Carbs get a bad rap these days. I just don't understand why we wouldn't want to enjoy these tasty, filling, energy-giving, nutritious foods, but somehow the 'influencers' have turned against it.
The problem is that so much of the carbohydrate we eat nowadays is highly processed which causes sugar spikes and contributes to the many chronic illnesses which plague our western world. Complex carbs are actually a fabulously nutritious food source - but let's look at a particularly interesting aspect of carbs that you might not have heard about.
What is Resistant Starch?
Our small intestine is where enzymes and digestive juices, designed to break foods up and absorb available nutrients, work on our food. Most of our nutrients are absorbed here to be used by our body.
Resistant starch, however, ‘resists’ this process, partially or fully, and pass through to the large intestine, which is teeming with hungry bacteria who love this stuff. Here it nourishes our good bacteria which then proliferate and do their magic.
'Resistant Starch' is food that your body cannot digest. but, don’t worry, it's not wasted. You might not be able to digest it, but you know a guy who can!
Only a small percentage of the starch in these foods are resistant but the impact on the gut is significant - and we are still learning more about how this works. We know that a healthy gut is the basis of a healthy body so keeping our good bacteria well nourished is essential to optimum well-being.
There is also evidence that insulin resistance is improved, which is good news if you worry about type-2 diabetes.
Which foods are we talking about?
Carbohydrates are mostly starches, and every gram of starch – whether it’s a bowl of pasta or a baked potato – offers your body 4 calories. (The word offers is important here.)
Resistant starches, because they are only partially digested, are just around 2.5 calories per gram. That’s a saving of around 40%!!! Amazing, eh?
Beans, lentils, soybeans and other legumes, green bananas, whole grains (e.g. unrefined rice, oats, maize), and tubers such as sweet potatoes and yams are great sources.
Daily favourites like potatoes, white rice and pasta which are not generally considered healthy starches can be improved by cooking and cooling which increases the amount of resistant starch. I love this idea. You can cook up a whole batch of potatoes, pop them into the fridge and use throughout the week. Or cut up into wedges, coat with olive oil and freeze. Bake in a hot oven for crispy, healthy chips. Remember though that it is only a small part of the total starch content so don't go piling loads more potatoes on your plate!
Add a spoon of coconut oil to white rice, then cool overnight to raise the resistant starch content significantly. Mix these foods into a predominantly plant-based diet with plenty of leafy greens, colourful fruit and veg, lean proteins, healthy fats, and fermented foods for the absolute best nutrition for gut and overall health.