If you are diabetic, it is important to know which kinds of vegetables are starchy and which vegetables are non-starchy. Starchy vegetables contain carbohydrates that can raise blood sugar levels, while non-starchy vegetables do not contain as many carbohydrates which eventually become glucose, also called blood sugar. Non-starchy vegetables can be a great source of nutrition for not only diabetics but for everyone else too. They are low in starch and calories, making them a good choice if you are trying to lose weight or manage your blood sugar levels. In this article, we will discuss the nutritional value of non-starchy vegetables, as well as some of the best choices for your diet, and also provide tips on how to prepare and enjoy these healthy vegetables too.
What is starch?
Starch is a type of carbohydrate that is found in many foods and it is made up of smaller sugar molecules called glucose, which your body uses for energy. When you eat foods that contain starch, your digestive system breaks down the starch into glucose and absorbs it into your bloodstream. There are three types of carbohydrates, starch, sugar, and fiber. Starch, along with fiber, is considered a complex carbohydrate because it takes your body longer to break down and convert into glucose due to its larger molecular structure.
Why do diabetics eat non-starchy vegetables?
diabetes, also called diabetes mellitus, is a chronic disease that occurs when there is too much glucose, or sugar, in your blood. Your body either does not produce enough insulin to process the sugar, which is type 1 diabetes, or your cells are resistant to the hormone insulin and cannot use it properly, which is called insulin resistance and is present in type 2 diabetes. If you have diabetes, you need to be careful about the amount of starch you eat because it can cause your blood sugar levels to rise. That’s why diabetics are often advised to eat non-starchy vegetables, which have a lower starch content than starchy vegetables. Either way, eating foods high in complex carbohydrates like non-starchy vegetables helps to regulate blood sugar levels by providing a slow and steady release of glucose into your bloodstream.
What is the nutritional value of non-starchy vegetables?
Non-starchy vegetables are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They are low in calories and fat, and they do not contain any cholesterol. Vegetables can be a good source of vitamin A and vitamin C, as well as folate, potassium, and magnesium. They are also a good source of fiber content, which helps to regulate blood sugar levels and promotes digestive health. These vegetables are also a good source of antioxidants, which help to protect your cells from damage by free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and lead to inflammation, which is a major factor in the development of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.
According to the University of Michigan Comprehensive Diabetes Center one serving of non-starchy vegetables includes a ½ cup of cooked vegetables or 1 cup of raw vegetables and have the following approximate nutritional value:
- Calories: 25
- Total Fat: 0g
- Total Carbohydrates: 5g (dietary fiber 1-4g)
- Protein: 2g
What is the difference between starchy and non-starchy vegetables?
The main difference between starchy vegetables and non-starchy vegetables is their starch content. Starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, corn, and peas, contain more starch than non-starchy vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables, such as leafy greens, broccoli, and tomatoes, have a lower starch content which means that they are less likely to cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Both have similar nutritional values except starchy foods are usually higher in starchy carbohydrates and calories which can be a problem if you have diabetes or are trying to lose weight.
Which non-starchy vegetables are best to purchase?
When you shop for non-starchy vegetables, look for fresh vegetables or frozen vegetables that are in season. Seasonal vegetables are usually less expensive and have more flavor than out-of-season vegetables. You can also find non-starchy vegetables that are organic, which means they were grown without the use of pesticides or other chemicals. If you can’t find fresh or frozen non-starchy vegetables, look for canned vegetables that are labeled “low sodium” or “no salt added.”
What are some non-starchy vegetables?
Some common non-starchy vegetables include:
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Amaranth or Chinese spinach
- Artichokes and artichoke hearts
- Bamboo shoots
- Beans (green, Italian, yellow, or wax)
- Bean sprouts
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Chinese cabbage
- Chinese spinach
- Green onions
- Greens (beet or collard greens, dandelion, kale, mustard, turnip)
- Hearts of palm
- Herbs (parsley, cilantro, basil, rosemary, thyme, etc.)
- Lettuce (endive, escarole, romaine, or iceberg)
- Peppers (green, red, yellow, orange, jalapeño)
- Snow peas or pea pods
- Squash (cushaw, summer, crookneck, spaghetti, zucchini)
- Sugar snap peas
- Swiss chard
- Water chestnuts
- Yard-long beans
How can I prepare my non-starchy vegetables?
When you’re ready to cook your non-starchy vegetables, wash them thoroughly under running water. Cut off any bruised or damaged parts of the vegetable. If you’re using fresh herbs, remove the stems and chop the leaves. If you’re using frozen vegetables, thaw them in the refrigerator or in a bowl of cold water. Once your vegetables are prepared, you can cook them in a variety of ways including:
Sautéing involves cooking food in a small amount of oil, preferably olive oil or canola oil, over high heat and is a quick way to cook vegetables in a skillet or wok.
Roasting in the oven
Roasting involves cooking food in the oven at a high temperature is a good way to cook vegetables and does not require much effort. After washing and preparing your non-starchy veggies, simply place them on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt, pepper, and your favorite herbs.
Steaming is a quick and healthy way to cook vegetables. It helps to preserve the nutrients in the food while still cooking it thoroughly. To steam non-starchy vegetables, simply place them in a steamer basket over boiling water and cover. The steam will cook the vegetables while they retain their nutrients.
Blanching is a cooking method that involves boiling food for a short period of time and then submerging it in ice water and is often used to cook vegetables prior to freezing them. To blanch non-starchy vegetables, simply boil them for two to three minutes and then place them in a bowl of ice water. Placing them in cold water will stop the cooking process and help to preserve the color and nutrients in the vegetables.
As you can see, there are many different ways to cook non-starchy vegetables. Please note that it is not as healthy to simply boil vegetables for a long time as much of the nutrients are lost to the water. Also, avoid adding fatty dressings or toppings like butter or salad dressings as they will increase calories and are not healthy. Choose whichever method you prefer and enjoy your healthy meal. You also can always experiment with different cooking methods to find the one that you like best.
Non-starchy vegetables are a great addition to any healthy diet but are particularly healthy if you are trying to lose weight or have diabetes. They have several health benefits as they are low in calories and carbohydrates, and high in nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Non-starchy vegetables can be enjoyed cooked or raw, and there are many different ways to prepare them depending on your personal preferences. If you have any more questions regarding non-starchy vegetables or your diet, please talk to your doctor, dietician, or health care provider.
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Diabetic.org is devoted to producing expert and accurate articles and information for our readers by hiring experts, journalists, medical professionals, and our growing Diabetic.org community. We encourage you to read more about our content, editing, and fact checking methods here. This was fact checked by Erik Rivera and medically reviewed by Dr. Angel Rivera.
Owner, entrepreneur, and consumer health enthusiast.