates. There are different types of  carbohydrates which include starch, sugar and fiber.

Carbohydrates generally (starch, fiber, sugar) have the greatest impact on blood sugar compared to other macronutrients like fat and protein. Hence, it is wise to make healthy carbohydrate choices.

So what type of Carbohydrates should I eat?

Eating starchy carbohydrates should be part of a healthy diet, given you are adhering to appropriate portion sizes. However, different types of carbohydrates also have different impacts on blood sugar as well.

Starchy foods are a group of complex carbohydrates, they have more than two units of sugar linked together. This type of carbohydrates are usually slowly digested and they release sugar into the bloodstream slower.  It is ideal to go for minimally processed complex carbohydrates like e.g whole grain bread, brown rice, pasta, acha, potato with skin etc because they also contain fiber, vitamins and minerals that prevent micronutrient deficiencies.

Other types of carbohydrate are fiber and sugar.

Fiber is also a group of carbohydrates which are found in plant walls known as non-starchy polysaccharides, they are found in plant based foods, fruits and intact grains. We cannot digest them but they are also a major component of carbohydrates. Some examples that come to mind are non-starchy vegetables spinach, okro, bitterleaf, utazi leaf, oatmeal, apple, pears. This group of carbohydrates help in controlling blood sugar levels however, fruits and grains would require portions while working with your diabetes team.

Sugar: They are a group of simple sugars that have one unit of sugar. There are natural sugars (fruits, milk ) and added sugars (soda, table sugar, honey, candies, molasses). This class of carbohydrates raises blood sugar and has been related to many diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cancer etc.

How much should I eat?

Now, the difference between starches and carbohydrates is clear. The first step in knowing how much to eat is to get familiar with the diabetic plate method to start implementing portion control to your meals.

Diabetes Plate Method
  • Keep ½ of your plate full with non- starchy vegetables.
  • Keep ¼ of your plate with lean protein.
  • Keep ¼ of your plate with carbohydrates.

Focus more on making healthier carbohydrate choices like complex carbohydrates and fiber. Limit simple sugars as much as possible unless in cases of low blood sugar.

For more on carb choices, portion control, speak with your dietician to help you personalize your plate. Join our community


American Diabetic Association

British Dietetic Association fact sheet

National Health Service UK