Resistant Starch (RS) seems to be the new buzzword in the nutrition world these days, and with good reason. I have been on a low-carb (50-100g NET cabs per day), Paleo diet for 6 years now and this has meant giving up starchy foods like potatoes in an effort to keep my blood sugars regulated and better my health. But the latest research is showing that there is a type of starch that is RESISTANT to digestion and therefore, does NOT spike your blood sugar.
Simply put, when you eat food it goes to your stomach to get broken down, and then travels to your small intestine where your body absorbs the nutrients (or toxins depending on what you ate) from the food. What ever isn’t used is passed into your large intestine (colon) and then excreted. Resistant starches are unique in that they pass through your stomach and small intestine without getting broken down, making them RESISTANT to digestion. They make it all the way to the large intestine in tact and feed your beneficial bacteria. Food that feeds the healthy bacteria in your gut is called a prebiotic. (as opposed to probiotic which are the actual bacteria themselves).
The good bacteria in our gut need to outnumber the bad in order for humans to be healthy, so it is vital that we feed them. These healthy bacteria break down resistant starches into gases and short chain fatty acids (SCFA). One of the SCFA is called butyrate (1) and it is the preferred fuel of the cells that line the colon (2). Butyrate also improves insulin sensitivity, improves the integrity and function of the gut, lowers the blood glucose response to food, reduces fasting blood sugar, increases satiety, and helps to expel “bad” bacteria (3).
Adding Resistant Starch to Your Diet
Resistant Starch can be found in many food sources like beans/legumes, starchy fruits & vegetables, whole grains, yams (white or yellow center, not the orange centered kind), cooked-and-cooled white potatoes, and cooked-and-cooled white rice. See a complete list of RS here.
Beans/legumes and whole grains are not included in the PALEO/Perfect Health Diet (PHD) so those are out of the question for me. The richest sources of resistant starch for someone following a Paleo-style diet are raw potatoes, green bananas, plantains, tiger nuts, yams, cooked-and-cooled* white potatoes, and cooked-and-cooled* white rice.
Does this mean I can seriously eat potatoes again?!?! Just the thought of mashed potatoes without guilt makes me smile. But you do need to follow the rules here. The resistant starches in white rice and white potatoes aren’t formed until you make them very cold, so eating them fresh off the stovetop is NOT going to provide you with the prebiotic RS that is described here. Ripe bananas won’t have resistant starch either, they must be green. So how can Paleo/PHD people incorporate RS into their diets?
- Cook organic white rice in pasture-raised bone broth, sea salt, and grass-fed butter. Then put it in the fridge and serve as a side dish with any meal.
- Boil organic white potatoes and then make this resistant starch potato salad recipe Eat along side any Paleo-approved protein.
- Add green bananas or Bob’s Red Mill raw potato starch to smoothies.
- Roast organic white potatoes and then put them in the refrigerator to cool. Eat them all week long with any meal.
- Roast sliced Asian yams (white or yellow center, the orange-centered ones have been breed for sweetness and do not contain the same RS that yams do) (4) in coconut oil and sea salt until golden brown.
- Roast yams in their skin, then remove the skins and place yams in a bowl while hot & mash/beat them with coconut milk, coconut oil or grass-fed butter, cinnamon, and a touch of maple syrup.
- Buy a bag of Tiger Nuts and eat 1-2 handfuls with any meal
In my experience, adding resistant starch was very difficult at first. I felt like I was committing a sin! I love science so I needed to prove to myself that eating cold potatoes wouldn’t spike my blood sugar. For several days I tested my blood sugar before eating, then again 30, 60, and 90 minutes after eating a PALEO/PHD style meal including resistant starch. I was very pleased with the results because my blood sugar never went over 120 and returned back to its normal range (80-100) within 90 minutes of eating. I didn’t gain any weight either which I was kind of nervous about because I hadn’t indulged in starchy foods on a daily basis in years.
What has your experience been like with resistant starch? I would love to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly! Leave a comment and I will respond ASAP!
*cooked-and-cooled means that they need to be put in the freezer or the refrigerator after cooking for several hours until very cold, giving the resistant starches time to form. You will not get the resistant starch described in this article from hot potatoes and rice. After you have cooked-and-cooled your potatoes and rice, you may very gently reheat them if you wish, but understand that reheating to a high temperature will degrade the resistant starch. Instead of reheating, I recommend heating up some grass fed butter or bone broth and adding it to the cold mashed potatoes in order to add back a little warmth.