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Chances are you might have heard of resistant starch by now, but do you know all of your food options when it comes to working it into your diet successfully? Here’s an update on the science behind the power of resistant starch, and a complete list of resistant starch foods that you can start incorporating into your diet as of today.
What is Resistant Starch?
Let’s dive into today’s discussion with a brief overview of what resistant starch is, and what it can do for you. Some of the most healing foods that you might be able to imagine are good carbs and foods with resistant starch carbs, so let’s start off by dismissing the idea that we need to avoid carbohydrates altogether.
Key Insight: If you work the right carbs into your diet, in the right amounts, you can do a lot of good for your body. It is all about balance, variety, and making sure that you know what you are doing when it comes to what you put into your body.
The bad thing about “bad carbs” is that they absorb really fast, and they make your body work harder in order to juggle your blood sugar. What this does is gives us a good clue about what we might be able to do with “good carbs” in our diet.
What we can see from good carbs is that they absorb slowly, they are easy on your blood sugar, and they feed a super important group of probiotics in your intestinal tract.
This is especially true for the group called the anaerobic protective bacteria. Resistant starch is fuel for these bacteria, which are not typically as influenced by probiotic supplements.
Bottom Line: Overall, resistant starch has the best of fiber and the best of carbohydrate. Fiber is good for your flora, but it is not digestible, while carbs do not feed the flora but do give nutrients. Resistant starch gives a little bit of nutrient, but it is so slowly absorbed that it gives you 7 – 9 hours of slow and stable blood sugar.
The Truth About Energy and Body Weight
When it comes to this concept of energy and body weight, it all comes down to your blood sugar being in that “good range” and not being high or low (while not moving fast, up or down).
What we know about resistant starch is that it stays longer in that curve, more than any other known food.
Here’s how it works. Basically, starches are made of two polysaccharides:
- Amylopectin – highly branched (lots of surface area and quickly digested)
- Amylose – straight chain (less surface area and slowly digested)
The long, straight chain of amylose, because there is a long single straight chain, it becomes harder to break down. Your body basically has to cover it one bite at a time, which leads to slower digestion.
With the branched versions, like amylopectin, you can take many bites at once – leading to faster digestion, but more surface area being covered overall.
Bottom Line: Resistant starch is such a long, singular chain, that your body is only able to break it down in the large intestine. It’s not “small intestine insulin,” it is “large intestinal good bacteria.”
The Benefits of Resistant Starch
What are some of the overall benefits of resistant starch in our diets? Well, the key benefits are that we begin to make more short chain fatty acids in our body. When we have more of these, we are better able to:
- Feed good bacteria in our body
- Reduce inflammation throughout our body
- Heal our all-important intestinal tract
Ultimately, the things included here are called:
Key Insight: Not only do we work towards reversing leaky gut, but we also cut our cancer risks when it comes to these powerful benefits of resistant starch in our lives.
Resistant starch also improves:
- Blood flow to the colon
- Helps with our overall nutrient and mineral absorption
- Binds with toxins in our body to get rid of them (1)
- Feeds the good bacteria in our body
How much resistant starch does it take?
In a modern diet, all you might need is 2 – 4 grams of resistant starch per day, but many traditional diets had 20 – 30 grams of it per day. Data has shown that it is completely safe, for all ages, with no problems at all.
Resistant starch is safe, because of the fact that it is so good for you. It works to help mitigate future risks, while being a safe option in the present. But what more does resistant starch do for us?
Resistant starch also has the ability to lower triglycerides and LDL, as well as lowering the whole glycemic load of the meal involved (2).
We have also seen that more resistant starch in your diet can lead to less instances of inflammatory bowel diseases, while improving insulin sensitivity and allowing you to recover from infections faster. It can also:
- Make you less apt to have digestion problems
- It can help your body composition and immune response
Bottom Line: The debate for not bringing more resistant starch into our diet is pretty weak, because the evidence is strong that resistant starch works in so many different ways to benefit our bodies.
How does resistant starch work?
The interesting thing about this is that it works both as a prebiotic and a synbiotic. The synbiotic role is where these kinds of foods help the bacteria interact better amongst themselves (rather than just feeding them).
Key Insight: Different bacterium will encourage and cooperate with the growth of healthy neighbors, under the influence of resistant starch. Not only do you get more of the “good ones,” but it makes the good ones already there even better!
What are the main types of resistant starch?
There are different types of resistant starch that we can find (3). They are:
- RS1 – This type of resistant starch is actually bound up and physically protected.
- RS2 – This type is ungelatinized.
- RS3 – This is otherwise known as retrograde starch, and typically involves cooking and cooling something. In fact, the more times something is cooked and cooled, the higher they get in resistant starch.
- RS4, RS5, RS6 – There are more than just the ones listed, but these are synthesized forms of resistant starch that we might be able to see at one point or another.
The Sources of Resistant Starch
I want to take the time to really flesh out a resistant starch food chart that can work for you. This is a comprehensive guide of where we might be able to find resistant starch in our diets…
- Raw oats
- Navy beans
- Northern beans
- Cannellini beans
- Adzuki beans – also the densest source of magnesium (4)
- Kidney beans
- Black beans
- Garbanzo beans
- Lima beans
- Pearl barley
- Green bananas
- Banana Peels
- Sushi rice
- Pumpernickel bread
- Rye bread
- Corn tortillas
- Sourdough bread
- Cooked millet
- Brown rice
- Rice pasta
- Pinto beans
- Hi-maize flour
Key Insight: If you do have a sensitivity to wheat, you do want to ensure that you are eating resistant starch foods that do not include wheat. Stocking up on bananas, plantains, and others help, because thankfully there are many options for those who want more resistant starch in their diets.
Are there higher concentrations of resistant starch in certain foods?
Of course, we can find varying levels of resistant starch in a variety of different foods. Remember how I mentioned how cooking and cooling can increase the amount of resistant starch? Well, there are some foods which are naturally inclined to have more in them.
The kind of common foods which have the highest concentration of resistant starch, by far, has to be beans. Although all types have some, white beans – including navy, northern and cannellini – have the most.
There are other foods that have lower amounts than beans, including:
- Cooked and cooled potatoes
- Raw oats
- Unripe bananas
Key Insight: Unripe bananas are important to remember for the purposes of resistant starch. The greener they are, the better they are for you! The more yellow they become, the less resistant starch they have. You can even eat the peels – just make sure you are ready for a bit of a different taste than you are used to from a banana.
When it comes to products that are super dense in resistant starch, one of the best ones available is pea starch. It is commercially available, entirely flavorless, and has been used primarily in meal replacement products. It can be easily absorbed in water, is free of plant toxins, and is hypoallergenic.
Bottom Line: Resistant starch is the healing power of nature in effect. Not only do we find it in so many foods, we also have the opportunity to prepare it and enjoy it in so many ways.
What’s the best dose of resistant starch?
Ideally, we would like to get 20 to 30 to 45 grams per day of resistant starch into our diets. Overall, it is better to find it with food and to get it with food sources. The important thing to do is to raise the dose gradually when it comes to your consumption.
Key Insight: Resistant starch is so powerful for your good bacteria, if you do a lot at once you could have some unpleasant gas or bloating. It’s not the end of the world, but take your time and ensure a smooth ride when it comes to working more resistant starch into your life.
If you have the opportunity, slowly plan to increase your resistant starch intake by the week. If you notice a bit of discomfort, bring it down to a point where you stay feeling good and then bring it up again.
Deal with it at your own pace, so that you can be completely comfortable with the new products that you are bringing into your diet.
Resistant Starch & Your Health
What do we know about resistant starch? Well, it should be pretty clear that there are so many different ways that we can get it into our diet – and it has so many radical health benefits for us in our lives.
When it comes to getting more, it’s about making the small changes which we can use to benefit our bodies – without stressing ourselves out and giving up halfway through.
In order to stop yourself from decision fatigue, I would definitely suggest trying a couple resistant starches with a meal replacement strategy (5).
This way, your brain has less changes and considerations to deal with and make, so that you can stick to resistant starch so that it can work its way into your life in more impactful ways.
Feel Better Today
Have you been thinking about more resistant starch in your diet? Is it because you have been feeling less energized, or that something might not be right.
While you might want to start considering how to get more resistant starch on your plate, I hope this resistant starch carb is helpful and you also consider some of the other steps you can take to improve your health.
Start by taking the Adrenal Quiz (6) today, and see the kind of steps you can take to take back your health and start feeling better today.
Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet.
Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.