Starch: Structure, Types & Examples

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  • 0:02 What Is Starch?
  • 0:35 Structure of Starch
  • 1:17 Types of Starch
  • 1:49 Examples of Starch
  • 3:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this lesson, we'll go over what the structure of starch is and what it's made of, as well as examples of different types of starch. Then, you can test your knowledge with a brief quiz at the end.

What Is Starch?

Yum, starch! Although you might not know a technical definition for starch, you encounter it everyday in your kitchen. All the delicious bread products like cake, potatoes, flour, bagels, cereal, bread, muffins and more are made mostly of starch. Anything that has carbohydrates in it probably also contains starch. So let's take a closer look at what the chemistry of starch is and some more, less common examples of how we use starch in everyday life.

Structure of Starch

Starch is a carbohydrate, made of lots of little sugars all linked together. The sugar used to build starch is called glucose. Glucose is a monosaccharide, or single sugar. Since starch is made of many glucose molecules bound together, it is called a polysaccharide. The glucose molecules can be attached in a straight chain, eventually curving into a helical pattern called amylose, or into a branched pattern called amylopectin.

Glucose is a very important molecule in our body. We use it as one of our energy sources, and some cells, like those in our brain, exclusively use glucose for energy. Sugar gets a bad rap these days, but the truth is we need some sugar in our diet or our brains won't work! Starch is a great source for sugar, since it is made of many glucose molecules. The body easily breaks down the starch to glucose and delivers it to our cells to use as energy.

Types of Starch

Starch is found in plants and used to store energy. Any type of food with carbohydrates probably contains starch, but all this starch originates from plants and is processed into the boxed foods we are familiar with. Potatoes, corn, legumes, yams, and sweet potatoes are all good sources of starch. As a general rule, tubers (vegetables that grow underground) are also great sources of starch. Humans then use starch from plants to make the processed forms of starch we know, such as flour, cake, and other baked goods.

Examples of Starch

Clearly, starch is very important in the food industry. It's used to make all kinds of carbohydrate-rich foods that give us energy. Starch can also be concentrated as a powder, which you might know as corn starch in your kitchen. Chefs use this as a thickening agent for things like gravy.

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