Avoid eating starches: It’s the golden rule of nutrition for anybody wanting to lose weight and control blood sugar. But labeling “carb,” which is what starches are, a dirty, four-letter word is too simplistic and unsustainable. Grains and starches are a staple of the Standard American Diet (SAD).
Without doubt, all starches should be minimally consumed if you’re trying to manage insulin and blood sugar levels. However, when you do eat starches, there’s one type that actually may be beneficial for blood sugar control: resistant starch.
Benefits of Resistant Starch
Resistant starches are so-named because they resist digestion in the gut. The quicker a food is broken down in the small intestine, the higher the potential for a blood sugar spike. Starches such as white flour quickly convert into glucose. Resistant starches take much longer to metabolize and have a minimal impact on blood glucose.
The large intestine is where resistant starches break down. In the process of metabolizing, resistant starches ferment in the lower gastrointestinal tract. This results in a double-edged sword. On one hand, fermentation can produce bloating and gas. This is especially true if you eat a large portion or don’t normally include resistant starches in your diet (see examples below). However, resistant starches typically cause less gas than other sources of fiber.
But the big benefit, in addition to not creating a dramatic blood sugar spike, is improving gut health. Resistant starches are an excellent source of prebiotic fiber. Prebiotic fiber serves as the main food source for the friendly bacteria that reside in your gut. People living with diabetes and obesity typically have gut dysbiosis, which means not having enough friendly bacteria and having too many disease-causing microorganisms. Eating resistant starches results in friendly bacteria fermenting the prebiotic fiber. This in turn creates a welcoming environment for friendly bacteria in your gut.
In addition, resistant starches create a feeling of fullness (satiety). Feeling satiated lowers the temptation and cravings for sugary snacks. Moreover, these “good” carbs help support healthy cholesterol levels, improve digestion and elimination, and are associated with a lower risk of developing colon cancer.
Foods With Resistant Starches
According to the Johns Hopkins Patient Guide to Diabetes, some of the best sources are:
- Unripened bananas and plantains
- Beans, peas and lentils (white beans contain the highest amount of resistant starch)
- Oats, barley and other whole grains (Opt for organic, non-GMO varieties, as they contain lower amounts of the herbicide, glyphosate.)
Cook It. Cool It. Reheat It.
Rice? Really? Isn’t rice, especially white rice, supposed to be bad for blood-sugar control? Surprisingly, allowing rice and other grains such as pasta to cool overnight in the refrigerator before eating it, raises the amount of resistant starch. However, cooled rice is still not the ideal choice of carbohydrate for those with type 2 diabetes. A healthier rice to consume is wild rice. Like white rice, allow the wild rice to cool before eating it.
You don’t have to eat your rice cold. Reheating cooked and cooled rice does not destroy the resistant starch.
Alternative Flours High In Resistant Starch
Hopkins also recommends uncooked oats in yogurt to produce “overnight yogurt.” And instead of using insulin-raising white or wheat flour, try baking with glucomannan flour (also called ‘konjac flour’), which comes from the root of a wild yam in Asia. It’s readily available online in the U.S. High-maize is another type of flour that’s rich in resistant starch. You can also try banana flour, high-resistant starch wheat flour, arrowroot starch flour, organic cornstarch (over 90% of corn grown in the U.S. is genetically modified to resist glyphosate), and potato starch.
Resistant Starch: Final Word
Carbs have been demonized. Rather than suggest avoiding carbohydrates, carb-shaming so-called ‘nutrition experts’ would better serve people with metabolic disorders if they recommended resistant starches.
And don’t forget that most of your carbohydrate intake should come from fresh vegetables and a modest amount of fruit.