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Resistant Starch
The Healthy Carb That Helps You Lose Fat

What would you say if I told you eating carbs is good for you? Because of all the bad press carbs have gotten the last few years, few people would believe me. But if you're trying to eat healthy, you should put them back on the menu. The key is making sure it's the right type of carb.

What many low-carb fanatics fail to mention, is that there are different types of carbohydrates. Simple carbs like many cereals, baked goods and hot potatoes are digested fairly quickly. Any calories not burned for energy are stored in the body as fat.

Resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that digests so slowly; it goes through the small intestine without being digested. It "resists" digestion. Here's how it works.

When you eat a resistant starch, it's bulky and takes up space in your digestive system. This makes you feel full. Because your small intestine doesn't absorb or digest it, your body doesn't turn the excess you eat into fat. As it enters the large intestine, your body ferments it. One of the byproducts of resistant starch fermentation is the creation of a fatty acid called butyrate, which blocks the body's ability to burn carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are the body's preferred source of fuel. So when butyrate blocks your ability to burn carbs, your body turns to fat instead. A study at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center found that replacing just 5.4% of daily carb intake with resistant starch increases fat burning by an astonishing 23%.

The benefits of butyrate don't stop there. Research now indicates the butyrate produced by resistant starch may also protect the lining of the colon. It helps boost the absorption of calcium, blocks the absorption of cancer-causing substances and makes the colon less vulnerable to DNA damage.

Diabetics that eat resistant starch benefit because it doesn't raise blood sugar or insulin levels. Lower blood sugar means more energy and arteries that aren't hardening or getting clogged. A study conducted at the Institute of Nutrition and Food Safety in Beijing showed resistant starch can even improve insulin resistance in patients with type 2 diabetes.

To get more in your diet, you should know there are at least four types of resistant starch.

Resistant Starch 1 [RS1]

Barley, whole grains, brown rice, beans and legumes. Barley, whole grains, brown rice, beans and legumes cooked intact are one type. The fibrous "shell" makes it difficult for the small intestines to break down. If you can avoid it, don't mix beans with products like Bean-o. While Bean-o increases the digestibility of beans, it decreases the amount of resistant starch.

Resistant Starch 2 [RS2]

Slightly Green Bananas Slightly green bananas, plantains, high-amylose corn and raw potatoes are a second type. They have a chemical structure that digestive enzymes can't break down.

Resistant Starch 3 [RS3]

Potato Salad The third type are a few starchy foods that are cooled before eating. When some starchy foods are cooked, the starch absorbs water and swells. As it cools, a portion of the starch crystallizes into resistant starch. Potatoes (like those in a potato salad) and rice (rice pudding) are two examples. The only caveat is you can't re-heat that food, or the crystalline structure breaks down and the levels of resistant starch drop dramatically.

Resistant Starch 4 [RS4]

Synthetic Resistant Starch The fourth type of resistant starch is made synthetically. It is unclear if artificially made resistant starches have the same beneficial effects the other three types have, so I would avoid them until more research has been done.

Since there is no recommended daily amount of resistant starch to eat, the best we can offer is a suggestion. According to a study published in the May 2008 Journal of the American Dietetic Association, American adults eat about 5.5 grams of resistant starch a day. Research suggests we should at least double that, to 11 or 12 grams a day. Eating just 1 cup of beans, 2 bananas or 1.5 cups of potatoes would be sufficient. The best way is to replace simple carbohydrates with ones that have resistant starch in them.

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