How to Eat your Carbs

Non-Starchy vs. Starchy Vegetables

Our American diet focuses heavily on starchy foods: bread, breakfast cereal, pasta, rice, oats, and my favorite - french fries!

We eat too much of it. All this starch - no matter if it's whole grain or refined - gets converted to sugar in the body.

Too much sugar binds to our body's moving parts, most painfully the collagen in our joints. Sugar also binds to the protein in our cell membranes, aging them and literally shutting them down. Hello inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, digestive issues, acne, brain fog, and low energy.

That doesn't mean that all starch is bad. There are plenty of starchy vegetables and whole grains packed with minerals, vitamins, fiber and phytonutrients. 

However, portion sizes are crucial - especially if you're trying to lose weight. 

Here are general recommendations: 

  • Ideally, about 75% of your carb intake should come from non-starchy veggies plus low-glycemic fruits.
  • Eat starchy veggies in moderation. A good guideline is to keep to one meal a day, taking up 1/4 space on your plate or one cup's worth.
  • Enjoy carbs with high quality protein, fiber, or anti-inflammatory fat to help buffer the carbs sugar load.
  • Eat your clean carb rainbow. Different colors pack their own nutritional values. 

Clean Carb Shopping List

Low starch vegetables:

  • Green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, Asian greens, cabbage)
  • Salad greens (rocket, lettuce, watercress)
  • Cucumber
  • Fennel
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Peppers
  • Sprouts
  • Tomato
  • Eggplant
  • Celery
  • Zucchini
  • Leek
  • Onion
  • Green beans
  • Asparagus
  • Mushrooms
  • Seaweed: Kombu, nori, hijiki, and wakame are all high in minerals, protein, and healing compounds

As mentioned earlier, not all starch is unhealthy. Enjoy starchy veggies, whole grains, legumes and low-glycemic fruit in moderation. Here's a list for you to go by. 

Starchy Veggies

  • Beets
  • Carrots
  • Corn
  • Green Peas
  • Parsnips
  • Plantain
  • Pumpkin
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Taro
  • White Potatoes
  • Winter Squash

Gluten Free Whole grains & Legumes

  • Brown, black, and red rice; quinoa; amaranth; buckwheat; and teff. 
  • Legumes: Try red, French or regular lentils; chickpeas; green and yellow split peas; soybeans (edamame is a great snack); pinto, adzuki, black, navy, and other beans.

Low Glycemic Fruit

  • Avocado: yes it is a fruit!
  • Stone fruit: Plums, peaches, and nectarines
  • Dark berries. Blueberries, cherries, blackberries, and raspberries


References for this blog post: 
Food Rules by Catherine Shanahan, MD
Mark Hyman, MD aka my clean carb guru
Photo credit: Rue Now