Article #3: Starches Are Second-Rate Foods by Marti Fry
Have you noticed how often we state that fruits are the foods to which we are biologically suited? We rank them as first-class foods and we rank starchy foods such as tubers, legumes and grains as second- or third-class foods. One reason for this, as you may know, is that most starchy foods have to be cooked to make them tasty. Of course there are exceptions to this:
But despite these exceptions, starchy foods are not ideal for humans. Unlike sugars from fruits, which pass almost directly from the stomach to the small intestine for absorption, starches must be converted to sugar for the body to unlock their energy potential.
Most animals secrete starch-splitting enzymes called amylases, derived from the Latin word meaning—you guessed it—starch-splitting. In humans, starch digestion begins in the mouth: Our saliva contains an amylase called ptyalin, from the Greek word ptyalon, meaning saliva. Ptyalin, also called salivary amylase, changes starch chemically into maltose, a complex sugar.
Many other animals, such as pigs, birds and other starch eaters, but not humans, secrete other additional amylases to insure complete starch digestion. To be sure bf adequately digesting the starch we humans consume, we must chew our food very, very thoroughly so it becomes well-mixed with saliva.
The starch that's converted to maltose by salivary enzymic action is further broken down in the small intestine by the enzyme maltase into the simple sugar, dextrose, for the bloodstream can absorb only simple sugars, never starches or complex sugars. (Dextrose is dextrorotatory glucose.)
Only 30 to 40 percent of the starch eaten can be broken down by ptyalin in the mouth. If starches are eaten with (or close in time to ingestion of) acid fruits (citrus fruits or tomatoes) or with protein foods, the ptyalin in the saliva that's swallowed with the food cannot further break down the starch into simple sugars.
This is because ptyalin can only act in an alkaline environment and the stomach environment becomes acid when proteins are consumed. The acids in fruits will also inhibit the secretion of ptyalin. Hence, you should take care to eat starchy foods (if you eat them at all) with vegetables and not with acid or protein foods to insure the best possible digestion.
We do secrete a pancreatic amylase in our intestine to digest starches not handled by salivary amylase (ptyalin). But starches, often partially decompose in the stomach before they get to the intestine.
In addition, there's a problem relative to human starch digestion and this is another reason why starches are usually cooked or sprouted (besides for taste):
According to The Textbook of Medical Physiology by Arthur C. Guyton, M.D.:
If cooking can destroy the protective membrane around the starch cells, what is it doing to the food's value? Cooking changes the minerals and proteins into unusable forms and destroys most vitamins!
Chewing only partially damages the protective covering of starch globules and so raw starches can only be partially digested. While undigested foods cause pathogenic problems in the human body, the toxins ingested when we eat cooked foods (deranged vitamins and minerals) cause even greater problems.
In light of how the human body uses starches by changing them to simple sugars through a complicated and only partially effective process, why not consider getting all your carbohydrate needs from fresh fruits which are already in the form of simple easily-digestible sugars? We don't need starches at all and can thrive more healthfully without them.
This article is reprinted from The Health Crusader, Better Life Journal's predecessor.
Home > Lesson 7 - Carbohydrates - Fuel For The Human Body
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