What is Starch?
by Professor Jay
Starch is a carbohydrate. The 3 major dietary carbohydrates are sugar, fiber, and starch. Some of the most common sugars, also known as simple sugars, include glucose, fructose, sucrose, and lactose.
Fiber is made from the sugar, glucose. We do not have enzymes that can break down fiber so we cannot directly access the glucose. But, the plethora of health benefits that fiber provides makes it absolutely necessary that we include it in our diets.
That brings us to starch. Specifically, starch is a polymer of glucose. A polymer is a substance made up of repeating units of the same thing. So starch is just a bunch of glucose molecules linked together. Basically, it is just an organized way for plants to store and access the energy in glucose. Animals, such as us, store glucose in a similar way except we call it glycogen. We store glycogen in muscle and liver cells. When our muscle cells need glucose they break down stored glycogen to yield free glucose that they use for energy. When our blood sugar levels get low our liver can break down glycogen and release free glucose molecules into the blood to help raise blood sugar levels.
So obviously since plants store starch, we get starch from eating plants. We often refer to starch as a complex carbohydrate. Examples of foods high in starch are potatoes, wheat, corn, and rice. Let’s take a closer look at the starch in wheat. The difference between white bread and whole wheat bread (which are both made from wheat) does not lie in the starch that they contain, as both contain the starchy part of the grain, i.e. endosperm. Instead, the difference is that whole wheat bread contain the entire grain (as the name “whole” implies) which contains fiber and other nutritious substances. White bread, therefore, is essentially starch, i.e. a bunch of sugar. This is why it is very important to eat whole grain wheat products and not wheat products where just the starch is used, such as white rice, white bread, and white potatoes. This is exactly why ABCD Healthy™ requires “C” to be a whole grain.
I hope this gives you a better understanding of the carbohydrate, starch.
For more on sugars, see my post Understanding Dietary Sugars.
For more on fiber, see my post Fiber – A Real Miracle Health Substance.