Starchy Carbs vs Non-Starchy Carbs – what’s the difference?

The #1 thing that has helped me in my weight loss journey and balancing hormones has been reducing my starch intake on a keto diet. 

I believe that everyone in general benefits from eating fewer starches. While they can be nutritious and give us an energy spike, it’s not good to eat too many, particularly while trying to lose weight. 

Read on to understand the difference between carbs and starches, and how you can eat a non-starchy diet for better weight loss and improved hormone symptoms.

What is a starchy carb?

Starch is a natural component of most plants and is the most common type of carbohydrate, often referred to as complex carbs. It can be found in a range of foods including pasta, bread, and starchy vegetables. 

Starches have an important role in a healthy, balanced diet and are a big source of energy. They’re also super useful in the kitchen and often found in thickening agents for soups and sauces.

In general, starches are NOT bad! The benefits of starches are:

  • They provide nutrients
  • They can make us happy
  • They give us instant energy

However, eating more fat and protein on the Keto Girl diet, and fewer starches (i.e. lower carbs) helps to increase fullness, promote consistent energy, and balance hormones – all while meeting our weight loss goals.

So, what is a starch vs. a non-starch?

Starchy carbs

In general, I classify a starch as >15g NET carbs (total carbs – fiber = net carbs). This is about the serving size of your hand, as pictured above, or about 1/2 cup cooked. 

Starchy carbs include:

  • Bread (whole wheat, multi-grain, corn, white, rye, etc.)
  • Bagel
  • Rice
  • Tortilla
  • Pasta
  • Cereal
  • Flour (whole wheat, corn meal, white, rye, etc.)
  • Quinoa
  • Oatmeal
  • Bulgar
  • Barley
  • Farro

One serving of starchy veggies is the size of your hand, or about 1-2 cups cooked. Other starches that are vegetables and legumes include:

  • Corn
  • Pumpkin
  • Parsnip
  • Potato
  • Butternut squash
  • Chickpeas
  • Peas
  • Sweet potato
  • Taro
  • Yam
  • Beans, lentils, black-eyed peas

starchy vs non starchy vegetables blog photo

Non-Starchy Carbs

Non-starchy carbohydrates are lower in calories and carbohydrates, allowing you to eat more. They are typically vegetables that are loaded with fiber and essential vitamins, an essential part of a healthy diet.

Non-starchy carbs are also packed full of water (about 90-95%), which is great for keeping you hydrated. I recommend about 1-2 cups of non-starchy veggies at meals.

Non-starchy carbs include:

  • Artichoke hearts
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Bell pepper
  • Broccoli
  • Beets
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cabbage
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Eggplant
  • Green beans
  • Kale
  • Lettuce
  • Mushrooms
  • Peppers
  • Salad greens
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • And so much more!

The Keto Girl diet and starch

Many women with PCOS, Hypothyroidism, and Hashimoto’s do well to opt for gluten-free starches on keto. This is because gluten is an inflammatory food that can be thought to trigger a thyroid attack, keeping the body in a state of ‘battle mode’ and oversensitivity. 

Removing gluten from your diet will help you to lose weight AND reduce symptoms including cramps, fatigue, and bloating.

Gluten-free starches include:

  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Oats (labelled gluten-free)
  • Quinoa
  • Cassava
  • Corn
  • Buckwheat
  • Beans and lentils
  • Pumpkin

Keto starch alternatives

While you don’t have to fully cut out gluten-free starches on a Keto Girl diet, you may benefit from reducing the proportion of starches compared to protein and healthy fats. 

The keto diet involves cutting all carbohydrates from your diet to encourage weight loss. If you eat too much starch, your blood sugar and insulin won’t drop enough for your body to enter fat-burning mode.

For the keto diet to be effective, you really need to limit starches, or at least stick to low-starch carbs such as root or green veggies to make sure you get those all-important vitamins and minerals.

To go completely starch-free, replace starchy ingredients in meals with keto-approved alternatives such as:

  • Coconut and almond flour
  • Cauliflower (to replace rice)
  • Chia seed and flax seed
  • Xanthan gum to replace cornstarch and thickening agents
  • Veggie pasta alternatives such as spaghetti squash and zucchini noodles

Get a tailored diet plan with Keto Girl

Struggling to lose weight AND keep it off? You’re not alone. So many of my clients come to me with uncomfortable symptoms, uncontrollable weight gain, and a lack of motivation. But I’ve got you!

My Keto Girl Method is a simple program that will help you to lose weight healthily while eating the foods you love. You’ll get coaching calls, weekly meal plans, and a step-by-step plan to help you eat better and optimize your metabolism.

Take my carb sensitivity quiz to get started and see if you’d benefit from limiting your starches and overall carb intake!