The tides are turning in the nutrition field and where high-carb, low-fat diets were once thought to be the panacea for all that ails us, we’ve learned that this way of eating is actually a major contributor to many of the modern chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and even autoimmunity and cancer.

But, as with all things, not all carbs are equal. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, as we so often do when we jump from dietary extreme to extreme.

Have you heard of resistant starch?

Resistant starches are carbohydrates that behave very differently in your gut and bloodstream than do many other starches. Rather than quickly converting to blood sugar – which will be either used for energy or, more frequently, stored as fat – they simply pass through your small intestine intact. They “resist” the enzymes that break down complex starches, hence the term “resistant”.

This has a few key implications for your health:

  1. You don’t absorb the calories from these vegetables as sugar, which means no blood sugar spike or corresponding insulin surge. This isn’t the same as pure fiber, which isn’t absorbed at all. You’re still getting carbohydrate, but this is a true “slow” carb, being absorbed over the course of 7-9 hours rather than 1-3.
  2. Because they pass through the small intestine intact, they feed the microbiome in your colon, in particular the anaerobic protective bacteria, which aren’t as influenced by most probiotic supplements. This means they create a much happier and healthier gut environment. For this bacteria-feeding reason, you might also hear them described as prebiotics.  
  3. The bacteria in your gut will turn these resistant starches into short-chain fatty acids such a butyrate, acetate and propionate, the preferred fuel for your colon. This also helps to reduce inflammation in the body and heal the GI tract overall.
  4. Because they feed the microbiome so beautifully, they enhance nutrient absorption and digestion overall as they support the beneficial bacteria that play such a critical role in this process.
  5. You feel fuller longer when you eat them, and thus will need to eat less food while actually consuming fewer calories. This is another way, in addition to their net-zero impact on blood sugar, that they help trim your waistline.
  6. They bind to toxins and help escort them from your body, like exit-door valets for the bad stuff.   
  7. Resistant starches have been shown to lower triglycerides and LDL (the “bad” cholesterol), and reduce the overall glycemic impact of the meal they’re consumed with.

An impressive list, right?

Resistant starch is an ideal addition to a low-carbohydrate diet when that diet is being followed for managing blood sugar, weight loss, or gut imbalances. I recommend adding some resistant starch to 1-2 meals per day and see how your body responds!

BUT: (and this is a big but), resistant starches aren’t appropriate for everyone. If you have been diagnosed with SIBO or struggle digestively, resistant starches may not be right for you. The only way to know is to try, but go slowly and if they exacerbate symptoms, then ease off and try again once you’ve done some healing work.

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Here’s a list of the more easily digested resistant starches for you to choose from. Please note, all beans and legumes need to be properly prepared to ensure you’ve eliminated the anti-nutrients therein. We’ve listed those that are best tolerated in the first list, and those that are tolerated by those with robust digestive systems in the second list.

  • Green plantains
  • Green bananas
  • Cassava (tapioca)
  • Sweet potatoes or yams
  • Rutabaga
  • Parsnips
  • Yucca
  • Celery root (also called celeriac)
  • Glucomannan (konjac root)
  • Persimmon
  • Jicama
  • Taro root
  • Turnips
  • Tiger nuts
  • Green mango
  • Millet
  • Sorghum
  • Green papaya
  • White Potatoes, when cooked and left to cool
  • Gluten-free oats
  • White rice

There are also several beans and legumes which contain a significant amount of resistant starch. if you tolerate them, digestively and if they are properly prepared (soaked at length, ideally pressure cooked to remove anti-nutrients), then consider adding the following:

  • Navy beans
  • Northern beans
  • Cannellini beans
  • Peas
  • Adzuki beans
  • Kidney beans
  • Lentils
  • Black beans
  • Garbanzo beans
  • Lima beans
  • Pearl barley
  • Pinto beans

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