Starches

Starches are complex carbohydrates.  They are also known as polysaccharides.  Polysaccharides are made up of many simple sugars (glucose) joined together.  The most important starches are:

  • Starch is the main food store in plants. It is made up of many molecules of glucose. Starch exists in granules of a size and shapes distinctive to each plant.
  • Pectin is found naturally in some fruits. It forms gels in water and helps jams to set. It is not fibrous but it is thought to help to reduce the amount of cholesterol in the blood.
  • Glycogen is made from glucose by humans. Small amounts are stored in the liver and muscles as an energy reserve.

Sources of starch in the diet: Good sources of starchy foods include root vegetables, cereals and cereal products.  Starches account t for almost 60 per cent of the total carbohydrate intake in the average British diet.

Excess and deficiency of sugars and starches: Eating too much sugar is bad for us.  A diet rich in sugar will cause tooth decay and a gain in weight.  Research suggests that people eat more sugar than they should.  A lack of carbohydrate in the diet is unusual.  Some people choose to follow diets that reduce the amount of carbohydrates they eat.  The aim of a low sugar diet may be to lose weight and reduce the effects of too much sugar.

The dietary reference value for sugars and starches:  High intakes of free sugars have been linked to tooth decay and obesity.  Free sugars need to be reduced in the diet and should be restricted to providing 5 per cent of daily energy (calorie) requirements.  This is about 30g of sugar a day for those aged 11 and over.  Currently, all population groups exceed this recommendation.  Teenagers’ intakes are the highest of all groups and they consume 50 per cent more sugar on average than is currently recommended.

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