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Starch Secret: The Guide to Paleo Carbs - myPaleoPal
paleo carbs

Starch Secret: The Guide to Paleo Carbs

One of the most common misconceptions about the paleo diet is that it’s low-carb. It’s just what people think when you reveal to them that you choose not to eat bread. Beyond grains, there is a world of scrumptious starches out there for us to eat. These sources of paleo carbs come from real food products aka vegetables! While all fruits and veggies are considered a carbohydrate, the ones we’ve rounded up here today are dense starches with less water than most green veggies and more glucose than fructose which sets them apart from fruity carbs.

The good news? Carbohydrates are NOT the enemy. While some people may prefer to avoid them due to reasons such as diabetes or weight loss goals, other individuals truly benefit from 1-3 servings of the starchy stuff per day. Athletes in particular need carbohydrates to properly fuel and recover from intense workouts. It can all be done without the help of grains. Here are the best paleo carbs you can possibly eat, why they’re good for you, and how you can eat them.


 

Plantains

paleo carbs
Black, yellow, and green – there are a few different varieties!

These tropical fruits are an amazing and affordable source of paleo carbs. Black, yellow, or green? Well, they serve slightly different purposes, and they have slightly different starch profiles. The greener the peel, the more starchy the fruit. Riper plantains – the spotty ones, like bananas- have a higher fructose (sugar) content.

What they’re good for:

  • 1 medium plantain offers up more than half of your recommended daily dose of vitamin C.
  • Plantains are a good source of magnesium; 1 medium plantain has 16% of the daily recommendation.
  • They also have a substantial amount of vitamin-A and vitamin B6.
  • Compared to bananas, the nutrient profile is significantly better across the board.
  • Green plantains are predominantly starch vs. sugar offering up a dose of low-fructose paleo carbs.

How to eat ’em:

  • Tostones. Fry plantain slices in coconut oil in a skillet. When they begin to brown, rest them on a plate lined with paper towels. Gently smash each slice with the back of a wooden spoon and continue to fry for 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve.
  • Plantain chips. Perfect for on-the-go snacking and dipping. Slice green plantains thin with a mandoline. Toss the slices with oil, season with sea salt, and line them up on a baking sheet. Bake them in the oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes.
  • BBQ. Plantains work really well on the grill. Slice yellow plantains in half lengthwise, season as you wish, and grill for 15 minutes on each side.

 

Sweet Potatoes

paleo carbs
You can choose from white, yellow, or purple.

This staple source of paleo carbs comes in quite a few varieties including the standard sweet potato which is orange on the inside, the purple sweet potato, and the Hannah which is a white color. The orange type offers up lots of beta-carotene which lends the sweet potato the bulk of its high nutrient complex. If you’re steering clear of white potatoes, sweets stand in for an easy substitution method.

What they’re good for:

  • So. Much. Vitamin A. More specifically, 377% of the daily recommended intake per cup.
  • A single cup of sweets can restore your electrolytes post-workout and even help reduce anxiety with a hearty dose of potassium at 448 mg. per serving.
  • They are relatively high in fiber, both soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber may reduce blood sugar spikes while insoluble fiber has been linked to better gut health.
  • Sweet potatoes have a slightly lower glycemic index than white potatoes, and it can be reduced further by boiling them.

How to eat ’em:

  • Stuff ’em. One of the things you won’t find on our list of healthy paleo carbs is bread. That’s where sweet potatoes come in. Poke a few holes in a whole sweet potato and bake at 350 for 1-1.5 hours. Slice down the middle when it’s soft use these as the “bun” for your sloppy joes or stuff them with carnitas to recreate tacos sans tortillas.
  • Stack ’em. Round, thick sweet potato slices can be baked and used as vessels for sliders or any other sandwich creation you can imagine. Toss ’em with oil and sea salt then bake for 15-20 minutes, flipping them once.
  • Hash it out. Make a big batch of skillet hash early in the week to crack an egg on top of for easy meal prep. Cut a sweet potato into small chunks and sautee with bacon and your favorite vegetables.

 

White Potatoes

paleo carbs
Potatoes come in all shapes, colors, and sizes.

Technically speaking, regular ol’ potatoes are paleo. Alas, the paleo diet isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits-all approach, and white potatoes won’t work well for everyone. This is especially true for diabetics since potatoes have a higher glycemic index than most other paleo carbs on our list. They are also higher in calories, so they’re better suited for individuals without blood sugar issues and who need the extra energy.

What they’re good for:

  • White potatoes actually have even more potassium than sweet potatoes coming out at approximately 897 mg. per medium sized spud.
  • The magnesium content in white potatoes is on par with sweet potatoes with just a little bit more than sweet potatoes.
  • A single potato can provide you with nearly 20% of your daily fiber intake.

How to eat ’em:

  • French fries. When you make fries at home, you can turn this junk food into something relatively healthy. Toss sliced potatoes in oil in a frying pan for five minutes with desired spices, then place them in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.
  • Hasselback it. A classic dish that looks pretty on the table, too. Slice the potato in thin strips while leaving the bottom in tact. Drizzle with ghee and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 425 degrees for about an hour.
  • Mash ’em. Cauliflower mash is a popular substitute, but if you’re trying to pack in some carbs, you can’t beat mashed potatoes. It tastes a whole lot like comfort food. Boil peeled potatoes, strain ’em, then mash them with ghee and coconut milk for a rich, creamy side dish.

Cassava Root

paleo carbs
Cassava, also known as tapioca.

This root has gained notoriety as one of the most versatile paleo carbs with the incredibly easy-to-use cassava flour. This is easily one of the best flour substitutes to bake with as it takes on the purpose of wheat flour very well. It’s also got plenty to offer in the way of nutrition, especially compared to nut flours and coconut flour.

What they’re good for:

  • Of all the sources of paleo carbs on our list, this tuber has the highest protein content.
  • In flour form, this starch is AIP-compliant. Many flour substitutes are made of nuts which can cause reactions.
  • It’s got a high mineral content including zinc, magnesium, copper, iron, and manganese.

How to eat ’em:

  • Dessert.  Cassava flour is your friend if you’ve got a sweet tooth. In most recipes, you can use cassava flour the same as you would wheat flour, so take a stab at some of your favorite baked goods. A quick search for paleo treats will yield tons of results using the stuff.
  • Chips. Yet again, the cassava root itself can be baked and eaten as a healthy potato chip replacement. Slice with a mandoline and fry in lard or tallow. Dry on a plate lined with paper towels and enjoy this treat dipped in guac.
  • Bread substitutes. Once again, cassava flour works brilliantly when attempting to recreate foods typically made with wheat flour; from empanadas to tortillas, this stuff makes a mighty fine dough.

 

Winter Squash

paleo carbs
Paleo carbs for every taste and recipe.

There is a winter squash for every taste and recipe, my friends. Beyond just butternut squash, we’ve got contenders like kabocha squash (Japanese pumpkin), spaghetti squash for noodle dishes, and the tiny-but-mighty delicata squash. Some are slightly sweet while others take on a nutty taste, but they’re all delicious and nutritious sources of paleo carbs, especially during the autumn and winter while they’re in season.

What they’re good for:

  • Butternut squash is lower in calories than sweet potatoes with a similar taste and even more vitamin A with 297% of the recommended daily value per cup.
  • A serving of acorn squash can provide up to 20% of your daily vitamin C intake.
  • For a mere 50 calories worth of pumpkin, you get a whopping 3 grams of fiber which makes it a highly satiating choice that can also aid in healthy digestion.
  • The seeds can be cooked, and they’re incredibly nutrient-dense; the plant-based chemicals found in squash seeds (phytosterols) can help to reduce “bad” cholesterol otherwise known as LDL.

How to eat ’em:

  • Toasted and roasted. Pretty much every variety of winter squash can easily be cubed or sliced, tossed in some oil and spices, and roasted in a 425 degree oven for 30-45 minutes depending on the size of the pieces. You can even roast it whole or halved if you’re patient enough. It’s easy, delicious, and makes preparing ahead of time a breeze.
  • Slow cooker. Throw a whole squash in a bit of water in the crock pot to “steam.” Low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours will make the squash easier to cut, de-seed, and peel if you’d like, but most skin is edible.
  • Soup. Blended winter squash makes for creamy soups. Simply take the flesh of any cooked winter squash and blend with bone broth, herbs and spices, and whatever else you’d like – try coconut milk and curry powder for a Thai-inspired flavor.

 

Beets

paleo carbs
The messiest of all the paleo carbs.

Red beetroot is the most common (and messy) variety, but you can also get your hands on some golden beets or chiogga beets – the ones that look like candy canes on the inside. These are of the more sugary sources of paleo carbs, but they’re still incredibly healthy. Don’t forget to cook the greens and stems which offer just as much nutrition as the root itself. This starch is worth turning your entire dinner red.

What they’re good for:

  • Beets have a lot of phytonutrients which provide the body with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory properties, and overall aid in natural detoxification.
  • Beetroot has a high folate content which is most commonly found in legumes – a not-so-paleo source of carbohydrates – which help the brain and the nervous system function optimally.
  • Beet greens contain substantial amounts of both calcium and magnesium in comparison to similar leafy veggies such as turnip and mustard greens.

How to eat ’em:

  • Raw in slaw. Grate raw beetroot or shred it in a food processor and mix well with carrots, cabbage, homemade mayo, and spices like dill for a delicious and colorful take on traditional coleslaw.
  • Nomato sauce. For an AIP-compliant pasta sauce reminiscent of tomato sauce, you can use beets. They lend similar properties such as their red color and natural sweetness.
  • Roasted roots. Toss some hearty chunks of beetroot with carrots, onions, and your favorite winter squash with coconut oil and sea salt. Set the oven and forget it for awhile – this is an awesome side dish to have handy for weeknight dinners throughout the week.

 

There is no real secret to starch; these foods are all 100% paleo-friendly and they make great additions to most people’s diets. Remember, paleo isn’t always “low-carb,” and many individuals – especially athletes and women – do well with 1-3 servings of starch per day.

If you’re looking for more accountability, motivation, and a way to challenge yourself, come join us for the next 30 Day KickStart! A new 30 Day KickStart begins each month. Find out why it’s proven to 5X your commitment to healthy eating.

 

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