On its own, wheat starch is usually safe to eat. Like other processed starches, however, it's almost entirely devoid of nutritional value and can contribute a lot of calories to your diet very quickly. While wheat starch is sometimes safe to eat on a gluten-free diet, you'll want to seek varieties that are actively labeled as being gluten-free.
Let's start with talking about empty calories.
Starches are found in a variety of plants we eat, including potatoes, corn, rice, and wheat. They're a complex molecule that plants use to store energy in an efficient, compact way. In other words, they're almost pure calories. A cup of wheat starch has about 385 calories, nearly 380 of which come from carbs. Each cup of wheat starch has less than 3g of fat and 1g of protein.
Wheat starch is lacking in vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients. There's about 4% of your recommended daily intake of iron in a cup of wheat starch and not much else.
Eating moderate or even large amounts of wheat starch is perfectly healthy in a vacuum. If you're trying to stick to a 2,000 calorie/day diet and you eat 400 calories of wheat starch, however, it'll be quite a bit harder to fit the protein, fiber, and other nutrients you need into the remaining 1600 calories. It's usually a good idea to limit your consumption of processed starches to help prevent this from being an issue.
Luckily, most recipes don't call for large amounts of wheat starch. You'll usually see it used as a thickening agent in small quantities. You might mix it with flour and use it to coat fried chicken, add a small amount to cookies or pie crust to soften the final product, or use some to get your gravy or custard to the consistency you want. In most cases, the wheat starch will make up a pretty small portion of the overall recipe.
How can wheat starch be gluten-free?
While "wheat" is a bit of a warning word for anyone on a gluten-free diet, wheat starch is often processed to the point where there's no gluten left. Gluten-free wheat starches have been shown to be just as safe as naturally gluten-free foods for people with celiac disease.
This doesn't mean all wheat starch is safe. The gluten content of wheat starch can vary from 5 parts per million to 10,000 parts per million. In other words, if you're trying to avoid gluten, make sure it says "gluten free" on the box.
If you don't have a sensitivity to gluten, of course, all varieties of wheat starch are safe to eat. You don't need to look for a particular kind unless you have a pre-existing dietary restriction.
Wheat starch is not safe for people with wheat allergies, even if it's gluten free.
Possible short-term side effects
- allergic reaction
Possible long-term side effects
- weight gain
Ingredients to be aware of
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Written by Desmond | 09-11-2017
Written by Desmond
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