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You have probably heard me discuss resistant starch before, but did you know just how easy it is to incorporate into your diet? In fact, you can find resistant starch in up to 50 different foods.
Here’s a helpful update on the science behind the power of resistant starch. Then, I will introduce you to some new ways to get more of it into your diet starting today.
What is Resistant Starch?
Let’s begin with a brief overview of what resistant starch is and the benefits it can provide. Fibers are among the most beneficial food constituents that we know of, and they only come from carbohydrates. So, we have to start this conversation off by dismissing the idea that we should avoid carbohydrates.
Resistant starch is not quite fiber and not quite a carbohydrate. In fact, it has the best properties of both. Unlike carbohydrates, it is not absorbed in the small intestine and it does not demand insulin.
Instead, it is absorbed in the large intestine after good bacteria have had their first chance at it. Because it is absorbed in the large intestine, it ends up giving us 7 to 9 hours of stable blood sugar.
Key Insight: When it comes to carbs in your diet, you can do your body a lot of good – in the right amounts. It is all about balance, variety, and ensuring that you know what you are doing.
The bad thing about “bad carbs” is that they absorb really fast, and they make your body work harder. This leaves us with a good clue about what we might end up doing 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
- 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, those which are not typically as influenced by probiotic supplements.
Bottom Line: Resistant starch has the best of fiber and the best of carbohydrates. Fiber is good for your flora, but it is not digestible, while carbs do not feed the flora but give it nutrients. Resistant starch gives a little bit of nutrient, but it is so slowly absorbed so that it grants you 7 – 9 hours of slow and stable blood sugar.
The Truth About Energy and Body Weight
As it concerns energy and body weight, it all boils 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 do know about resistant starch is that it stays longer in that curve, more than any other known food.
Here’s how it all 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)
This long, straight chain of amylose, because there is a long single straight chain, it becomes harder to break down. Your body has to cover it one bite at a time, which ultimately 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 include making 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
- Heal our 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. That is just how powerful the benefits of resistant starch in our diet can become.
Resistant starch also plays a big role in improving:
- The health of the lining of the intestinal tract
- Blood flow to the colon
- Our overall nutrient and mineral absorption
- The reduction of toxins in our body (1)
- The good bacteria in our body
- Lowering the risk of colorectal cancer
How Much Resistant Starch Is Enough?
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 offering 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 fewer instances of inflammatory bowel disease 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. That is because the evidence is strong that resistant starch works in so many different ways to benefit our health.
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. We find this naturally occurring in many foods.
- 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.
Sources of Resistant Starch
There are so many foods that are high in resistant starch! Here is the most comprehensive list I have seen to date of foods (which contain more than 4 grams of resistant starch per serving).
Do note that active ingredients in foods can vary from batch to batch. This is especially true for resistant starch extract or flour products.
- Raw oats
- Navy beans
- Northern beans
- Cannellini beans
- White beans
- Peas, fresh or frozen
- Split peas
- Adzuki beans – also a dense source of magnesium (4)
- Kidney beans
- Green lentils
- Red lentils
- Black beans
- Garbanzo beans
- Lima beans
- Pearl barley
- Green banana flour
- Unripe bananas
- Banana Peels (from ripe and organic bananas)
- Boiled potatoes
- Clear rice noodles
- Pumpernickel bread
- Rye bread
- Corn tortillas
- Sourdough bread
- Cooked millet
- Brown rice
- Rice pasta
- Corn as a vegetable
- Pinto beans
- Hi-maize flour
- Black cowpeas
- Black-eyed peas
- Lotus seeds
- Mung beans
- Peanuts, boiled
- Red beans
- Buckwheat flour
- Cassava starch
- Mung Bean starch
- Pearl barley (Job’s Tears)
- Potato starch
- Sushi rice – cooked and cooled
- White cowpeas
- Tapioca pearls
- White yam
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?
The top three food sources of resistant starch are:
- Boiled potatoes
- Legumes (of all types)
- Unripe bananas
Key Insight: Unripe bananas are an excellent source of resistant starch. The greener they are, the better! The more yellow they become, the less resistant starch they have. You can even eat the peels. In this case, though, you do want to have the bananas ripe and you definitely want to purchase organic bananas.
The best way to use them is to cut off the stem in the tip, include the banana with the peel in a smoothie. If you blend it in a high-power blender, you will never even know it’s there.
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, but we also have the opportunity to prepare it and enjoy it in so many ways.
What Is the Best Dose of Resistant Starch?
Ideally, we would like to get 20 or more grams of resistant starch into our diets per day. It is better to find it with food and to get it with food sources. The important thing to do is to continually raise the dose gradually.
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 is 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 are prone to digestive symptoms you have the option of increasing your resistant starch intake slowly. Most can do fine with it but if you do not notice some symptoms, bring it down to a point where you stay feeling good and then bring it up again.
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 of resistant starches along with a meal replacement strategy (5).
This way, your brain has to deal with fewer changes and considerations. This way, you can stick to resistant starch so that it can work its way into your life in more impactful ways.
Prioritize Your Health 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.
Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet and The Metabolism Reset Diet.
Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, diabetes, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.