Carbohydrates get a lot of negative press, but carbohydrates can be roughly divided into 3 different types: sugars, starches, and vegetables. When we are talking about a “low carb” diet, this is usually referring to low sugar and low starches in the diet. However, within the starch category is a type of carbohydrate that has been shown to help with weight loss, decrease colon cancer risk, and help anyone with a blood sugar issue. This type of starch is called indigestible, or resistant, starch.
I like recommending resistant starch for a number of reasons, but the biggest benefit to incorporating resistant starch into the diet is how it affects insulin. Insulin, otherwise known as the “fat storage” hormone, or the “fat cell fertilizer”, is vital to our survival but is out of balance in almost 50% of Americans. We worry about insulin when it gets too high or too low, and in my practice, we typically see people who have higher-than-optimal levels of insulin. This promotes weight gain, diabetes, may be a key part of Alzheimer’s disease, and even increases the prevalence of cardiovascular disease (due to its contribution to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome)!
How does resistant starch provide all these benefits?
-Lower calories than regular starches
-Increases satiety (the feeling of being full after eating) due to the high soluble fiber content
-Binds to toxins in the large intestine (in particular, toxins that are associated with increased colorectal cancer)
-Increase butyric acid in the gut, which helps heal the inflammation associated with inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and diverticulitis
-Increases the amount of good bacteria in the gut, by acting as a prebiotic
Best food sources:
Unmodified potato starch (Bob’s Red Mill is a good brand): easy to sprinkle a tablespoon onto food, in a smoothie, etc.
Unripe plantains and bananas – plantain chips are an easy way to get these into your diet
Beans (particularly white beans like navy, northern, and cannellini)
Raw potatoes, or cooked then cooled potatoes
Too much too soon can produce bloating and gas, so start small and increase gradually over 2-4 weeks. Aim for around 30 grams per day (equal to about 4 tablespoons of unmodified potato starch), for maximum benefits.