Written by: Kelley Herring, Healing Gourmet
You probably know that eating a diet rich in healthy fats and protein, accompanied by an array of colorful vegetables (and a little fruit) is the key to a trim waistline and a long, disease-free life.
Eating the way our ancestors did also means choosing slow-digesting carbohydrates (and only about 15-20% of the total diet).
And while most of us in the modern world eat far too many carbs, there is a beneficial carbohydrate that is lacking in most modern diets: resistant starch.
Resistant Starch: The Un-Carb That Balances (Not Boosts!) Blood Sugar
When you hear “starch” you might think of white potatoes, fluffy white bread and processed foods. And if you’re concerned about your health, you know that these “whites” top the list of foods to avoid.
But resistant starch (RS) is different.
Unlike other forms of starch which are rapidly broken down into sugars (raising blood sugar and insulin levels), resistant starch passes through the stomach unchanged by digestive enzymes.
But RS doesn’t just escape digestion. It can actually improve insulin sensitivity, both in healthy people and in those with metabolic syndrome. Eating resistant starch at one meal can even help to lower the blood sugar response of your next meal (called the “second meal effect”).
And that’s not all…
Stay Full and Burn More Fat with Resistant Starch
RS has also been found to significantly boost fat burning. In fact, research conducted at the University of Colorado found that resistant starches boost your body’s fat burning capability by 20-25%!
Researchers also found that when RS is enjoyed at breakfast, the fat-burning effects continue throughout the day. The study also showed that RS can help prevent weight re-gain.
What’s more, foods containing resistant starch boost two key satiety hormones: glucagon-like-peptide (GLP-1) and peptide YY (PYY).
Ratcheting up your fat-burning furnace and feeling more satiated on less food can equate to a leaner, healthier you.
And while losing body fat and quelling hunger are good enough reason to add RS to your diet , there’s something even more important that resistant starch can do…
Boost Your Immune System, Prevent Cancer and Optimize Gut Health
As a prebiotic, RS promotes the growth of “good” bacteria in the gut. And because research shows that more than 70% of our immune cells reside in the gut, maintaining healthy gut flora is one of the keys to a healthy immune system.
But RS doesn’t just feed the flora – it feeds our cells too.
As the bacteria in your gut ferments resistant starch, important compounds called short chain fatty acids – including butyrate – are produced. Butyrate is the preferred fuel for colon cells, helping these cells to remain healthy and reduce inflammation.
Resistant starch also lowers pH in the colon, guarding against DNA damage and creating an environment where damaged cells can’t thrive.
The 4 Healthiest Sources of Resistant Starch (And How to Maximize It in Your Foods)
Our Paleo ancestors are believed to have consumed up to 135 grams of resistant starch per day, primarily from raw bulbs, tubers, barks as well as cattails and cactuses – with “raw” being the operative word.
You see, while resistant starch is not broken down by stomach acid, its conformation is changed by heat. When it is cooked, RS becomes digestible like any other carbohydrate. But there is a caveat: Cooking and then cooling foods that contain resistant starch will make these compounds partially recoil back into their unique “resistant” structure. That’s why cooked and cooled pasta, rice, beans and potatoes are good sources of RS.
But you don’t have to eat grains or legumes to get the benefits. In fact, there are several excellent sources of resistant starch that are in the form closest to what our Paleo ancestors consumed (sans anti-nutrients and inflammatory compounds). Here they are:
1. Green Banana Flour: Made from unripe bananas, green banana flour can be used to make a wide variety of baked goods or stirred into your Vital Whey protein smoothie. Look for green banana flour by a new company called WeDo.
2. Raw Green Bananas or Plantains: When green, bananas and plantains contain a high proportion of RS. As they ripen almost all of the RS becomes regular digestible carbohydrates and sugars.
3. Organic Unmodified Potato Starch: Made from raw potatoes, unmodified potato starch is a great source of RS. However, because potatoes are a crop with high pesticide contamination, choose organic.
4. Green Plantain Flour: Can be used like green banana flour. Ensure it is made from unripe plantains.
If you choose to cook with resistant starch, remember to cool it to allow it to regain its native spirals. Chilling in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight has been shown to do this, in part.
If you want to go the “raw” route, start off by adding a teaspoon of green banana flour or organic unmodified potato starch to your smoothie and work up to a tablespoon. Starting slowly can to reduce digestive discomfort (gas) due to fermentation in the gut.
In addition to the numerous “behind the scenes” benefits of resistant starch, many people report experiencing better sleep, more vivid dreams, improved thyroid function and a state of calm.
Resistant starch may be the missing piece of the puzzle for optimum health. Consider adding a healthy source to your ancestral diet to boost gut health, enhance immunity and improve your metabolism.
Read more articles by Kelley Herring here.
Kelley Herring is author of more than a dozen books on nutrition and natural healing. She is also the co-founder of Wellness Bakeries, which has just released their newest product – Better Bread – a 100% Paleo bread mix you can whip up in 5 minutes flat.
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