The carb hero superfood that can actually improve your health
Put down your kale smoothie. There is a delicious new health hero in town and it will make you question everything you thought you knew about carbohydrates.
Pasta and potato lovers, listen up.
Now there are even more reasons to get your carb-loading on.
Introducing resistant starch, a dietary fibre that is changing the way people think about carbohydrates.
“Resistant starch is a type of starch that our body can’t break down,” Monash University gastroenterology researcher Daniel So says.
“They are resistant to digestion.”
Starches, he explains, are long chains of glucose found in grains, potatoes and other carbohydrate-rich foods, such as bananas and legumes.
Most of the carbs you consume contain starches, but not all of the starch you eat gets digested.
“What that means is that, because we can’t break it down or absorb it, resistant starches pass through the small intestine intact and eventually reaches the colon, where it feeds the good bacteria in your gut,” Daniel says.
So, why is resistant starch so good for you?
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Resistant starches support a healthy microbiome
One of the key benefits of including more resistant starches in your diet is they promote a healthy gut.
“Studies have shown that one of the key by-products of resistant starch breakdown is butyrate,” Daniel says.
“Butyrate is a powerful short-chain fatty acid that is used immediately by the cells in the colon, offering anti-inflammatory effects and increasing cell turnover.”
In simple terms, he says, butyrate is basically a superfood for your gut.
“That process of fermentation in the colon also supplies bacteria with energy, particularly for beneficial species,” he says.
“This helps to maintain the growth and populations of our beneficial bugs.”
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Resistant starches can help with weight loss
Eating resistant starches can also indirectly assist with managing weight.
Switching foods high in digestible starch for those higher in resistant starch is an easy and effective way to maintain kilojoule intake without having to cut back on portion sizes.
“Replacing foods rich in digestible starch with those high in resistant starch can indirectly reduce your overall energy intake, as resistant starches – being indigestible – provide fewer kilojoules/calories than their digestible counterparts,” Daniel says.
Resistant starches can improve insulin sensitivity
Because resistant starch is indigestible by the body, it can be effective at lowering blood sugar levels after a meal.
“As resistant starch isn’t broken down in the small intestine, the subsequent insulin response is less pronounced compared with digestible starch, which is broken down into glucose in the small intestine and absorbed into the bloodstream,” Daniel explains.
“This reduces its glycemic index (GI), which also makes resistant starch a good option for people with diabetes.”
Some studies have even shown that resistant starches can have a second-meal effect so, if you have them at breakfast, they will reduce your blood sugar spike at lunch, too.
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How to get more resistant starches in your diet
Resistant starches occur naturally in a range of foods, including raw potatoes, green bananas, grains and legumes.
But if you’re looking for easy ways of including more of these indigestible bad boys in your diet, we have two words for you: Pasta and potatoes.
“One of the easiest ways of upping your resistant starch intake is by cooking – and then cooling – starchy foods,” Daniel says.
“That process of heating and then cooling, known as retrogradation, converts some of the digestible starches into resistant starches.”
Bring on the potato salads, we say.
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Written by Tianna Nadalin.