When most people here the word ‘carbs’ they immediately associate the term with things like weight gain, ‘bad’, unhealthy, should be avoided.
But the more we research gut health, the more we’re beginning to realise just how detrimental cutting starches out of our diets can be.
The Gut Movie
I recently went to the premier of The Gut Movie which confirmed a lot of which I’d been recently been researching. The film follows the journey of Kale Brock as he travels from Australia to Namibia to live with an ancient hunter-gatherer people living traditionally from the land.
During the documentary, Brock not only monitors his own microbiome and how it changes after his time spent living with the tribe, but he also speaks to numerous researchers and even takes microbiome samples of The San.
Some of the biggest take aways for me included:
- Approximately 70% of the entire immune system (some estimate it’s closer to 80%) is found in gut (study). This mean that if your gut health is poor, your immune system is likely to be compromised.
- That our modern love of antibiotics is truly harmful to our health.
- That mental health can likely to attributed to the health of our gut.
- That our diet can play a big role in improving our gut health, especially when it comes to increasing our intake of resistant starches.
Starches are long chains of glucose that are found in grains, potatoes and other various carbohydrates.
They are composed of two types of polysaccharides:
- Amylopectin – Broken down quickly, leading to a larger rise in blood sugar and therefore insulin.
- Amylose – Digested more slowly, therefore less likely to spike blood glucose or insulin. This is very prominent in resistant starches, which as the name suggests, resist digestion.
Resistant starch is the best friend of friendly gut bacteria. Resistant starch, unlike other starches has the ability to make it through the stomach and small intestine before reaching the colon where it feeds the friendly bacteria in the gut (reference). When the bacteria digest resistant starches, they form short-chain fatty acids, the most significant of which is called butyrate. This is known as the anti-inflammatory fat, which not only helps your gut work right, but can be important for gut-related diseases.
Health benefits of adequate intake of resistant starches can include: (reference)
- Improved insulin sensitivity.
- Lower blood sugar levels.
- Reduced appetite.
- Improved digestive health.
- Improves metabolic health.
- Positive effects on weight loss.
- Protect against the genetic damage that precedes bowel and colon cancers.
- Improvement in autoimmune diseases.
- Improved mental health.
Types of Resistant Starch
There are 4 different types of Resistant Starch:
- Type 1: Found in grains, seeds and legumes and resists digestion because it is bound within the fibrous cell walls.
- Type 2: Found in some starchy foods, including raw potatoes and green bananas.
- Type 3: Formed when certain starchy foods, including potatoes, rice, pastas and oats are cooked and then cooled.
- Type 4: Man-made and formed via a chemical process.
Adding Resistant Starches to Your Diet
Although there is no formal recommendation for the intake of resistant starch, many studies show health benefits of 15-30 grams per day.
Some foods high in resistant starch include:
100 grams of cooked rolled (not instant) oats can contain around 3.6 grams of resistant starch, as well as being high in antioxidants.
As cooking oats has been shown to damage much of the resistant starch, by allowing your cooked oats to cool for several hours you can repair much of this loss and increase the levels of resistant starch.
Beans and legumes provide large amounts of fiber and resistant starch.
Depending on the type of legume, they contain around 1-4 grams of resistant starch per 100 grams after cooking.
When using dried beans and legumes, it’s recommended they be be soaked and fully heated to remove lectins and anti-nutrients.
Raw Potato Starch
Raw potato starch contains about 8 grams of resistant starch per tablespoon and almost no usable carbohydrate.
It can be used as a thickener or added to smoothies, overnight oats or yogurt.
It’s important not to heat potato starch, so if you would like to add it to a dish, prepare the meal and then add the potato starch once it has cooled.
If you’re not use to consuming such quantities of resistant starch, it is recommended you start slowly and work your way up, as too much too soon can cause gasiness and bloating.
Cooked and Cooled Potatoes
Cooking potatoes and then allowing them to cool significantly increases their resistant starch content.
It’s important not to reheat the potatoes, so opt to have them as part of a homemade potato salad or side dish.
Green Bananas and Plantains
As bananas ripen, the resistant start transforms into simple sugars like fructose, glucose and sucrose, which is why consuming them whilst still green is important if you want to maximize your resistant starch intake.
You can treat Hi-Maize flour as you would potato starch by adding it to yogurt or oatmeal.
Other Cooked and Cooled Starchy Carbs
Cooking and cooling other starches will increase their resistant starch content, meaning this method can be applied to many carbohydrate which foods including pasta.
For a more comprehensive list of Resistant Starch quantities is various foods, click here.
So there you have it. If like me you’re interested in improving your gut health, immune system, blood sugar levels, digestive system, mood and weight, it’s worth giving resistant starches a go in your diet.