Resistant Starch 101: Where and How to Get it
In our Weight Loss Awakening Group on Facebook, we recently received a couple of questions about resistant starch. You’ve probably read about resistant starch on health or fitness websites or magazines. It’s actually been touted as a weight loss super food.
You might be thinking, but isn’t starch going to give me high blood sugar spikes? Starch has been getting a bad rap because of this, but this is different from resistant starch, which wouldn’t cause your blood sugar to rise.
Not only does resistant starch help create a balance in our body, especially in our gut, but it also provides other potential health benefits for preventing colon cancer, diabetes, and weight loss. You can get resistant starch from food and you don’t need supplements.
What is Resistant Starch?
Resistant starch is food for your gut. You can think of it as a good carb. We have these beneficial bacteria in our gut and they need good food like resistant starch to thrive and produce many other benefits for the entire body, not just your gut.
When we have these beneficial bacteria in the gut and they are fed with resistant starch, they can then release chemicals called short-chain fatty acids. And when short-chain fatty acids are released, those actually feed the gut lining and that creates a good gut barrier and provide anti-inflammatory benefits to other parts of the body.
What's amazing about it is that when our gut bacteria gets food, it releases other chemicals that have a whole host of amazing properties that affect our health and well-being. When we don't have the beneficial bacteria in our gut and if it's not populated in our gut in a good way, it can affect a whole host of other things that are far away from the gut, from your joints, to your heart and brain.
So how does resistant starch work in our body? And why is it so important?
First of all, when resistant starch enters the gut, it gets eaten by the beneficial bacteria there, and that process creates chemicals, compounds called short-chain fatty acids that feed the gut lining.
Resistant starch also has anti-cancer effects. In the colon, they actually induce cancer cells to die.
But there's a delicate gut balance and that's important to understand. You have these good bacteria that you lose when you’re consuming too much sugar, alcohol, pesticides, food coloring, or even possibly when you’re using anti-bacterial soaps. All of these factors can affect the beneficial bacteria in your gut and if that's not there, then you're not going to be able to create these short-chain fatty acids.
First, you need to have the good beneficial bacteria in your gut. We need to pay attention to the things that we're doing in modern day life that can affect that.
Second, you need to give these beneficial bacteria food. If you don't give them food, they're not going to produce those beneficial compounds.
And third, these compounds feed the colonocytes of the colon or the cells that line the gut to create a healthy cell and a healthy gut barrier.
What is Starch?
Starch is a chain of glucose molecules, a chain of sugar molecules. When you eat starch, you have enzymes in your body that cut those chains.
Imagine having a real chain linked together. We have enzymes that break the starch chain apart and then your body can use these individual links, which are sugars. These starches are often found in foods like potatoes and rice and grains.
Most starch is digested, but a small portion is resistant and that's what we call resistant starch.
Four Types of Resistant Starch
Resistant starch type one is found in cell walls. It’s physically inaccessible and it's found in minimally processed whole grains, seeds, and beans.
They are present in beans as well. Just make sure to cook beans properly because they contain lectins, which can irritate the gut. While not everyone is susceptible to this gut irritation from lectins, it's something that we all need to pay attention to, especially if we have autoimmune diseases or other problems with the gut.
Remember that when you refine grains too much, that is going to cause you to have more digestible starch and it's also going to cause your blood sugar to rise. Stick to minimally processed foods and cook them properly.
Resistant starch type two is not digestible to sugar because it has a crystalline structure. It’s found in raw potatoes and green bananas for example.
Generally, fruits are not meant to be eaten when they're not ripe.
Think about this natural cycle: fruits are naturally meant to be eaten when they’re ripe because by then, the seeds would be ready to spread to grow another tree, so trees create chemicals in the fruits that cause you to not want to eat them.
Notice too how fruits that aren’t ripe yet taste either too sour or bitter. And there's a reason for that. Nature prevents you from eating fruits that haven’t reached its optimum state for consumption.
With green bananas, however, there is probably an exception to this rule. It is most probable that given the use of green bananas in traditional cultures and the amount of resistant starch in them, the benefits outweigh any negatives.
Raw potatoes have a poisonous chemical in them and we’re not certain if the supplements out there actually reduce this chemical so I suggest avoiding raw potato starch.
In fact, I was at a food show and there was a company selling potato starch and I asked them this very question, and they said they weren't really sure if they were removing this particular chemical. If you have knowledge of this, please do let me know.
Besides green bananas, the best source of resistant starch is a wide variety of plants, seeds, nuts and different types of fibers. As I always mention in my blogs and lectures, I recommend two tablespoons of flaxseeds, a handful of raw nuts, a large big salad and some steamed greens per day. These will really have a beneficial effect on the bacteria in your gut.
Resistant starch type three is retrograded starch, my favorite type. It’s formed when you take starch found in white rice and sweet potatoes, you cook them, then refrigerate them overnight. This cooking and refrigerating process creates resistant starch.
As a result, calories are reduced slightly and it's going to blunt the blood sugar rise when you're eating these foods. It allows you to enjoy sweet potatoes and rice on occasion in a healthier way when it comes to blood sugar.
A lot of people out there are against all carbohydrates, but there are ways of eating them and incorporating them into your diet to get a higher percentage of resistant starch. I highly recommend cooking it and then refrigerating them. If you want to continue eating sweet potatoes and rice, this is one way to make it healthier.
Resistant starch type four is a modified starch that is made by the food industry. Again, we want to stick to minimally processed foods, with lots of greens and properly cooked beans and seeds. If you have these in your diet, you're going to get enough variety that the gut bacteria are going to feed on, which will create those chemicals that will be beneficial to your body.
While getting resistant starch from a whole host of different plants, you're also producing chemicals that benefit your health. It’s just amazing to me that every single day in the medical literature, we're finding that it's not necessarily the foods that we're eating that contain the end product that's causing so much benefit; it's actually what the good bacteria in the gut are forming or creating in response to eating all of these fibers from different kinds of plants that make a difference.
The lignans in flaxseeds for example are not processed into short-chain fatty acids, but instead form compounds that can have positive hormonal effects in the body. We have an amazing chemistry lab in our gut bacteria that churn out a whole host of chemicals that affect everything from hormones to blood sugar to your mood. Your job is to make sure they get the right food.
Resistant Starch vs Fiber
What makes resistant starch different from fiber? The truth is, some people consider resistant starch to be a type of fiber. But when we talk about, as an example, Miracle Noodles, it would be classified as a non-starch polysaccharide.
This means that although it's not made up of a chain of glucose molecules like resistant starch, it actually is made up of a chain, but not just glucose. It's also resistant to digestion in the sense that it’s also forming and allowing the beneficial bacteria to form short-chain fatty acids, which is going to create this healthy lining of the gut and create gut barrier. It will also have these anti-inflammatory effects.
How to Choose Resistant Starch
The best way in my opinion to get resistant starch is to use type 3, the retrograded starch or to incorporate green bananas into your diet. The retrograded starch is where you take a starch, a good one like sweet potatoes or white rice and you cook it, then refrigerate it overnight. You’ll have more resistant starch as a result of this process.
Like your food warm? You can reheat your food and it’s going to stay as resistant starch.
At the National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society, researchers from the College of Chemical Sciences in Sri Lanka found that when you mix white rice with coconut oil, cook it and refrigerate it, you’d have a fifteen-fold increase in resistant starch (Sudhair and Thavarajah, 2015). What happens here is in addition to adding the fat, you get this resistant starch while consuming significantly fewer calories. It also reduces blood sugar elevation effect.
Keep in mind that we all have beneficial gut bacteria that we need to protect. These little guys in our gut have more profound effects on our bodies than we ever imagined. We need to eat different types of fibers, one being resistant starch, to allow them to create all these incredible chemicals inside our bodies that have positive health benefits.
You don’t need to take supplements to get more resistant starch. What you need to do is follow what we know about human health and our early ancestors who ate an enormous variety of plants, nuts, and berries. They were able to feed the good bacteria in their gut to create these beneficial compounds by eating minimally processed and organically grown food—all from natural sources.
I hope this information helped you better understand resistant starch and how to get its benefits. If you liked it, please leave your comments below.
This article was originally posted on drcarp.com.