Resistant starch can improve your health

Resistant starch is the new buzzword in health circles. It started with Richard Nikoley unearthing research at his blog Free The Animal and the excitement surrounding resistant starch has been picked up by the paleo world as a type of good starch that can be eaten even as part of a low-carbohydrate diet. Resistant starch’s main role is to feed the good bacteria in our gut, and subsequently, help to reduce leaky gut syndrome, improve allergies and autoimmune conditions, reduce colon cancer risk and improve blood cholesterol. Dieters also have cause for cheer. Resistant starch can aid in weight loss by increasing satiety; it is a carbohydrate that with virtually zero impact on blood glucose.

What is resistant starch?

Essentially, resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by your body, but becomes food for your gut bacteria. Normally, starch is digested in your small intestine and absorbed by your body. The remaining non-digestible portion is called resistant starch and travels to the large intestine, where it is broken down by bacteria for energy.

resistant starch
Bacteria using the resistant starch for energy in the large intestine

The subsequent by-product – butyrate – is the preferred fuel of the cells that line the colon. Butyrate may reduce inflammation in the gut and other tissues and may improve our immune system and metabolism.

What foods contain resistant starch?

According to Mark’s Daily Apple, these are the best places to get our daily dosage of resistant starch:

The richest food sources are

  • Raw potatoes
  • Green (not really ripe) bananas
  • Plantains
  • Cooked-and-cooled potatoes
  • Cooked-and-cooled rice
  • Parboiled rice
  • Cooked-and-cooled legumes

These are foods very high in carbohydrates and are not suitable for low-carbers. The best way to incorporate resistant starch without ruining diet appears to be raw potato starch, which can be added to smoothies. Because raw potato starch is not digested, it will not affect your carb count.

Four tablespoons of raw potato starch provide about 32 grams of resistant starch. When you reach 50-60 grams a day, the rest just gets passed out of your body. The downside of resistant starch is that it may cause flatulence and discomfort initially (like how you fart more after eating a Mexican meal rich in beans!).

As for me, I was intrigued after reading about gut flora but I was less keen on eating raw potatoes and unripe bananas. I don’t like potatoes and I like my bananas ripe and sweet, thank you! A simpler way to keep my gut healthy, I felt, was to consume some soil-based organisms. This is different from eating yoghurt – we are talking about the microbes that normally live in dirt. Just imagine the caveman and cavewomen of the past digging through dirt for tubers!

I ordered a bottle of Garden of Life’s Primal Defense from iHerb.com and have been taking one capsule every morning for the past week. I don’t have any illnesses so it’s hard for me to tell if anything is improving. But I have always had a very weak stomach and I get stomach pains quite frequently, most often from consuming lactose, trapped wind and period cramps. We’ll see if my stomach  health improves after the supplements.

This is quite a lengthy article published in the American Physiology Journal about the impact of bacteria on human health and disease but it’s written very well and quite accessible. Click here if you’re into geeky science.

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