Resistant Starch for Gut Health

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With all the hype around going ‘low carb’ or ‘keto’, carbohydrates have been getting some bad publicity lately. Is it necessary to remove carbohydrates from our diet to be healthy? The good news is no! Carbohydrates are essential fuel for our brains and bodies and are an important source of B vitamins for energy and fibre for gut health. Resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that has shown to be excellent for our gut microbiome.

So, what is resistant starch?

Before we explain the benefits of resistant starch let’s go back to basics about carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates provide us with energy and resemble chains of tiny sugar units joined together. Think of a beaded necklace with each bead being a sugar unit on a string that joins them together. Simple carbohydrates are small chains with as little as one sugar unit such as glucose and fructose or two sugar units joined together such as sucrose (table sugar). Simple sugars are found in sweets and heavily processed foods such as cakes and ‘white’ processed flours. Our bodies don’t need to work very hard to break down these tiny chains so the sugar is rapidly broken down and absorbed into our bloodstream raising our blood sugar levels quickly. Once our bodies have absorbed these simple sugars our blood sugars drop and we may feel hungry again relatively quickly.

Longer chains of sugar units are known as complex carbohydrates and include starches and fibre which are found in many plant foods including vegetables, lentils and whole grains. When we eat these longer chain carbohydrates our bodies must break the chains down into single sugar units to be absorbed into our bodies for energy. This process means that the sugars are slowly absorbed into the bloodstream causing a gradual release of energy. Our blood sugar levels remain more stable with these complex carbohydrates and we may feel fuller for longer. Fibre is a long chain carbohydrate made from the part of the plant that our body is not capable of digesting. It passes through our intestines relatively intact where it bulks up our poo helping to relieve constipation. Resistant starch (another long chain carbohydrate) also resists digestion by our body. It passes through our intestines into our large bowel where it provides food for our gut bacteria. As our gut bugs get healthier, they release healthy chemicals called short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) into our bodies leading to a range of health benefits such as a reducing rates of bowel cancer.

So, which foods contain the most resistant starch?

Lentils, peas and beans contain high levels of resistant starch. Interestingly the way we prepare food affects the level of resistant starch. Cooked potatoes or pasta that have been allowed to cool contain much higher levels of resistant starch than when these foods are hot so enjoy a cold potato or pasta salad. Unripe bananas contain more resistant starch than ripe ones. Eat your bananas before they fully ripen or try a new flour such as green banana flour (available now at Coles) which is high in resistant starch. Adding resistant starch into your diet will lead to good gut health so enjoy these foods as part of your diet and reap the benefits.

If you are interested in further support, please get into contact with our Dietitian Taylor Vickery or join our Facebook group.  

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