Starch and It’s Stiff Reputation.

The question asked is a two part question: “Don’t starches break down into sugar and then turn to fat? And is their conversion to sugar the reason a diabetic can’t eat potatoes?”

Well, I’ll first address the question regarding the break down of carbohydrates. First off- the terms starch and carbohydrate are not synonymous terms (for those that may not know this). A little background on these molecules is probably required to really understand this but Ill keep it short and sweet. Carbohydrate is very much an umbrella term referring to monosaccharides, disaccharides and polysaccharides(all organic CHO molecules). Starch is a polysaccharide, the worlds most abundant one next to cellulose I believe. Both are made by plants via photosynthesis, and therefore starch molecules are found all over the place. Your body breaks down starch twice. First in the mouth by way of the salivary enzyme amylase and then again in the small intestine by use of pancreatic amylase. Since its broken down twice, it is actually a fantastic way to provide the body with sustained fuel and a glucose source. Glucose, believe it or not, is your very best friend. Not a single cell on the whole planet could live with out it. Cells are such busy busy little buggers and with out glucose they would cease to function. Some cells, however, require a escort to allow the glucose in – ENTER INSULIN. Insulin is simply a protein, as all hormones are. This one is secreted by the pancreas when it senses that the body might be getting fed. Another interesting nugget: Studies now are showing that your pancreas might get super excited when you just smell something delicious. Through your olfactory nerves, signals are shot all over the place and ultimately, your pancreas begins to prep. This is why you might suddenly become hungry when you smell food- even though you weren’t hungry before. Back to the big picture, the cells. Once the glucose has been removed from the blood and sent into the cells, it begins the real show. That’s where all the action takes place and various other molecules (such as ATP for example) are created to provide your body with energy, allow muscles to contract, energy storage takes place etc. Other cells, such as brain cells, do not require the escorting services of insulin. As I mentioned in previous blogs- your brain loooooooves glucose from easy to reach carbs and that’s how it primarily functions. So to wrap around to the point. Starches are GREAT for this reason: being a polysaccharide and having the ability to be broken down twice allows them to provide your body with more of the real yummy stuff- glucose. All of that being said, I can answer the first question. Yes- starch is broken down into glucose but that’s a good thing! Don’t necessarily think “sugar” because there are many different kinds of sugar and they are not equal. Yes if there is too much in the diet it will be stored as fat but that’s true for anything you eat! All of the macro-nutrients with the exception of water (carbs, fat, and protein) can and will be stored as fat if your body had no other use for them. Even excess proteins will be sent to fat cells for storage if their amino acids cant be recycled.

Now to address the issue regarding why a diabetic shouldn’t eat potatoes. They can actually, especially is they focus on the skin which is full of fiber and add a fat which slows the absorption of glucose into the blood. A potato is actually a complex carbohydrate but the reason they have a higher glycemic index is because their starch molecules are not tightly bound to the other molecules of the food. A potato actually has a very high percentage of water so the glucose jumps right off and enters the blood stream quickly and thats why a diabetic must be careful whenand if they consume them.

Hope that clears it up in a very round about way.



One Response

  1. Don’t forget to write about bread, Casie!!!

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