If you’re trying to cut out starch to manage your ankylosing spondylitis there can be a few unexpected hurdles to navigate…
One of these is the ‘secret starches’ you’ll find hidden in everyday food.
These are starches that food manufacturers often use to bulk up their products, cut costs and make them more addictive.
If they were always labelled as ‘starch’ on the backs of packets they would be much easier to avoid. The problem is they often go by another name.
The aim of this article is to help you identify and steer clear of any hidden nasties.
First let’s look at what these starches are typically used for.
Food manufacturers use and include them for a number of reasons:
✔️ Some act as sweeteners and additives to make foods more addictive
✔️ Others artificially enhance the look and texture of processed foods – They trick our brains into making them seem irresistible, (even when they’re sorely lacking in essential nutrients)
✔️ They’re also used to prolong the shelf life of processed foods and cut costs
So there are lots of compelling reasons, from a business standpoint, why food manufacturers pack their products full of these secret starches.
It’s a viscous cycle. Businesses have found a way to inject addictive, bulking, shelf-life enhancing, cheap to produce ingredients into their products.
And it’s all rubber stamped by overstretched, under resourced regulators.
Even hidden in small print on the back of packets using words that nobody understands.
When you’re trying to go starch free it’s
Avoid these secret starches
🦠 Corn syrup solids
This is a sweetener and humectant (wonderful word that just means ‘used to keep things moist’).
You’ll often find hiding in products like sweets, ice cream, and baked goods. They have been associated with a number of health issues.
Dextrin is used as a thickening agent, stabiliser, or fat replacer and is often used in sauces, dressings, and baked goods.
As well as being a secret starch dextrin can cause digestive issues for many people.
Maltodextrin is right up there in the ‘most wanted’ charts. It’s a highly processed and widely used carbohydrate that is used as a thickener, filler, or sweetener.
You’ll find it in a huge number of products such as sauces, dressings, snacks, and sports drinks. It has a high glycemic index and can cause spikes in blood sugar levels.
🦠 Modified food starch
Modified food starch is a thickener, stabiliser, or emulsifier and is frequently used in soups, sauces, and dressings.
It can trigger issues for many, especially to use with intolerances to the source of the starch used (such as corn, wheat).
🦠 Potato flour
Potato flour pops up where you least expect it.
It’s a thickener and binding agent often used in gluten-free baked goods and processed foods which can mean it’s often missed.
🦠 Rice flour
Rice flour is another ‘gluten-free’ alternative to wheat flour and you’ll often find it used in baked goods, pasta, and cereals.
As well as containing starch it can be high in arsenic, so good to avoid.
🦠 Tapioca flour
Tapioca is another thickener and binding agent used in many gluten-free baked goods, soups, and sauces.
It can be especially problematic to people with allergies to cassava.
A simple shortcut to success following the starch free diet
By far the easiest thing to do is avoid ingredients you haven’t heard of.
✔️ No processed food
✔️ No additives or thickeners
Not every ingredient is starchy but you’ll spend forever Googling and cross referencing to find out if they are.
(Often, even if they are starch free, they might contain sugar or something else you’ll want to avoid).
It’s always good to keep your wits about you when shopping, especially for packaged foods.
The model on which modern food production runs is creating a health crisis. It encourages the creation and consumption of ultra-processed items rather than fresh, whole foods.
This focus on convenience and profit is undermining the importance of a balanced, nutrient-dense diet.
Profits and artificially concocted looks, flavours and shelf lives are taking precedence over our health and well-being.
Please stay vigilant and healthy!