Resistant Starch: What's Good For Your Gut Is Good For Your Health
Resistant starch has been around forever, but its unique health benefits have only come to light in recent decades. What makes resistant starch so unusual is it's ability to resist digestion.What makes resistant starch so good for you is that it nourishes the good bacteria in your gut, improves blood sugar control, and in some individuals, produces a feeling a satiety. These characteristics combined can help you lose weight. But that's not all, making resistant starch a part of your diet helps reduce inflammation in your gut which can reduce your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and colon cancer.
Resistant Starch: A Carbohydrate That Acts Like A Fiber
Starches are forms of complex carbohydrates.There are good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates and the difference between them centers upon the speed with which they increase blood sugar. Bad carbohydrates raise your blood sugar quickly which overtime can lead to chronic inflammation and illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. Good carbs don't cause a quick spike in your blood sugar thanks to the presence of fiber, which slows down the process of digestion. Resistant starch acts like a fiber by resisting digestion in your small intestine. The result: it's fermented by the good bacteria in your large intestine to produce short chain fatty acids like butyrate, the chief source of fuel for the cells that line your gut.
Resistant Starch: Why It's So Good For You
Maintaining a healthy gut is vital to your overall well-being. When your gut is healthy, the beneficial bacteria help you digest and absorb your food, synthesize vitamins, control your appetite and metabolism, influence your mood, train your immune system, and determine how your genes are expressed. The key to keeping your gut healthy is to cultivate a healthy intestinal microbiome - the microorganisms in your gut and their genes. That's why it's important to nourish the good bacteria in your gut with prebiotic foods - like resistant starch - which, in turn, provide the fuel needed by the lining of your gut to function effectively.
Butyrate, one of three short-chain fatty acids derived from the digestion of resistant starch, is the fuel most preferred by the cells of your gastrointestinal tract. It also provides your body with incredible health benefits. Among it's amazing qualities are several anticancerous properties, including the ability to decrease oxidative stress in the gut, inhibit cancer-activating enzymes, and directly inhibit the development of colon cancer cells via epigenetic suppression of certain genes.
Another of the remarkable health benefits of all three short chain fatty acids produced from resistant starch is the ability to fight inflammation. It is estimated that 20-25% of all cancers are related to chronic inflammation. Butyrate, along with the other short chain fatty acids, promotes a healthy gut lining by inhibiting inflammatory substances while stimulating anti-inflammatory ones. Moreover, butyrate supports the integrity of the intestinal tract lining, thereby decreasing your chances of developing a leaky gut and the many health problems that accompany it.
And if those benefits weren't enough to persuade you to add resistant starch to your diet, it also improves your blood sugar control which can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is the chief lifestyle disease of our time and encompasses five health problems:
Abdominal obesity (increased waistline)
Elevated fasting triglyceride level
Low HDL cholesterol level
Elevated blood pressure
Elevated fasting blood sugar level
People with metabolic syndrome are at high risk for developing heart attacks, strokes as well as diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, and reduced cognitive function. A diet high in fiber is associated with decreased high blood pressure, lower cholesterol, weight loss, and improved blood sugar levels. Like other forms of dietary fiber, resistant starch has been shown to increase the amount of certain beneficial gut bacteria, thus, contributing to the health of your gut.
Resistant Starch: Where You Can Find It
There are five different types of resistant starch. Each one is categorized according to the ease with which it is digested. Recent research has found that some types of resistant starch are beneficial for certain strains of gut bacteria. While more research is needed to clarify the exact health benefits that specific types of resistant starches offer, it may be possible in the future to use resistant starch in a targeted approach to treating health problems by improving certain populations of beneficial gut bacteria.The five types of resistant starch include:
Resistant Starch 1 (RS1): Found in coarsely ground or whole kernel grains and certain legumes which, as a result of their hard cell wall and protein matrix, resist digestion.
Resistant Starch 2 (RS2): Found in uncooked green bananas, potatoes, gingko, and high-amylose maize (a type of corn starch). With the exception of high-amylose maize, cooking these forms of resistant starch makes them no longer resistant to digestion; thereby, losing the health benefits associated with resistant starch.
Resistant Starch 3 (RS3): Found in foods like rice, potatoes, legumes, and other grains (including pasta) which, when cooked and then cooled, regain their digestion resistant properties.
Resistant Starch 4 (RS4): Found in chemically altered starches.
Resistant Starch 5 (RS5): A substance formed out of the interaction of resistant starch and fat.
The best sources of resistant starch are:
Legumes (lentils, peas, chickpeas, and beans).
Green Bananas/Green Banana Flour: Add to your smoothie or use it to make delicious foods like pancakes.
Cooked and cooled rice, beans, and even pasta (but make it whole grain pasta and enjoy it infrequently).
Oats: Cooked oats have higher amounts of resistant starch than other cooked grains. If you enjoy eating the Swiss breakfast muesli (which is made from oats that have been cooked and then cooled), you'll get even more resistant starch. You can also use gluten free oats, but if you are gluten sensitive, you should avoid gluten free oats as well.
Potatoes: Potato starch or cooked and cooled potatoes are great sources of resistant starch. To get more fiber, use potatoes with skin on in your favorite version of potato salad. Add potato starch to your smoothie, yogurt or muesli, but don't cook it.
It's always best to get your nutrients from whole food. That's why it's wise to eat whole foods naturally high in resistant starch rather than rely solely on isolated resistant starch powders. Eating a variety of whole foods provides you with the most health benefits available as your body is able to absorb and utilize the minerals, vitamins, and phytochemicals more effectively than with powders or supplements. So, whenever possible, choose the potato salad (see the recipes listed) over a smoothie with potato starch. If you only have time for a smoothie, be sure to add a fruit and vegetable along with the potato starch in order to get the maximum benefit of the resistant starch. Lastly, give your body time to adjust to the increase in fiber by slowly increasing your intake of resistant starch.
The health benefits of resistant starch are truly amazing. If you've been looking to make a change for the better with regard to your health, adding resistant starch to your diet is a great way to start. You can get a head start with UltraGI Replenish, a specially formulated prebiotic blend that promotes a healthy balance of beneficial intestinal bacteria. UltraGI Replenish is designed to complement an eating plan that incorporates foods naturally high in fiber and resistant starch. For more information on how you can improve your health by changing your diet, please contact us.
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The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.
~ Dr. Sarah Williams ~ Concord & Nantucket, Massachusetts ~