Resistant Starch 101: What You Need to Know

about resistant starch

Many people are adding resistant starches into their diet for all the right reasons and if you aren’t one of them, now is the time to learn all about these health-promising carbohydrates. Unlike other starches that typically get broken down into glucose, resistant starches don’t. As a result, they are able to travel to your large intestine where they ferment and feed the healthy bacteria in your gut and provide you with a plethora of health advantages.

But First, What is a Resistant Starch?

Resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that does not get broken down into sugar and absorbed in the small intestine, allowing it to reach your large intestine where it ferments and acts as a prebiotic, feeding the healthy bacteria in your gut.  It has fewer calories than regular starch (only 2.5 calories per gram compared to four calories per gram) and an abundance of health benefits.

There are four types of resistant starches, which are classified based on their source or structure. For example:

  • Type 1: Starches found in partially milled grains, seeds and legumes that get stuck within the fibrous cell walls so it’s not digested.
  • Type 2: Starches found in foods like potatoes and unripe bananas that are indigestible because they are compact and hard for digestive enzymes to break down.
  • Type 3: The most resistant type of starch, these are found in foods that have been cooked and cooled like bread, potatoes, rice and cornflakes (the cooling process turns some of the starches into resistant starches).
  • Type 4: Man-made type of starch that is commonly found in bread and cakes.

Foods That Contain Resistant Starch

All starchy foods contain resistant starch, with some containing more than one type. The amount of resistant starch in a food item depends on how the food is prepared. For example, an unripe banana has fewer resistant starches as it ripens because it turns them into regular starches.  Other times, cooking or heating a food item can destroy resistant starches. Additionally, some resistant starches can be restored in foods by allowing them to cool after cooking. 

To help you increase your consumption of resistant starches, these are the foods that contain the highest amounts:

  • Oats provide 3.6 grams of resistant starch per 100 grams of cooked oatmeal (letting them cool after cooking can even increase the resistant starch).
  • Beans and legumes like black beans, pinto beans, soybeans, white beans and garden peas are a great way to get a good amount of resistant starch (1 to 5 grams per 3.5 ounces once cooked) and fiber in your diet. Remember to soak and fully heat them to remove any antinutrients.
  • Green bananas are a great source of resistant starch and they also contain essential nutrients, such as vitamin B6, Vitamin C and fiber. Try to enjoy them raw or when they’re still green, as the resistant starch diminishes as the bananas ripens.
  • Potato starch is one of the most concentrated sources of resistant starch with approximately 80% of the starches in potatoes being resistant. Avoid heating them and instead, add them to smoothies, oats and yogurt or meals that have been cooked and cooled.
  • Potatoes that are prepared properly and left to cool contain a good source of resistant starch. Letting them cool for a couple of hours will increase the amount of resistant starch. Avoid reheating them as well and instead, enjoy them cold in things such as a potato salad.
  • Corn, cooked and cooled, is a good source for resistant starch.
  • Rice offers an easy way to get more resistant starch in your diet. Let your rice cool for longer to increase the resistant starch content and consider using brown rice instead of white to get an extra dose of fiber, phosphorus and magnesium.
  • Some grains such as barley and sorghum have a high amount of resistant starch and also contain fiber and other essential minerals, such as vitamin B6 and selenium.
  • Plantains have a good amount of resistant starch, but they lose some when cooked.

Benefits of Resistant Starch

Resistant starch has a plethora of benefits, as it passes through the stomach and small intestine undigested, reaching your large intestine where it ferments and feeds healthy gut bacteria. As such, it functions like soluble fermentable fiber and has many promising effects.

Here are some of the top health advantages you can expect by increasing your intake of resistant starch:

Increase gut health

Since resistant starches don’t get broken down and are able to ferment in the large intestine, they act as a prebiotic and feed the good, healthy bacteria in your gut to improve your overall gut health. This can provide an abundance of helpful results, such as:

Additionally, a healthy gut can also increase heart and brain health, improve your mood, boost your immune system, encourage healthy sleep and even protect you against some cancers and autoimmune disorders.

Support Overall Bowel Health

The healthy bacteria in your gut turns resistant starches into short-chain fatty acids, with butyrate being one of the most important ones. Butyrate is the most preferred source of energy for your colon cells, which helps:

Any short-chain fatty acids that aren’t used in the colon flow into your bloodstream, liver and other parts of your body where they continue to provide additional benefits.

Reduce Risk of Cancer

As mentioned previously, resistant starch can help protect you against some cancers. In fact, studies found that it can reduce a range of cancers by over 60% as the resistant starch helps kill pre-cancerous cells and reduce inflammation that are known to promote cancer.

Improve Insulin Sensitivity

The higher your insulin sensitivity is, the better your body is able to handle high blood sugar and resistant starches can help with this by improving the way your body responds to insulin. As a result, this can also decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Promote Weight Loss

Resistant starches can even promote weight loss, as they’re harder to digest so the body has to work harder (burn more calories) trying to break them down. They also help keep you fuller for longer to prevent overeating.

With resistant starches having the ability to provide an abundance of health benefits including increased weight loss, the treatment and prevention of indigestion symptoms and conditions, and even protection against certain cancers, there’s no better time to start getting more of them in your diet. And now, with the information you learned from this article, you know exactly how to do just that.

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