By Terita Heath-Wlaz
For years after transitioning to a more plant-based diet, I didn't eat a lot of "starchy vegetables." I'd heard that leafy greens like spinach and chard were better for me than starchy vegetables like corn, peas and potatoes. So I ate the leafy greens. A lot!
Here's a list of common vegetables in the "starchy" category: corn, peas, potatoes, zucchini, parsnips, pumpkin, butternut squash and acorn squash.iStock
But there's more to the picture of sound nutrition than a ranked list of veggies. Take a close look at the way starchy and non-starchy vegetables behave in our bodies and you might be surprised to discover good reasons to eat both kinds of plant foods.
What Are Starchy and Non-Starchy Vegetables?
Vegetables are labeled "starchy" when they contain more carbohydrates and more calories compared to other ("non-starchy") vegetables. Here's a list of common vegetables in the "starchy" category: corn, peas, potatoes, zucchini, parsnips, pumpkin, butternut squash and acorn squash.
The non-starchy vegetables category is much larger and includes veggies like spinach, celery, broccoli, radishes, onions, garlic, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and beets.
Non-starchy vegetables deliver a powerful punch of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Many veggies in this class (like broccoli, onions and tomatoes) provide a wealth of benefits ranging from cancer prevention to taming inflammation to improving cholesterol. Because of these clear benefits, health advice regarding non-starchy veggies is nearly unanimous: eat more!
But where does that leave the starchy vegetables?
Unique Benefits of Starchy Vegetables
If you're someone who tries to limit your intake of starchy vegetables because of the words "high-carbohydrate" and "high-calorie," consider two ways that these underdog veggies can improve your health—one of which is unique to starchy vegetables.
First of all, starchy vegetables are by no means devoid of vitamins and minerals (even if they might not shine as brightly as kale).
A serving of green peas contains more vitamin A than you need in a single day, almost half your vitamin C and a fifth of your daily iron. Butternut squash and pumpkins contain beta carotene that help preserve the health of your bones, skin, eyes and immune system. And all the starchy vegetables contain a good dose of fiber.
Secondly, the carbohydrates and calories in starchy vegetables help you feel full after a meal. (Try feeling full eating nothing but spinach. It's hard!)
Feeling satisfied really matters to your physical and emotional health. Eating starchy vegetables can reduce the urge to snack between meals, which helps you feel confident that your plant-based diet is nourishing you.
The bottom line is that both kinds of vegetables contribute something important to your overall health; in fact, even the American Diabetes Association gives the green light to starchy vegetables for those who need to tightly manage their glucose levels. So go ahead and enjoy those veggies in abundance. To your health!
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.
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By Katherine Kornei
Clear-cutting a forest is relatively easy—just pick a tree and start chopping. But there are benefits to more sophisticated forest management. One technique—which involves repeatedly harvesting smaller trees every 30 or so years but leaving an upper story of larger trees for longer periods (60, 90, or 120 years)—ensures a steady supply of both firewood and construction timber.
A Pattern in the Rings<p>The <a href="https://www.encyclopedia.com/science/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/coppice-standards-0" target="_blank">coppice-with-standards</a> management practice produces a two-story forest, said <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bernhard_Muigg" target="_blank">Bernhard Muigg</a>, a dendrochronologist at the University of Freiburg in Germany. "You have an upper story of single trees that are allowed to grow for several understory generations."</p><p>That arrangement imprints a characteristic tree ring pattern in a forest's upper story trees (the "standards"): thick rings indicative of heavy growth, which show up at regular intervals as the surrounding smaller trees are cut down. "The trees are growing faster," said Muigg. "You can really see it with your naked eye."</p><p>Muigg and his collaborators characterized that <a href="https://ltrr.arizona.edu/about/treerings" target="_blank">dendrochronological pattern</a> in 161 oak trees growing in central Germany, one of the few remaining sites in Europe with actively managed coppice-with-standards forests. They found up to nine cycles of heavy growth in the trees, the oldest of which was planted in 1761. The researchers then turned to a historical data set — more than 2,000 oak <a href="https://eos.org/articles/podcast-discovering-europes-history-through-its-timbers" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">timbers from buildings and archaeological sites</a> in Germany and France dating from between 300 and 2015 — to look for a similar pattern.</p>
A Gap of 500 Years<p>The team found wood with the characteristic coppice-with-standards tree ring pattern dating to as early as the 6th century. That was a surprise, Muigg and his colleagues concluded, because the first mention of this forest management practice in historical documents occurred only roughly 500 years later, in the 13th century.</p><p>It's probable that forest management practices were not well documented prior to the High Middle Ages (1000–1250), the researchers suggested. "Forests are mainly mentioned in the context of royal hunting interests or donations," said Muigg. Dendrochronological studies are particularly important because they can reveal information not captured by a sparse historical record, he added.</p><p>These results were <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-78933-8" target="_blank">published in December in <em>Scientific Reports</em></a>.</p><p>"It's nice to see the longevity and the history of coppice-with-standards," said <a href="https://www.teagasc.ie/contact/staff-directory/s/ian-short/" target="_blank">Ian Short</a>, a forestry researcher at Teagasc, the Agriculture and Food Development Authority in Ireland, not involved in the research. This technique is valuable because it promotes conservation and habitat biodiversity, Short said. "In the next 10 or 20 years, I think we'll see more coppice-with-standards coming back into production."</p><p>In the future, Muigg and his collaborators hope to analyze a larger sample of historic timbers to trace how the coppice-with-standards practice spread throughout Europe. It will be interesting to understand where this technique originated and how it propagated, said Muigg, and there are plenty of old pieces of wood waiting to be analyzed. "There [are] tons of dendrochronological data."</p><p><em><a href="mailto:email@example.com" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Katherine Kornei</a> is a freelance science journalist covering Earth and space science. Her bylines frequently appear in Eos, Science, and The New York Times. Katherine holds a Ph.D. in astronomy from the University of California, Los Angeles.</em></p><p><em>This story originally appeared in <a href="https://eos.org/articles/tree-rings-reveal-how-ancient-forests-were-managed" target="_blank">Eos</a></em> <em>and is republished here as part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.</em></p>
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