Starchy foods and the connection to health, fitness

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A few years ago, I covered the health aspects of resistant starch in your diet. Since then, the popularity of adding resistant starch to people’s daily foods has increased considerably. The understanding of resistant starch and how it works is still a little misunderstood by many people, so let’s take another look.

The first thing we need to understand is the difference between starch and carbohydrates. Starchy foods are considered by many to be carbohydrates. The truth is carbohydrates include starch, sugar, and fiber in its make-up. Starches are made of long chains of glucose found in many types of foods. What is a carb and what is a starch certainly gets confusing.

The interesting aspect of some types of starch is they are indigestible and this is where the term resistant starch comes into play. In our search for weight loss methods, supplements and foods, resistant starches have made the menu by having fewer calories, two instead of four calories per gram and tend to be more filling and curbs your appetite.

The health claims around resistant starch have a fair amount of research tied to them. Here is a list of the top five commonly cited benefits of adding resistant starch to your diet:

1. Increases your total calorie burn. Resistant starch does seem to cause an increased thermic effect during digestion. Resistant starch also moves through your digestive system, releasing fatty acids which in turn promotes metabolic fat burning.

2. Studies show some benefits in helping prevent type II diabetes and heart disease. Concern-ing diabetes, resistant starch does not digest in the small intestine, so it doesn’t contribute to in- creased blood glucose levels.

3. Resistant starch boosts probiotic support in your gut which enhances your immune system. This is because resistant starch revs up fermentation and production of butyrate which is a short-chain fatty acid that leads to lowering the pH of your gut and limiting bad bacteria growth. It also helps feed good bacteria in your large intestine.

4. Two different studies suggest resistant starch may help prevent some forms of cancer such as colon cancers. These studies have found that resistant starch can reduce inflammation in your colon, promoting good bacteria and at the same time reduce the occurrence of precancerous polyps.

5. Studies have shown resistant starch slows levels of the hunger hormones Leptin and Ghrelin. Hunger hormones are those nasty little things that set your cravings and desire to eat in full motion. Since resistant starch helps reduce insulin resistance and insulin resistance can take your hunger hormones into overdrive, it makes sense that resistant starch can deliver these benefits. One study done in England found that consuming resistant starch in just one meal a day caused the participants of the study to eat 10 percent fewer calories during 24 hours.

Foods with high levels of resistant starches are green bananas, raw potatoes, plantains, corn, and some grains and legumes all have various levels of resistant starch. These foods all can deliver whole, unprocessed sources of resistant starch if eaten raw or cooked in specific ways and eaten cold. One easy way to introduce resistant starch into your diet is by adding Bob’s Red Mill unmodified Potato starch in powder form to protein shakes or a green smoothie. If done in the morning or for lunch, it will significantly reduce hunger pangs throughout your day. The other aspects that seem positive are how well most people’s digestive tracts handle resistant starch, meaning no bloating or discomfort that some bulky foods cause. Two points need to be made around food starch in general. The first point that I am sure many of you have already wondered if the long-held idea that starchy foods are bad or at least fattening. There have been many diet plans that recommend avoiding starches since they are hard to digest and/or cause weight gain. Again, depending on what types of foods are consumed that have resistant starch and how they are cooked or not cooked, makes a pretty big difference.

The second point is confusion around resistant starch and fiber. Resistant starch is chemically a starch, but it acts a lot like fiber, passing through our digestive tract with little of it being digested. Like fiber, resistant starch does not convert to energy in your body. Fiber and resistant starch are very similar in how they act in the body with each offering its own set of benefits around good gut health.

If you decide to augment resistant starch into your diet, start slow with small amounts, a quarter of a teaspoon for a week or two, then slowly increase the amount. Try different types like potato, then maybe green bananas. If you’re a diabetic or have a chronic illness, always check with your healthcare practitioner first.

As for the optimal amount of resistant starch to get the most benefit from butyrate production is about 20 to 30 grams.

The bottom line to resistant starch is it certainly has excellent health benefits. It’s not for everyone and some health claims are pretty far reaching with little supporting research. Give it a try, it could help build excellent health and wellness.

Judd Jones is a director for The Hagadone Corporation and certified health coach. For information, go online to

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