Resistant Starch – Carbs You Can Eat with Little to No Impact
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If you like to have your CAKE and EAT IT, too, this is for you! Today, we’re going over the basics of resistant starch, and the array of health benefits that come from consuming it! Let’s dive in and I’ll see you in the COMMENTS!!
Resistant starches are plant starches that escape digestion in the human stomach and small intestine and make their way down to the large intestine, where your gut bugs live. In this way, they are almost like a cross between a “true (caloric) starch” and fiber. Resistant starches have many of the properties of fiber. Importantly, resistant starches can be fermented by gut bacteria into SCFAs like butyrate to promote gut health.
Also importantly, U.S. food labels classify resistant starches as a fiber (specifically, soluble fiber), not a net carb.
Types of Resistant Starches (RS1-RS4) – Analogies in [square brackets]
RS1 – Physically indigestible because it is protected by physical barriers like cell walls. Found in seeds, beans, and unprocessed whole grain, etc. [Like a medieval soldier in armor]
RS2 – Chemically/enzymatically indigestible. Found in raw potato, green bananas, and some corn starch. [Like a ninja able to evade detection]
RS3 – When a RS2 starch is cooked, it expands and becomes digestible. If it is then cooled later, the starch granule can contract back into a partially indigestible form in a process called “retrogradation.”
The cooking and retrogradation process does change the resistant starch. The most common example of an RS3 food is a baked potato that has been cooled in the fridge overnight. [Like Danny from the Game of Thrones – she had to be burnt (cooked) and then cooled to become the Mother of Dragons]
But will you save a meaningful number of calories by cooling your potatoes? No.
Food Chemistry 2016
This study analyzed the RS3 content of hot or chilled (4°F) potatoes. Per 100g of potato, the chilled potato had 0.45 grams more resistant starch than the hot potato. That means for every 220 Calorie potato (51 grams of carbohydrates) you eat, you “save” only about 6 Calories.
The benefits of RS3 (and other) resistant starches do not derive from calories saved but from their other beneficial health properties, such as butyrate production.
Nature Communications 2015
This study suggests that resistant starches in the traditional South African diet – rural South Africans consume 38 grams of resistant starch per day on average in the form on cooked then cooled corn porridge (RS3) and beans (RS1 and RS3), as compared to 3-6 grams per day for Americans – may protect against colon cancer. This study involved a 2-week food exchange, in which African Americans and rural South Africans switched diets for 2 weeks. As a result of switching diets, cancer markers increased in the South Africans (now eating a low-RS diet) and decreased in African Americans (now eating high-RS). This included a change in the production of the gut protective SCFA butyrate. Results of this study are not conclusive, but they are consistent with the hypothesis that resistant starches can protect against colon cancer.
RS4 – Chemically modified (by human hands) to resist digestion. Examples include cross-linked starches and starch esters. [Like Captain America, synthetically produced but ultra-awesome]
Journal of Nutritional Metabolism 2010
More Benefits of Resistant Starches
International Journal of Colorectal Disease 1999
Resistant starch fermentation makes butyrate and butyrate heals the gut lining: Nutrition Research 2018 meta-analysis
Nicholas Norwitz – Oxford PhD Researcher and Harvard Med Student: