Ditch the Fear of “Starch”
When I mention starch, what comes to mind? Maybe complex carbohydrates is another term one can use. Maybe you think of bread, potatoes, rice, pasta, etc.
What if I told you that all of these foods are starch:
-Whole Grains: barley, oats, brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat, rye, bulgur, couscous, wheat berries, corn, wild rice, millet and triticale
-Unrefined Flours: barley, rice, buckwheat, rye, corn, soy, chickpea, triticale, lima bean, wheat, oat, whole wheat pastry, potato
-Egg-free Pasta: artichoke pasta, tomato pasta, corn pasta, whole wheat pasta, rice pasta, spinach pasta, bean pasta, lentil pasta
-Asian Noodles: bean threads, somen, buckwheat, soba, udon, rice noodles
-Roots: burdock, sweet potatoes, celeriac, tapioca, sunchoke, taro root, jicama, water chestnuts, parsnips, white potatoes, rutabaga, yams (carrots, beets, turnips, daikon and salsify are also starchy vegetables, but not staples)
-Winter Squashes: butternut, acorn, Hubbard, banana, pumpkin, buttercup, turban
Beans: aduki, red kidney, black, mung, fava, navy, chickpea, pink, great northern, pinto, lima, cannellini (soy has too much fat content to be a staple)
Lentils: brown, red, green (I also use black beluga lentils)
Peas: black-eyed, split yellow, split green, whole green
And what if I told you that the above listed foods should be the center of your diet, making up 60-80% or even 90% of your total calorie intake daily?
Many people think that these foods make people fat. They tend to avoid these foods, and opt for what is usually called High-Fat, High-Protein, Low-Carb diets. For people consuming animal products, this means they will eat more flesh foods, more green and yellow non-starchy vegetables, maybe some fruits and nuts and seeds, and very little, if any “carbohydrates” which they consider to be all starchy foods, as well as refined, processed carbohydrates, such as white flour products, sugar, etc.
For people not eating animal products, this can mean two things: 1) They will eat processed vegetarian or vegan products, such as isolated soy protein products in “fake meat”, and non-dairy cheeses and plenty of yellow and green non-starchy vegetables, and fruit, nuts and seeds (even the commercially made plant-milks), or 2) They will avoid processed foods, opting for a whole-food, plant-based diet, but will eat a base of green and yellow vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, and very little, if any starch foods.
The result of any of these modes of eating will be imbalance in the human body, which will lead to cravings, especially for sweet foods, and hunger that cannot be satisfied. Even nutrient-dense foods such as broccoli and kale cannot be a stable base for a human diet.
But people believe that starch will make them fat, so they avoid it.
Based on my own experience, I know that without starch, there is no stability. And based on my observations of others, whenever starch is minimalized or given up in the diet, the consequences are always cravings and hunger, leading to binging or sneaking “sweet foods”, or consuming alcoholic beverages (where you just drink your sugar). There is a yo-yo effect, that can be very damaging to one’s health.
In Chinese medicine, there is a recognition of this Cycle of Extremes. When one consumes too much protein, which is what will happen in the diets many people opt for when starch is not at the center, the body will crave sugar because sugar balances protein, and vice versa. Starches in their whole forms are considered “full sweet” food sources. They provide the right amount of protein for the human body, a gradual, regulated release of energy through the breakdown of the starch into glucose, and plenty of other minerals, vitamins, and beneficial compounds. The gradual release of energy regulates insulin production, as well. They also provide the beneficial essential fatty acids that the body requires to function.
Non-starchy vegetables are beneficial, but should be treated more like supplements. They can be added to supplement the diet, to add more beneficial nutrients, but they cannot sustain a human body alone.
Another important note is that all foods have properties, in their raw and cooked forms, such as being warming or cooling or neutral. However, I have found in my research and experience that the starch foods, for the most part, tend to have neutral natures, meaning they are beneficial for anyone, whether they show signs of excess, deficiency, heat or cold. Oats and rice are two examples that seem to be acceptable no matter what constitution a person has. Non-starchy vegetables and fruits have polarizing properties that need to be taken into consideration if a person is suffering from disease.
In general, if one eats a diet centered around starch, and can supplement meals with non-starchy vegetables, can snack on fruits, and eat only small amounts of nuts and seeds, it seems that no matter what one’s state of health is, the body ends up getting what it needs to function, will begin the process of healing itself without impediment (by which I mean the harmful foods are removed from the diet), and long-term health results will be the consequence.
If someone is suffering more due to more damage in the body from toxins and toxic by-products, then non-starchy vegetables and certain fruits can be increased to help with detoxification. However, sometimes it is best to detox gradually, so sticking to the diet centered on starch while adding in other vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, could still be the best way to go.
Your body needs glucose. It is the primary source of energy. Your brain thrives on glucose. Starch foods provide a slow-release of glucose that is beneficial in keeping stable blood-sugar levels. Starch provides adequate protein, without excess. Excess protein leads to the leaching of calcium from the bones in the body to balance the acidity caused by the excess protein, and this calcium then leads to the formation of kidney stones. This includes excess protein from plant sources, especially isolated soy protein in fake meat products, but also in an over-consumption of green vegetables. The body only needs 5% of calories to be from protein. Protein needs to be balanced by sugar. Why get complicated with it, when all one has to do is consume starches as a base in the diet...and you get the amounts your body needs of protein and sugar?
Another point to think about is how green vegetables, such as those in the cruciferous family, as beneficial as they are nutrient-wise, are also bioaccumulators. This is also true of wild green edibles, such as dandelion and plantain. There are warnings not to gather wild edibles in contaminated sites, because these plants are so good at pulling toxins out of the soil. If the soil is contaminated, even if the produce is grown organically, the plants will accumulate those toxins.
Plants are still lowest on the bioaccumulation ladder, and are still safer to eat than animal products, which have very high concentrations of chemical pollutants and heavy metals.
However, the point is that diet doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. If the base of your diet is rice, find a good source of brown rice, and stick to that. Or potatoes, and you find a good source of potatoes, and then you can supplement with whatever other vegetables and fruits are available. Oats are amazingly versatile and very satisfying and stabilizing. A family can easily be fed on a diet that is so simple and inexpensive. But the best part is how much health can be gained, how much peace of mind, and sense of security. And another wonderful aspect is, knowing that this diet benefits health, costs little, and is very simple, it can be so easy to implement right away, and so easy to sustain, that should people adopt this way of eating, we could quickly benefit the environment.
For anyone who is interested, give this diet a try for two weeks and see how you feel. Treat it like an experiment. Keep a journal and note daily what you eat and any changes you might notice. If you feel good, why not keep going for another two weeks, and just go at that pace, taking stock of changes along the way.
For more about diet and health, you can read my articles: Ditch the Disease and Ditch the Diabetes. You can also look at my Whole Food Nutrition Section and find links to other resources online, as well informational videos.
Here is a link to a good article about Broccoli and Kale from Dr. McDougall:
Here an excerpt from that article:
“A Starch-based Diet Is Healthful and Sustainable
A diet made up mostly of starchy vegetables and grains provides the abundant energy and balanced nutrition humans require. (As most readers of the McDougall philosophy already know:) All large populations of trim, healthy, athletic-competing, war-fighting people throughout verifiable human history have obtained the bulk of their calories from high-carbohydrate foods (starches). Examples of thriving populations include the Japanese, Chinese, and other Asians, who eat sweet potatoes, buckwheat, and/or rice; Incas in South America who eat potatoes; Mayans and Aztecs in Central America who eat corn; and Egyptians in the Middle East who eat wheat.
A diet of mostly nutrient-dense superfoods is unrealistic for both humans and the Planet. The financial cost difference between choosing calories from starchy and non-starchy sources is budget-breaking. The raw ingredients for a 1000-calorie meal plan based on beans, corn, potatoes, and/or rice is about 20 cents (US dollars). A "1000-calorie meal plan" as broccoli or kale is about 3 dollars. (People typically eat 1500 to 3000 calories daily.) In the global sense, calories from non-starchy vegetables are also too difficult and expensive to grow. Broccoli and kale could not feed seven billion people, either directly or through livestock. Furthermore, these green vegetables are highly perishable, failing again to provide a reliable and sustainable food source for humankind.
Starches, like beans, corn, potatoes, and rice are high-yield, inexpensive to produce, and can be stored for decades for later use. Thus, these conventional foods, not greens, are the bulk of the natural human diet. Dieters should not forgo bread and potatoes for platefuls of kale, nor should they force down Brussels sprouts rather than enjoy rice and beans. Make micronutrient-dense "green vegetables" side dishes rather than main dishes, as they provide color and flavor, and their various repugnant chemicals boost our defenses against common diseases. “
-Dr. McDougall Newsletter August 2015