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Resistant starch (RS) is most notably found in tiger nuts, green plantains 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 the colon.
Four kinds of resistant starch
There are four kinds of resistant starch. Each exists or is formed differently:
- RS1 is bound within the fibrous cell walls of certain foods: whole-grain foods, seeds, tiger nuts and legumes.
- R2 exists in certain raw foods and goes away when heated. You find this type of starch in green bananas, high-amylose corn, Basmati rice and raw potatoes.
- RS3 occurs when certain foods are cooked and then cooled; rice, beans and potatoes are examples.
- RS4 is not whole food sourced. It is a synthetic form that’s chemically modified to make it resistant to digestive enzymes.
The role of butyrate
When good bacteria in the colon consume resistant starch, they produce a short-chain fatty acid called butyrate. The cells of the colon are called T cells. T cells are fueled by butyrate. T cells provide a layer of defense against pathogens and help strengthen the immune system.
It makes sense that feeding T cells is beneficial, especially for those with autoimmune diseases. Repeatedly, an abundance of T cells in laboratory rats have been shown to reduce inflammation and even to prevent immune responses.
Excess butyrate moves into the bloodstream and benefits insulin levels and liver function.
FOODS THAT CONTAIN RESISTANT STARCH
For quick reference, see a list of 10 EASY to eat resistant starch foods at the bottom of this post.
Easy to eat resistant starch sources include:
- green bananas and green plantains — Very green plantains and bananas 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 or bananas? You dehydrate them. Here’s a recipe for either crackers or fruit leather from plantains. 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 a good recipe for Brownie Bite Cookies, full of RS2.
- RS3 foods or retrograded foods — those that have had their starch cooked and then cooled, rendering it resistant: rice, beans, oats and potatoes. These foods may also be reheated once cooled.
Examples of prepared foods that contain resistant starch due to retrogradation are:
- potato salad
- sushi rice
- cold bean salad
- pasta salad
All of these foods could likely be dressed in part with apple cider vinegar. Vinegar is said to assist in the digestion of RS into butyrate.
MORE COOKED AND COOLED RS3 FOODS THAT CAN BE REHEATED
Cooked and cooled (RS3) foods can be reheated. Think:
- refried beans or chili made ahead of time, chilled and then reheated
- 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, sometimes leftovers can be healthier than the original meal.
AVOID PROCESSED SOURCES
Surprisingly, most advocates for increasing RS in one’s daily diet originally recommended 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.)
OTHER GRAIN-FREE SOURCES OF RESISTANT STARCH
- Cassava flour (find it here). Cassava makes great baked goods, like these muffins or even in this hot chocolate.
- Tiger nuts and tiger nut flour are great. Here’s a Tigernut “Bran” Muffin.
- Jerusalem artichokes are another good source; fermenting them is ideal (like this).
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.
PREDIGEST RS GRAINS/LEGUMES
Many 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 RS just one more nutrition fad — done without full understanding of foods and how they digest.
Leaky gut gets worse when it’s exposed to whole grains that haven’t been pre-digested. 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 a Paleo diet or AIP (autoimmune protocol), 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.
10 EASY to eat resistant starch foods
- cooked and cooled rice (feel free to reheat it)
- cooked and cooled beans (this includes canned beans or reheated leftover chili)
- cooked and cooled potatoes (this includes Smashed Potatoes, leftover baked potatoes, potato salad or leftover mashed potatoes)
- any tiger nut flour recipe (see muffins, tortillas, pie crust and cookies)
- green banana flour (very easy to add to smoothies)
- cassava flour recipes (see waffles, biscuits and pancakes)
- pasta salad or leftover pasta (this includes Jovial’s new cassava pasta or rice pastas)
- green plantain treats (see Brownie Bites)
- leftover or cooled and reheated oatmeal