We all know that vegetables are healthy for us, but have you ever heard of non-starchy vs. starchy vegetables and thought to yourself, ‘what are non-starchy vegetables?’
Let’s go on to learn what non-starchy vegetables are, why they are good for the body, and the complete list of them.
What are non-starchy vegetables?
There are two categories of vegetables, including starchy veggies as well as non-starchy veggies.
The key difference between them is the total content of starch. So let’s first begin by understanding what starch is.
Starch is the main type of carbohydrate that you consume and is often referred to as a complex carb. Starches include grains such as bread, rice, pasta, quinoa, and starchy vegetables. Starchy vegetables include beans, corn, hummus, peas, potatoes (sweet, white), and squash (acorn, butternut).
Starchy foods provide nutrients as well as immediate energy. Though they are satisfying to consume, they do not provide sustainable energy or make you feel full for very long if eaten without an added protein or fat.
Now that we understand what starch and starchy vegetables are, what about non-starchy vegetables?
Why are non-starchy vegetables good for the body?
Vegetables are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals and should make up the main portion of your diet. They add a lot of volume to meals and significantly boost your level of hydration, since they are comprised of 90-95% water.
Most starchy vegetables contain 2-3.5% fiber, which is critical to keep your digestion healthy, bowel movements regular, and overall health. When you consume proper amounts of fiber, you keep full and pull cholesterol away from your heart. ½ cup of non-starchy veggies have about 1.5-2.5 grams of fiber or 7-10% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI). So boost your diet and fiber intake with non-starchy vegetables.
Non-starchy vegetables, as well as starchy vegetables, contain vitamins and minerals such as folate, potassium, and vitamin K. They also contain vitamins C and E.
If you are watching your carb and calorie intake, non-starchy vegetables also contain fewer carbs and calories compared to starchy vegetables and they do not spike blood sugar levels.
In a ½ cup (70-90 grams) of non-starchy vegetables, there are only about 15-30 calories and 4-6 grams of carbs. So you can fill your plate with some of the best non-starchy vegetables, satisfy your appetite and boost your health. This is helpful for everyone, but especially beneficial if you are trying to lose weight or focus on your health.
Overall, if you eat a diet loaded with non-starchy vegetables, you can reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and obesity. Not to mention, non-starchy vegetables add crunch, flavor and color to your meals. So mix up what non-starchy vegetables you eat and have fun adding some color to your plate!
To help guide you towards the non-starchy vegetables, here is a list.
Non-starchy vegetables list
Beans (green, Italian)
Cabbage (green, bok choy)
Coleslaw (packaged, no dressing)
Greens (collard, kale)
Hearts of palm
Salad greens (chicory, endive, lettuce, romaine, spinach, arugula, radicchio)
Sugar snap peas
How to choose non-starchy vegetables
As with all foods, it is important to pay attention to how the foods are prepared. If possible, shop local and organic produce. The taste will be better, you can reduce your carbon footprint, and consume fewer pesticides.
It is best to choose fresh or frozen non-starchy vegetables.
If have a habit of not consuming produce while it’s fresh or even letting it spoil, consider frozen vegetables. Plus, frozen vegetables are pre-cut, washed and frozen at peak freshness.
You can also choose canned vegetables, though it is important to look for those without added sodium, fat or sugar.
If you are using canned vegetables with added sodium, you can reduce the amount of sodium on the vegetables by draining and rinsing with water.
How many of servings of non-starchy vegetables should I aim to eat per day?
The recommended minimum number of servings for non-starchy vegetables is 3-5 servings per day. However, eat as many as you want and can!
If you are eating cooked vegetables, ½ cup is considered 1 serving. If you are eating raw vegetables, 1 cup is considered 1 serving, except for leafy greens where 2 cups of leafy greens are considered 1 serving.
To prepare non-starchy vegetables and not reduce their nutritional quality, bake, boil or steam them.
To be sure you consume enough non-starchy vegetables, it is helpful to prep them ahead and store them in your refrigerator. That way, you can save time on prepping meals and always have a healthy addition for meals and snacks.
So, boost those meals and make your plate colorful and tasty with non-starchy vegetables!