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Resistant starch (RS) is most notably found in tiger nuts and green plantains (see this recipe) and certain foods that have been cooked and cooled, like legumes, grains and potatoes. The starches are called resistant because they resist being digested in the small intestine. They remain intact to become food for the good flora located in our colon. This is a great discovery and I’d like to discuss how it can impact dietary choices, depending on our health situation.
Ironically, since resistant starch advocacy is now popular among Paleo healthcare practitioners, RS can be found in legumes and whole grains. I respect these practitioners for their open-minded pursuit of what heals the body. Paleo functional doctors seem to be leading the way in autoimmune research and treatment. Their anti-grain dogma is not preventing them from understanding the role and importance of RS.
FOODS THAT CONTAIN RESISTANT STARCH
They are pointing their patients to these starchy sources: green bananas, green plantains and what are called retrograded foods, those that have had their starch cooked and then cooled, rendering it resistant.
Examples of prepared foods that contain resistant starch due to retrogradation are potato salad, sushi rice, cold bean salad, even pasta salad. All of these foods could likely be dressed in part with apple cider vinegar, which is advised, since vinegar is said to assist in the digestion of RS into butyrate. (Read more about butyrate and its role in colon health in my Food Renegade article, Resistant Starch: Healthy or Not.)
Cooked and cooled (RS3) foods can also be reheated! Think refried beans or chili made ahead of time, chilled and then reheated, or cooked al dente pasta put in the fridge and then reheated briefly in salted boiling water, reheated mashed potatoes (or see these yummy Smashed Potatoes) and leftovers in general. Yes, leftovers can be healthier than the original meal!
Very green plantains are another good source of resistant starch. Organic plantains are easy for most of us to source and they’re a whole food. Plantain flour can also be stirred into water or a smoothie.
What do you do with fresh green plantains? You dehydrate them. Here’s a recipe for either crackers or fruit leather. If you cook green plantains a lot of the resistant starch is lost. So these recipes keep the fruit raw, (which is not delicious on its own). Here’s another super yummy recipe for Brownie Bite Cookies!, full of RS.
Surprisingly, most advocates for increasing RS in one’s daily diet recommend a factory-made food, Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch, working up to two to four tablespoons a day! I don’t agree with this approach.
The goal for restored health involves getting away from factory-made foods and having a whole food diet. Potato starch may feed good bacteria; but there are plenty of whole foods that do that too. What potatoes does Bob use to make that starch? (Hint: they’re not organic and potatoes always make the Dirty Dozen list of most contaminated foods.)
A couple of other great grain-free options? Cassava flour (find it here). Cassava makes great baked goods, like these muffins or even in this hot chocolate. Tigernuts and tigernut flour are great! Here’s a Tigernut “Bran” Muffin. Jerusalem artichokes are another good source; fermenting them is ideal.
Health is not bought with convenience foods. Homemade food makes us feel better in more ways than one. (I like to make a big batch of resistant starch muffins each week, so I have a source of RS each day that’s easy to grab.)
START SLOWLY and PREDIGEST RS GRAINS/LEGUMES
All RS advocates warn that excess gas results from the initial introduction of this new food, and lasts for about two weeks. Most who’ve responded to blog forums on this topic say it subsides over time as the gut flora get used to their new food. I can now attest to this myself, having phased off of the GAPS diet and introduced multiple sources and quantities of RS. Start with 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of resistant starch daily. See how your gut and bowels respond; and then proceed accordingly.
I appreciate the healthcare practitioners who counsel a slow introduction of RS-containing foods and are mindful of proper pre-digestion techniques.
We cannot prescribe in a tunnel. We must be aware of whole nutrition and traditional pre-digestion methods.
The majority of RS proponents do not themselves know about phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors; so they are not teaching proper soaking and sprouting. These sites on resistant starches are blindly recommending whole grain bread and brown rice, with no knowledge of sprouting or soaking grains, making it just one more fad, the latest thing, done without full understanding of foods and how they digest.
When this happens it is a blind leading the blind scenario and sadly, major health problems can ensue. Leaky gut gets worse when it’s exposed to whole grains that haven’t been pre-digested! So, if you’re interested in incorporating grain or legume-sourced RS, make sure to soak your grains or legumes properly first.
HEALING DIETS AND RS
If your health is good or your leaky gut is mostly healed, if you do the Paleo diet or AIP, resistant starches may be something you want to try. Those on the GAPS diet should not eat these or any starches. They can be challenged if total healing is suspected. In the meantime, GAPS patients can enjoy prebiotic foods like leeks and onions, not cooked too long, to protect the prebiotic qualities. Fermented asparagus is another good GAPS Diet option.