The Importance of Resistant Starch
Oct 31, 2015 09:34PM
The diversity and vibrancy of the beneficial bacteria, yeast, and viruses that reside in the digestive tract are closely tied to our health and well-being on a physical and mental level. Many health conscience individuals are interested in learning how to promote a healthy gut microbiome as both a means to prevent dysfunction, as well as heal imbalances.
The time-honored advice that Michael Pollen so efficiently states in Food Rules rings true and is a good place to start: “Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not Too Much.” Once this foundation is established, bringing more intention into the kind of real food that will promote a healthy gut allows people to specifically target the beneficial microbes.
Feeding your gut (rather than your stomach) generally focuses on including a variety of vegetables and fruits for their high-level of antioxidants as well as the undigestable plant fibers. Adding the preferred foods of the beneficial bacteria into the diet will allow them to grow with abundance supporting a healthy gut—a pillar of optimal health.
What are the prebiotic foods the beneficial bacteria eat and where can we find it in our foods? The short answer to this question is that bacteria eat fiber. The longer answer is that there are different kinds of fiber that contribute to different aspects of gut health. Historically, fiber has been divided into either soluble (dissolves in water) or insoluble (does not dissolve in water), both of which have health benefits associated with them such as decreasing transit time and adding bulk.
New research has shown that a more important indicator of a food’s ability to improve the gut microbiome is the presence of fibers that the microbes can ferment called Resistant Starch (RS). These fermentable fibers fuel the growth and vitality of the gut microbes which, in turn, creates an abundance of different types and quantities of mircobes that produce beneficial by-products for the gut such as short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs are critical to gut health as they are the primary food for the cells lining the gut and work to quell inflammation first locally and then systemically as part of anti-inflammatory pathway throughout the body.
The amount of RS that is beneficial is directly related to the amount of gut microbes that reside in the gut, so there is no one-size-fits-all recommendation. Incorporating up to 20 grams of RS per day and following the general rule of introducing a small amount and increasing gradually supports an increase in gut health related to the increase in the production of SCFAs.
Resistant starch is found in high amounts in plantain flour, green banana flour, tigernut flour and potato starch as well as the following foods if they are eaten after they are cooked and cooled:
- Lentils & Chickpeas: 2-4g
- Pinto Beans (cooked/cooled): 10g
- Purple Potato (roasted/cooled): 15-19g
- Yams (boiled/cooled): 6-8g
- Potato (boiled/cooled): 3-7g
- Rice (cooked/cooled): 1-2g
- Long grain Rice (cooked/cooled): 2-3g
- Sushi Rice (cooked/cooled): 3-4g
A delicious way to get RS is with this recipe for Tigernut Peanut Butter Cookies:
[box type="shadow" align="aligncenter" ]Tigernut Peanut Butter Cookies
- 1 lb natural peanut butter
- 1 cup maple syrup or Lakanto
- 2/3 cup grass-fed butter, softened
- 1 tsp vanilla
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 ½ cups tigernut flour
- 1 ½ cups flour (gluten-free works well)
Julie Wendt is a nutritionist and health coach supporting patients in reaching their health goals through diet and lifestyle support at GW Center for Integrative Medicine. For more information, call 202-833-5055 or visit GWCIM.com.