Resistant Starch – the safe carb for a low carb diet
ByJoanne Aponte, ND •August 26, 2021
You don’t have to avoid all carbohydrates and starches to lose weight, lower your cholesterol and manage diabetes. Including a type of starch called Resistant Starch (RS) in a low carb diet could actually be healthier and better for you in the long run.
If you are on a paleo diet, keto diet or other low carb diet and avoiding all grains, beans and starches, you could actually be doing harm to your gut microbiome. Your gut needs some of these fibrous foods to help maintain balance of your gut microbiome. And if you damage your gut microbiome, you will create other problems including slowing down of your metabolism (making weight loss and blood sugar control even harder). It seems most people think that you need to avoid most grains, beans and starches to lose weight, manage diabetes and lower cholesterol, but this is not what the research supports or what evidence shows us when we look at traditionally lean and metabolically healthy cultures.
Resistant starches behave differently than other starches/carbs and they have many health benefits. Resistant starches “resist” digestion and act more like fiber in your digestive tract. They function as a type of prebiotic fiber in your gut that encourage growth of healthy gut bacteria in the large intestine. They also encourage butyrate production which helps fuel your body and brain. And since these starches “resist” digestion and act like fiber, this means that they are not fully absorbed into the body and so have a lower effect on raising your blood sugar.
Benefits of resistance starch
- Increases your sense of fullness and help control appetite
- Improves insulin sensitivity and better blood sugar control
- Improves cholesterol and metabolic syndrome
- Enhances fat burning and aids in reducing belly fat
- Improves digestion and supports healthier gut flora. Healthier gut flora = a stronger immune system
Sources of Resistant Starch
The main sources are green/unripe bananas and plantains, beans/lentils, grains and potatoes.
- Low Glycemic Sources: Pistachios, Cashews, Jicama, Green banana flour, Green unripe bananas (uncooked) and green plantains (uncooked).
- Intermediate Glycemic Sources: Legumes (beans and lentils), Tiger nut, Cassava root, Turnips, Yucca, Buckwheat, Millet, Green mango (uncooked), Green papaya.
- High Glycemic Sources: Teff, Potatoes, Sweet potatoes, Yams, Parsnips, Rutabagas, Rice (cooked and cooled), Oats (cooked and cooled), Sorghum, Persimmons.
** To increase the RS content, the above foods can be cooked or boiled and then cooled before eating. This will increase the resistant starch content and further blunt a rise in your blood sugar making it a better way to consume these foods for those who need to lose weight and who are trying to manage their blood sugar and cholesterol.
Tips for incorporating Resistant Starch
- Add to smoothies – adding green banana flour, a ¼ cup of white beans (navy, great northern or cannellini), or ½ frozen unripe green banana is a great way to add resistant starch to smoothies. These have little effect on taste and texture.
- Start low and go slow – If these foods are new to your diet, start low and go slow so that your body can adjust and build the “muscles” to digest these foods. If you have digestive issues, you may only tolerate smaller amounts of some of these, and that’s okay. Include whatever you can tolerate, in the long run you will be doing your gut more good.
- Proceed with caution if you have diabetes – if you have diabetes you should still proceed with caution and start with only small amounts of resistant starch. Check your blood sugar 90 minutes after the start of your meal and see what effect they have on your blood sugar. While you may not tolerate larger amounts of resistant starch, include whatever small amounts your body can handle so that you can reap the other benefits of resistant starch and keep your gut microbiome healthy and balanced. Keep the focus on the low and intermediate glycemic sources and consume smaller amounts of the higher glycemic ones. Cooking and then eating these RS foods cold will be the best option.
- Add fat to RS – adding fat such as olive oil to your resistant starch (especially to grains) will help blunt a rise in blood sugar.
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Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.