The Eatwell Guide recommendations – Potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy carbohydrates

This type of food provides the body with energy:

  • Base a meal on potatoes, bread, rice, pasta or other starchy carbohydrates; choosing wholegrain versions where possible
  • This includes whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, or simply leaving the skins on potatoes
  • Wholegrain food contains more fibre than white or refined starchy food, and often more of other nutrients too

Complex Carbohydrates
These are known as Starchy foods and are an important source of nutrients in our diet. Although it’s often suggested that starchy foods are fattening, each gram of carbohydrate provides less than half as many calories as a gram of fat.

Approximately one-third of our total daily food intake should be from these foods. Try to include them at every meal by basing your meals on starchy foods such as potatoes, breads, pasta, rice, noodles or cereals (more examples below). Choose high fibre or whole grain varieties as much as possible as these usually contain more fibre, vitamins and minerals.

For example, you could try:

  • Wholegrain breakfast cereal
  • Wholemeal bread
  • Whole-wheat pasta
  • Keep the skin on potatoes

Starchy foods, especially whole grains, and potatoes with the skins on provide fibre. There are two types of fibre:

  • Insoluble fibre which passes through the gut intact and helps to increase stool bulk (whole grains and potatoes with skin are a good source)
  • Soluble fibre which is fermented by bacteria in the large intestine and may help to lower blood cholesterol (found in oats for example)

Data from National Surveys, which looks at the foods we eat in the UK, has highlighted that we need to eat more fibre. It is recommended we have 30g of dietary fibre each day. On average, in the UK, adults aged 19-64 are having only 18.6g and adults aged 65 and over are having only 17.8g per day

Good examples of starchy carbohydrates;

  • Rice, pasta, noodles, couscous, bulgur wheat, millet, sorghum, quinoa, cornmeal, oats, barley and rye
  • Bread and bread products including rolls, pitta, focaccia, chapatis, bagels, baguettes, ciabatta, pizza base, roti and tortillas
  • Potatoes and potato products (including baked, boiled and mashed potatoes, oven chips and potato gnocchi)
  • Yams, cassava and plantain, other root vegetables like sweet potatoes, parsnips and turnips count as vegetables

Starchy foods can provide:

  • Fibre – helps to maintain normal bowel function
  • B Vitamins – for example, thiamine which helps the body use the energy from the carbohydrates we eat
  • Iron – required by red blood cells which transport oxygen around the body
  • Calcium – to help develop and maintain healthy bones and teeth
  • Folate – needed for the formation of healthy red blood cells and the nervous system
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