Food starch comes in diverse forms, from diverse sources and can serve diverse purposes. It may, for instance, be modified or instant. It may originate from such foods as wheat, corn or potato. It may serve as a food thickener, binder and stabilizer. Regardless of its form, source or use, food starch is essentially a type of carbohydrate.
A starch is a kind of complex carbohydrate. Also known as polysaccharide, a complex carbohydrate contains a long string of sugar units, particularly glucose. Because starches are insoluble in water, plants produce starches to store excess glucose. Unlike simple sugars, which quickly become available for your body's use once eaten, starches require digestion. Your body must first break them down into simple sugars before using them for energy production.
The term food starch refers to any starch made from a food source or used as an ingredient in a food. Potatoes and other vegetables are common sources of food starch, as well as corn, wheat, rice and other grains. When heated, starch converts into a paste, which makes it a popular thickener and binder in food items. According to ResistantStarch.com, some starches can also add fiber content to your diet.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Compliance Policy Guide on starch states that, unless the starch in a food is made from corn, the manufacturer must clearly designate the type of starch used. Thus, if a food contains only cornstarch, its label may simply read "starch." The FDA Code of Federal Regulations additionally requires manufacturers using modified food starch to designate the additive used to treat the starch.
Instant vs. Modified Food Starch
Starches can be difficult to digest. Therefore, many food manufacturers modify them by treating them with an acid or other chemicals to facilitate breakdown in your body. Manufacturers may also preheat certain starches to gelatinize them and subsequently dry them. These latter starches become water-soluble and are considered instant starches.
Resistant starch naturally occurs in many whole foods, including cold rice, legumes and unprocessed grains. Resistant starch is so named because, like soluble and insoluble fiber, it doesn't undergo digestion in your small intestine. Instead, it travels to your large bowel, where it ferments, promoting digestive health. It also helps with blood sugar control and promotes fatty acid production.
- Food and Drug Administration Compliance Policy Guides 578.100: Starches - Common or Usual Names
- Food and Drug Administration: Food Additives Permitted For Direct Addition To Food For Human Consumption
- Journal Of AOAC International: Resistant Starch: Metabolic Effects And Potential Health Benefits; J.A. Higgins; May-June 2004
- Oregon State University College Of Health And Human Sciences: Starch, Acid Modified Starch, Pregelatinized Starch, Unmodified Starch
- Kimball's Biology Pages; Carbohydrates
- ResistantStarch.com: About Resistant Starch
- Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.