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When thinking about starches like potatoes, rice, and pasta, most people associate them with weight gain. This association is mainly due to the belief that carbohydrates raise blood sugar and insulin and that weight loss comes through low-carb or keto diets. That’s partly true. However, starch’s influence on weight depends on the type of starch and how (and if) you cook it. It can be part of healthy eating! That’s where the concept of resistant starch comes in.

What is Resistant Starch?

Resistant starch (RS) is a type of starch that acts more like dietary fiber than typical starch. It’s called “resistant” because it resists digestion in the small intestine and reaches the large intestine mostly intact. Regular starches break down into glucose in the digestive tract. Resistant starches are resistant to breakdown by our digestive enzymes. Instead, it acts as food for the good bacteria in the gut. Resistant starch is found in certain foods and has several types, each with different properties. Here are the four types of resistant starch: [1] 

  • RS Type 1 (RS 1): This type of resistant starch is in the cell walls of certain plants. It’s in whole grains, seeds, and legumes. The granules are physically inaccessible due to their structure, so they resist digestion.
     
  • RS Type 2 (RS 2): This type is in starchy foods rich in a polysaccharide called amylose. Examples include green bananas, plantains, and raw potato starch. Cooking these foods alters the starch, making it more digestible, but they have more resistant starch when consumed in their raw form.   
     
  • RS Type 3 (RS 3): This retrograded starch forms when starchy foods like potatoes, rice, or beans are cooked and then cooled. The cooling process changes the structure of the starch, making it more resistant to digestion.
     
  • RS Type 4 (RS 4): This form is created through chemical modifications to a natural starch like cornstarch. It’s used as a supplement and added to various processed foods. You’ll find a variety of commercially available type 4 resistant starches.

To recap, foods high in resistant starch include unripe bananas, plantains, raw potatoes, certain legumes, seeds, whole grains, cooked and cooled rice or potatoes, and certain high-amylose starches. Increasing your resistant starch intake may contribute to better gut health and a healthy weight, among other health benefits. 

So, How Does RS Help You Lose Weight? 

Resistant starch helps to promote weight loss in several ways: by improving gut health, balancing blood sugar, and increasing feelings of fullness. It may work by altering the production or secretion of hormones like insulin, neurotransmitters, and inflammatory cytokines. Ultimately, resistant starch may help bring you closer to a healthy balance or “homeostasis.” 

Improving Gut Health

Resistant starch acts as a prebiotic, promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in the large intestine. These bacteria ferment the starch, producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) such as butyrate, acetate, and propionate. Butyrate and other SCFAs supply energy for the cells lining the colon and help support a healthy gut, which is essential for metabolic health.  

Animal studies have shown butyrate can lower inflammation in the gut. [2] In so doing, it may protect against inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and even colon cancer. [3][4] Scientists continue to study the effects of resistant starches and their potential to help those with IBD. [5] 

Blood Sugar Regulation

Resistant starch may also help improve insulin sensitivity and regulate blood sugar (glucose) levels. [6] Controlling blood sugar levels and the insulin response may reduce the glycemic response to meals, potentially helping to manage cravings and reducing the risk of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.   

Fat Burning

Resistant starch may work quickly in some people. Research by the University of Colorado found that eating one meal rich in resistant starch could increase fat burning by at least 20% throughout the rest of the day. [7] In a 2019 study, 40 grams of resistant starch type 2 daily for four weeks lowered levels of harmful gut microbes. The result was an improved gut microbiome, which significantly reduced abdominal fat. [8]

Appetite Management

Adding resistant starch to meals may help regulate appetite and increase feelings of fullness. This may lead people to stop eating earlier and eat fewer calories. A 2010 randomized controlled trial found that 48 grams of resistant starch divided between two meals lowered calorie intake in young men. [9] Another trial found that resistant starch improved feelings of satiety. [10] 

How To Incorporate Resistant Starch Foods into Your Daily Life  

It’s easy to incorporate resistant starch into your diet. It’s just a matter of making simple changes and including certain foods naturally rich in this beneficial starch. Here are some ways to include resistant starch in your daily life:

1 – Cook and Cool Starches

Cooking starchy foods like potatoes, rice, or pasta and then cooling them increases the resistant starch content. Examples include potato salad, rice-based cold dishes, and chickpea (or other GF flour) pasta salad. Some recipe ideas include:  

2 – Add Whole Grains and Seeds (That Fit with Your Food Allergy List)

Whole grains like brown rice, oats, quinoa, and seeds like chia seeds and flaxseeds have resistant starch. You can easily incorporate them into meals by adding them to salads, yogurt, or smoothies. Here are a few from The Wellness Way kitchen:

3 – Enjoy Legumes if You Tolerate Them

Legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, and beans are excellent sources of resistant starch. Add them to soups and salads or use them as a side dish to increase your intake. Some recipe ideas include: 

4 – Opt For Green Bananas

Unripe green bananas are higher in resistant starch compared to ripe ones. You can add slices of green banana to salads or blend them into smoothies. 

Green bananas are also dried and pulverized into green banana flour.

5 – Include High-Amylose Starches

High-amylose starches are a type of starch known for having more amylose than amylopectin. Amylose is more resistant to digestion, while amylopectin digests quickly, leading to spikes in blood sugar. Examples of high amylose starches are long-grain rice (as opposed to sticky rice), tapioca, raw starches or flours (like arrowroot), and root vegetables and tubers.  

Tapioca or cassava starch, potato starch, and arrowroot can serve as thickeners for soups, stews, or gravies. (See green banana flour used in gravy here). These starches may also work well as a coating for pan-fried fish.

6 – Experiment with Resistant Starch Supplements

Resistant starch supplements are available in powder or capsule form. You’ll more often find it as a powder that you can blend into smoothies or protein powder blends. Common ingredients to expect include organic cornstarch, green banana flour, potato starch, and tiger nut flour. Tiger nut is not a nut but a starchy tuber from the Middle East that serves as a prebiotic.  

At The Wellness Way, we often use Chicory Root capsules for their inulin content. Insulin is another prebiotic that feeds your gut microbiome. It’s different from resistant starch but supports the gut bacteria in a similar way. However, it’s essential to use these under the guidance of your Wellness Way Clinic to ensure they’re suitable for your needs.  

Remember to gradually introduce these foods to your diet to allow your digestive system to adjust. At first, you might experience some side effects, like a bit more bloating or excess gas. However, your system should adapt to the increased fiber as your gut microbiota becomes more balanced. 

The Wellness Way Can Help!  

If you’re interested in what you can do to get to a healthy weight, don’t walk the road alone. Our health restoration coaches and doctors would love to walk alongside you on your health journey. There’s more to it than adding resistant starch; inflammation, food allergies, hormone imbalance, GI infections, and more can make it challenging to achieve your healthy weight. We do health differently! Contact a Wellness Way Clinic today! 

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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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