Plant-Based Diets

What are Starch-Based Vegan Diets?


Some People Thrive on Starch-Based Diets

bowl oatmealThe starch-based vegan diet is based on the idea that you can lose long-term weight by making starch plant-based foods as your main focus in your meals. Instead of the typical American diet which is composed of 70 percent meat and dairy, 20 percent starch, and 10 percent fruits and vegetables, this diet has 70 percent starch, 20 percent vegetables, 10 percent fruits and zero meat and dairy.

The starch-based vegan diet operates on the premise that the human body thrives primarily on starch. It also explores the idea that we need carbohydrates to survive. But what kind of carbs do we have to consume? Technically, there are three types of carbohydrates- sugar, cellulose, and starch. These three operate with different functions and benefits to the body. Sugar, as you know, is the one that is immediately broken down by the body and provides energy. Cellulose, which is indigestible in the human body, is a source of dietary fiber. Starch can be digested by the body and metabolized to become simple sugar, leaving you satisfied and energetic. Out of all food types out there, the human body operates primarily on this food group. As Nathaniel Dominy of Dartmouth College said, the early human beings who were strong, healthy and lived longer consumed starchy plant foods and not animals.

Starch-Based Eating Has Benefits

As mentioned above, starch can make you feel full and satisfied after eating. It is the best way to address your appetite. When it comes to fullness and satisfaction, you need to fill in your stomach and what you put into it dictates whether you become trim and fit or overweight. Compared to meat and dairy, starch-based foods contain high amounts of carbohydrates and dietary fiber but is very low in fat content. According to research, eating starchy food can lead to longer hours of satiation as compared to fatty meals which will only last for a short period of time.

The thing about starch is that the excess amount of it will not turn into stored body fat. In fact, there is no study supporting the relationship between the two. When starch is digested, it is turned into a simple sugar that is then transported by the bloodstream and absorbed by the cells as glycogen stores, which is used as energy. This will be utilized by your muscles later on when you are doing physical activities such as exercises. This is the reason why athletes and bodybuilders are known to load up on carbs as part of their fitness nutrition. The mechanism of turning simple sugars into fats primarily happens in animals such as pigs, cows, and bees, but not in human.


Lastly, compared to other types of diets which promote low carbohydrates, a starch-based diet provides the body with long-term health benefits and allows you to maintain your ideal weight. Although a lot of the fad diets out there will help you lose weight, they may not necessarily be healthy for you. The methods can induce illness due to carbs deficiency, leaving them weak and sick. Those who thrive on starch have not only been able to lose their excess fats, they also have better performance and improved blood circulation. These two alone can already assure you of the health benefits as a result of a starch-based plant diet.

Weight Loss and Improved Health with Starch-Based Vegan Diets

Several case studies with regard to the starch-based vegan diet showed that those who followed the plans were not only able to shave off the unwanted pounds, but they were also able to avoid risks of hypertension, heart diseases, diabetes and improved their overall health. A diet based on starch aided in their body’s self-healing mechanisms so that they don’t have to suffer from chronic illnesses anymore.

One of the most well-know proponent of a healthy starch-based diet is Dr. John McDougall.  He has recently written a book called, The Starch Solution”.  He claims 70% of health care costs could be eliminated with no low, starch-based eating.  He recognizes the challenges of making the switch while providing lots of evidence to demonstrate the power of this way of eating to improve health.

pumpkin-soupTo start off with your starch-based vegan diet, you need to identify what kind of starchy foods are great for you. Starch is primarily classified as vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Under starchy vegetables, you can consume root vegetables, cassava, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yam, and taro. Winter squashes including acorn, buttercup, butternut, pumpkins, kabocha and Hubbard are also high in starch. Under whole grains, you can eat barley, brown rice, quinoa, corn, farro, oats, rye, wheat berries, and spelt. You can also eat grain-based products such as noodles, pasta, couscous, whole grain cereals, and bread. Under legumes, your choices are peas, beans, and lentils. Although peanuts are also considered a legume, it has a high fat content and should only be taken within a limited amount.

But I Thought That Eating Grains is Bad?

As a health coach, I am often asked about how one theory can promote grains while other claim that grains are poison?  My answer is always, “there is never one perfect diet for everyone”.  Each person must see what works best for them.  Dr. McDougall has much to say to the anti-grain folks who promote low-carb eating for optimal health.  The best advice I give everyone is to experiment to see what works best for your body.  I think that eating a high-plant diet is optimal for most when the plants are greens or low-starch veggies, and they eat real food, close to nature.  Some people do much better to limit grains and sometime minimizing legumes.  Others thrive on high fruit or high starch while this is not optimal for others.  I do best on a diet focused on low-starch veggies (lots of greens), some fruit, legumes, and seeds with limited nuts and grains.  The best grains for me are quinoa, buckwheat (Kasha), wild rice, and some oatmeal.  I also do OK with sweet potatoes and winter squashes in moderation.  Take the time to see which foods work best for your body!

A starch-based vegan dies also includes plenty of non-starchy vegetables as these are excellent sources of fiber, water, vitamins and minerals. They also add flavor and texture to your meal. Under this category, your best bets are zucchini, chayote, crookneck squash, carrots, beets, radishes, jicama, fennel, onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, green beans, snow peas, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, broccoli, artichokes, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, asparagus, rhubarb, celery, spinach, cabbage, kale, collards, chard, mustard greens and radicchio. You should also add tomato, cucumber, and eggplant to your meal for added color and variety

noodle soup

To make your meals even more satisfying, cap them off with fruits including oranges, grapefruits, tangerine, berries, peach, cherry, apricot, plum, apple, pear, persimmon, figs, grapes, banana, pineapple, guava, mango, lychee nut, kiwi, cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, and so much more. There are really not a lot of fruits that won’t do you good in a starch-based vegan diet. Of course, it would be best to minimize high fat nuts (including almond and walnut) and dried fruits which have such a high sugar content.

Junk Food Vegans vs. Whole-Plant Veggie Eaters

It saddens me when I meet vegans whose diets revolve around bagels, French fries, cookies, crackers, and sweets.  Many vegans rarely eat vegetables!  Yes, technically these are vegan diets but they are highly-processed and severely lacking in nutrition.  I call them “junk food vegans” and do my best to help them to transition to a healthier whole-plant based way of eating.

The great thing about a healthy starch based vegan diet is that you do not need restrict your quantities such that you go hungry.  A healthy starch-based diet focuses more on what you eat to ensure that you are satisfied and fulfilled. And with the amount and the variety of choices, you would not feel deprived or hungry even when you are on a diet. That said, it should be noted that this is a plant-based lifestyle. Hence, meat, poultry, dairy, eggs, animal fat, vegetable oil, and processed and packaged foods should be avoided altogether, as these do not support the concept of the diet. Slipping once in a while is understandable, but you should also make the effort to immediately get back to the program.  Otherwise, you will be creating yet another habit that will set you back in your progress.

Have your tried a low-fat, starch-based diet?  Please let us know how it went for you in the comment box below.

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Thriving on Plants is a resource for a whole food, plant-based way of eating and living. Here we celebrate all things plant and honor the power of informed awareness and a diet focused primarily of unprocessed vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains to support good health and happiness. Discover what a little more plant can do for your life!


This website is for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing presented here should be construed as a substitute for medical advice. Before beginning any type of new diet (natural or conventional), it is advisable to seek the advice of a licensed physician, nutritionist and/or healthcare professional.
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