MyPlate Exploration: Starchy Vegetables

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Collection of Starchy VegetablesIt's that special time again!

What time? Time for the next installment of the MyPlate Exploration Series! You can find the previous installments here...

Phew! Now that we've covered the past posts, lets take a closer look at the next MyPlate vegetable subgroup: starchy vegetables.

What's in the Starchy Vegetable Group?

MyPlate has listed the following veggies as part of the starchy vegetable group...

  • TaroCassava
  • Corn
  • Fresh Cowpeas (a.k.a. Field Peas or Black-Eyed Peas)
  • Green Bananas
  • Green Peas
  • Green Lima Beans
  • Plantains
  • Potatoes
  • Taro
  • Water Chestnuts

Some of these vegetables may be unfamiliar to your clients. Here are some quick descriptions of the more exotic ones...

  • Cassava is a starchy root that grows in the tropics. It's surprisingly calorie dense, and must be prepared correctly in order to be edible. The dried starch from cassava makes tapioca.
  • PlantainPlantains are related to bananas, though they are often starchier and less sweet. They grow primarily in tropical regions.
  • Taro is a pale purple tuber that originated in India and Southeast Asia. It isn't generally safe to eat raw, but is often cooked and mashed into a paste or sauce. It can also be roasted or boiled like a potato.
  • Water Chestnuts aren't actually nuts. They're corms of a plant that grows in very wet conditions, typically marshes or mud flats. They are crunchy, with a touch of sweetness, and are perfect for stir-fries or salads.

Finally, a note about peas and beans. The ones featured above are fresh, not dried, which makes them a part of the starchy vegetable group instead of the bean and pea vegetable/protein group.

What Nutrients Do These Vegetables Contain?*

You are not going to believe all the nutrients that these vegetables contain.

Green PeasEach and every vegetable listed in the starchy veggie subcategory contains potassium. Here's the breakdown, from highest to lowest potassium content...

  • Lima Beans: 21% daily value (DV)
  • Plantains: 21% DV
  • Water Chestnuts: 20% DV
  • Potatoes: 18% DV
  • Cowpeas: 18% DV
  • Taro: 18% DV
  • Cassava: 16% DV
  • Corn: 12% DV
  • Green Peas: 10% DV

The other nutrient that is featured in every member of the starchy vegetable subgroup is fiber. Now some starchy vegetables have more fiber than others, but all have at least 14% of the DV in a single cup. The top 3 veggies that contain the most fiber in this category are lima beans, green peas  and cowpeas, with 31%, 30%, and 29% DV of fiber, respectively.

CassavaMany starchy vegetables are also sources of manganese. Fresh lima beans lead the charge with 95% of the DV for manganese in a single serving, but cowpeas and cassava are also good sources, with roughly 40% of the DV in one small cup. Even green peas carry their weight in the manganese department, with a respectable 30% DV of manganese in a serving.

Speaking of large daily values, vitamin C makes itself known among starchy vegetables as well. Here's the rundown...

  • Green Peas: 97% DV
  • Cassava: 71% DV
  • Lima Beans: 61% DV
  • CornPotato: 50% DV
  • Plantains: 45% DV
  • Corn: 17% DV

The nutrient fun doesn't stop there! Many of these vegetables are also good sources of magnesium, thiamin, vitamin B6, folate, and niacin. What amazing veggies!

What are the Health Benefits Associated with Starchy Vegetables?

Let's start with a review. Vitamin C was also a big player in the Red and Orange Vegetable Subgroup, so we can begin with a rundown of its health benefits. As we mentioned before, vitamin C helps your body absorb iron while improving the health of your teeth and gums. Plus, it promotes wound healing.

Did you know that vitamin C is an antioxidant too? It's true. Vitamin C can help your body protect itself from free radical damage. According to the National Library of Medicine, "Free radicals may play a role in cancer, heart disease, and conditions like arthritis," so it's very important that you get enough vitamin C in your diet to protect your health.

Green BananasThe review continues with the next big nutrient from the starchy vegetable group: potassium. Potassium is vital to a wide range of body functions, yet most Americans don't get enough of it in their diets each day. The U.S. National Library of Medicine asserts, "Your body needs potassium to: build proteins, break down and use carbohydrates, build muscle, maintain normal body growth, control the electrical activity of the heart, and control the acid-base balance."

Potassium is especially important to the health of your heart. The study Beneficial Effects of Potassium on Human Health revealed, "Much evidence shows that increasing potassium intake has beneficial effects on human health. Epidemiological and clinical studies show that a high-potassium diet lowers blood pressure in individuals with both raised blood pressure and average population blood pressure. Prospective cohort studies and outcome trials show that increasing potassium intake reduces cardiovascular disease mortality. This is mainly attributable to the blood pressure-lowering effect and may also be partially because of the direct effects of potassium on the cardiovascular system."

PotatoNow let's end the nutrient review portion with fiber, which was recently featured in the post 4 Tips for Healthful Cooking. According to MyPlate, "Dietary fiber [...] helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease. Fiber is important for proper bowel function. It helps reduce constipation and diverticulosis. Fiber-containing foods [...] help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories." Fiber is a health powerhouse, yet many people don't get anywhere near the daily recommended dose of fiber.

Now it's time to move on to a new nutrient that you can find in the starchy vegetable subgroup: manganese. Manganese is a mineral that could help strengthen bones and fight anemia. Your body does not make manganese, which means that you need to get it from the foods you eat. Too much manganese can be toxic, so keep your intake below 11 milligrams per day.

How Can I Make Starchy Vegetables a Part of My Diet?

Water ChestnutAs always, this is my favorite part. How can you fit starchy vegetables into your diet?

There are tons of ways!

Many of these starchy vegetables are super tasty when roasted, especially potatoes and taro. Top them with a little butter and nonfat plain Greek yogurt for a tasty side dish. Of course, simmering is also great. Toss sliced cassava, fresh green peas, or fresh cow peas into boiling water and cook until tender, tossing with a little oil and some fresh herbs for another fantastic side dish. Or use boiled fresh peas or beans to bulk up your next salad. Peas are great in stir-fries too, as are those water chestnuts.

Well, that's enough of generalities -- how about some specifics? Here are some of my favorite recipes that feature starchy vegetables...

Now it's time to bring our little rundown to a close. If you like the content we've been creating lately, then you'll love the Communicating Food for Health newsletter! It offers a collection of handouts, recipes, activity ideas, and research updates every month. If you'd like to get a free sample or sign up on the spot, do it today!

31 MyPlate Exploration: Starchy Vegetables
Monthly Nutrition Newsletter

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And I wouldn't leave you without a free handout! Get your copy of the Starchy Vegetables Handout today.

Starchy Vegetables Free Handout

* Data from Applies to 1 cup of raw vegetables.

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