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What Is Resistant Starch Good For? (7 Proven Benefits)

By Dennis Buckley

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When you think about cutting out foods to lose weight, you think starch.

You think carbs. 

My Dad has been struggling with weight-loss for as long as I can remember, and to this day my mom tells him (hen-pecks, really):

"You want to lose a few lbs huh?"

"Stop eating starch".

She has a point.

A low-carb or keto approach is an effective strategy for many people to lose weight. But it isn't the only way.

You see, little does my mom know that eating MORE of an unusual starch might actually help Pops lose that tire around his midsection.

It might improve a lot of other health issues as well.

It's called resistant starch.

And in this article I'll tell you about 7 ways it can improve gut function, digestion, metabolism... it can even help you lose weight.

What is Resistant Starch?

Resistant starch isn't your typical carbohydrate.

That's because it isn't digested.

That is, not until it reaches your colon where it ferments. This in and of itself has wide-reaching benefits-- not just limited to gut health.

When you think about starch, you think about potatoes, bananas, corn, pasta, rice and bread products most likely.

It turns out there are three different types of starch:

Rapidly-Digested Starches

These are rapidly converted to glucose.

  • White rice
  • Simple sugars
  • Sugary fruits
  • Many processed carbohydrates

These cause a sudden increase in blood glucose within about 20 minutes.

Slowly-Digested Starches

These starches are slowly-digested and are found in less refined, more fibrous foods.

  • Whole grains
  • Starchy vegetables
  • Tubers
  • Beans and legumes.

It takes between 20 - 120 minutes for these starches to increase blood glucose levels.

If you've ever read about the Slow Carb Diet in Tim Ferris' 4-Hour Body, which encourages foods like beans and legumes, those are the slow-carbs and starches we've talking about.

Resistant Starches

Resistant starches are not absorbed in the small intestine at all.

They're primarily made of a type of indigestible fiber called 'amylose' which has little to no impact on blood glucose or insulin.

It moves through your digestive system intact until it reaches the colon -- that's where the good stuff happens.

The Difference Between Resistant Starch and Fiber

"Wait, these benefits sound exactly like fiber... what's the difference?" For all intents and purposes, resistant starch IS fiber:

  • Both are food for the "good" bacteria in the gut
  • Both are soluble in water
  • Both are important to optimize gut health and function.
  • Both may reduce the risk of disease and improve cholesterol levels.

From a functional perspective, resistant starch is a kind of fiber and here are 7 reasons why you should use it.

7 Resistant Starch Benefits

 

1: You’ll Lose Weight

One of my favorite tricks to increase satiety is to load up on fiber and protein -- two of the most filling foods there are.

When you eat foods like:

  • Whole grains (if grains on your "allowed" list)
  • Fibrous and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower
  • Beans and legumes

You help create bulk in your digestive tract. This stimulates hunger hormones that tell your body you’ve had enough to eat.

Resistant starch has the same effect.

Clinical studies show that resistant starch from unmodified potato starch can help you [1, 2, 3]:

  • Improve muscle tone
  • Lose fat easier
  • Curb appetite and reduce energy intake
  • Increase fat-burning

Another way resistant starch can help you lose weight?

Research shows it can decrease the production of new fat cells.

This means your body is better able to use local fat stores for energy instead of creating them, no matter the type of diet you’re on.

2: Reduces Cholesterol and Improves Heart Health

Fiber is "heart-healthy".

This is probably the first health benefit you think of thanks to the ubiquitous labeling on most whole-grain, high-fiber food products.

Resistant starch has similar benefits on cardiovascular health and may help reduce bad cholesterol and lower triglycerides over time.

3: Improves Gut Health and Reduces Inflammation

Resistant starch has a profound soothing effect on the gut and can help strengthen immune function.

There are at least one quadrillion bacterial cells in your gut-- at least ten times as many cells as your body has. There are hundreds of bacterial species -- some good, some not so good -- and resistant starch feeds only the good strains, not the bad [4].

When resistant starch is fermented by your gut bacteria, a fatty acid called butyrate is produced. Butyrate acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory for colon cells and helps maintain gut integrity.

It does this by decreasing permeability -- the ability of toxins and substances to enter the bloodstream through the lining of your gut [5].

Animal models have also shown that resistant starch can reduce gut inflammation by increasing healthy gut bacteria, supporting the mucosal barrier, and strengthening the immune system [1]. 

4: Improves Glucose Metabolism

Unlike other starches, resistant starch has inherently beneficial effects on glucose and insulin levels.

It doesn’t spike blood glucose or insulin at all, instead it acts to stabilize them.

Studies have shown that taking 15 - 30 grams of resistant starch per day improved type 2 diabetes symptoms comparable to what could be achieved from losing 10% of your body weight [6]

Findings like these have even led the FDA to validate the claim that resistant starch may be a useful therapy to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Collectively, human clinical trials have shown that resistant starch improves a network of symptoms related to metabolic syndrome [7, 8, 9]

  • Improved glucose metabolism
  • Increased insulin sensitivity
  • Reduced energy intake
  • Increased appetite regulation
  • Reduced inflammation and oxidative stress

5: Smoother Digestion

One of the reasons collagen protein and chia seeds are so beneficial for gut health is that they have a gelatinizing effect in your gut.

In both cases a gel-like substance forms in your digestive system that helps speed up transit time, increasing the absorption of nutrients. This soothing effect can help reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, or ulcerative colitis.

Resistant starch adds bulk and water to your stool, which helps support regular bowel movements and healthy passage through the digestive tract.

6: Better Sleep and Reduced Stress

Chronic stress is one of the main reasons people don’t sleep well. And when people don’t sleep well, they become even more stressed. It’s a vicious cycle.

Feeding your gut bacteria with prebiotic resistant starch can increase the amount of good bacteria that improve stress resilience and sleep quality.

Too much stress can decrease the amount of healthy gut bacteria, but prebiotics can help prevent this.

A study from 2011 found that a diet rich in prebiotics increased the growth of the bacteria lactobacillus rhamnosus, which has been shown to improve sleep quality under stressful conditions. Stress is largely regulated by the HPA axis in the brain, and prebiotics have been shown to help decrease the "fight or flight" mechanism, which can help you relax into better sleep [10].

Prebiotics may also directly influence inhibitory neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA which help increase calmness, relaxation, and sleep quality.

7: Reduced Anxiety Symptoms

Not only can resistant starch regulate stress and sleep, it can also improve your mood.

Studies have shown that bowel function, stress, and anxiety are all deeply related, and the common factor between them is the gut.

We know that prebiotics influence serotonin, GABA, and melatonin metabolism -- all of which are brain neurotransmitters that are also made in the gut.

It's no question that fiber is not only good for the gut, but for overall health. The problem is, getting enough fiber strictly from diet isn't easy to do.

This is where resistant starch offers an innovative solution to a perennial problem. Resistant starch provides many of the same gut, brain, metabolic, and cardiovascular benefits that dietary fiber does [1].

As little as 15 grams per day has been shown to glucose metabolism, gut health, sleep quality, cellular function, and cognitive function.

If you find yourself struggling to eat enough fiber, then resistant starch might be the solution you've been looking for.

Have you ever used resistant starch? If so, how did it influence your health and well-being?

Let us know below in the comments below!

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