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November 12, 2014
By Louise Carr, Associate Editor and Featured Columnist

Health and fitness articles are reviewed by our team of Doctors,
Registered Nurses, Certified fitness trainers and other members of
our Editorial Board

Say the word “starch” and wait for the disapproval.
“Starchy” foods have come to mean heavy, unhealthy
foods that expand our waistlines and increase our risk of
chronic disease like diabetes and heart disease. Starch is
synonymous with stodge and solidity.

But have starches undeservedly gained a bad reputation?

It seems that certain starches – especially, “resistant
starches” – behave more like fiber than unhealthy carbs.

In fact, increasing your intake of resistant starches could
result in better insulin control, lower risk of bowel cancer,
and even weight loss. What exactly is a resistant starch and
where can you find it? What are the health benefits of
these “friendly” starches?

What Foods Are High In Resistant Starches?

A starch is a form of carbohydrate that is made up of long
chains of glucose. Starches are in all kinds of grains,
potatoes, and pastas. Some starches are different, however
– they pass through your digestive system unchanged and
are resistant to digestion. Through this resistance, the
starches function like soluble fiber.

There are four types of resistant starch:

  • Grains, Seeds and Legumes.  The first type is bound
    within the tough cell walls of seeds, grains, and
    legumes like chickpeas, lentils, beans, and whole

  • Green Bananas and Raw Potatoes. The second is in
    raw potatoes and unripe (green) bananas. Green
    bananas are in fact the richest source of resistant
    fiber. Green bananas contain 8.5 grams of resistant
    starch in every 100 gram serving. In contrast, ripe
    bananas contain 1.23 grams.

  • Leftovers and Re-Heated Pasta. Re-heating leftover
    pasta, rice and potatoes changes their nutritional
    properties. Scientists have discovered that when
    pasta, rice and potatoes are cooked, cooled down and
    then re-heated, the starch in them  becomes

  • The fourth type of resistant starch can be found in a
    man-made supplements.

Why Are Resistant Starches Important?

Far from being problematic in terms of nutrition, recent
scientific studies show that resistant starches actually have
a whole host of health benefits. Experts have shown that
resistant starches can help improve insulin sensitivity,
reduce the appetite, aid digestion, and help prevent
colorectal cancer.

Resistant starches are important because they pass straight
through the stomach and reach the colon intact, where
they nourish the friendly bacteria in the gut.

The bacteria feed on these resistant starches and produce
beneficial compounds such as short-chain fatty acids (in
particular a fatty acid called butyrate). Butyrate helps to
reduce the PH level in the colon, prevent cell inflammation
and tumor growth, and therefore lower the risk of
colorectal cancer.

To find out more about resistant starches and their health
benefits, we looked at the recent scientific studies that
demonstrate the power of resistant starches for better

Resistant Starch Helps Control Your Blood Sugar Levels

The effect of resistant starch on insulin response is
important -- insulin sensitivity is linked to an increased risk
of chronic disease like diabetes and heart disease, and

Resistant starch can reduce insulin sensitivity considerably,
according to studies such as a 1988 report from the
Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, and a 2008
study from Lund University, Sweden.

2. Protect Against Bowel Cancer with Resistant Starch

A diet low in fiber is linked to an increased risk of bowel

And resistant starch acts like fiber in this regard. In fact,
scientists recently have discovered that a diet rich in
resistant starch is even better than a high-fiber diet for
preventing bowel cancer.

A 2012 report from the CSIRO's Preventative Health
Flagship in Australia shows that various sources of
resistant starch, including corn and wheat, can help protect
against DNA damage in the colon, which is linked to bowel

3. Resistant Starch Fights Constipation

A diet high in resistant starches such as beans, legumes
and whole grains can help “keep you regular” according to

A 2009 study from Provident Clinical Research,
Bloomington, Illinois showed resistant starch helped
increase fecal output in healthy adults.

A 1995 study from Deakin University, Malvern, Australia
found  that resistant starch has a mild laxative effect and is
beneficial for people seeking relief from constipation.

4. Resistant Starches and the Prebiotic Effect

Eating resistant starches has a beneficial effect on the
bacteria in the bowel, which is referred to as the “prebiotic
effect” by scientists.

A 2003 study by researchers at CSIRO Health Sciences and
Nutrition, Adelaide, Australia demonstrated that resistant
starches act as prebiotics and allow friendly bacteria to
more effectively colonize the gut.

This prebiotic action is through the formation of short-
chain fatty acids, according to the experts.

5. Promote Intestinal Health with Resistant Starches

Out of this production of short-chain fatty acids, butyrate is
one of the most important end results.

Butyrate promotes intestinal health – and more butyrate is
produced by fermenting cornstarch to get resistant starch
than fermenting cabbage fibers, according to a 1992 study
from Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital, NY.

6. Resistant Starches Reduce Intestinal PH

Ph levels indicate how acidic something is.  Too much
acidity in your blood has been linked to various chronic

Resistant starch can help. In another action that helps
reduce inflammation in the gut and cuts the risk of
intestinal ill-health, resistant starches reduce the intestinal
PH and also cut the production of bile acids like ammonia
and phenols.

According to a 1996 study from Deakin University, Malvern,
Australia, these byproducts of the fermentation process are
potentially harmful and a diet high in resistant starches
results in a reduction of levels of these harmful byproducts.

7. Feel Fuller for Longer with Resistant Starches

While there are no reliable studies that show eating
resistant starches directly causes weight loss, many people
are turning to resistant starches as a means of curbing
appetite and helping weight loss through other means.

Recent studies show that resistant starch has an effect in
enhancing both short-term and long-term satiety – feelings
of fullness.

If you add resistant starch to a meal you feel fuller and you
are less likely to overeat.

Many recent studies have demonstrated this effect,
including a 2010 report from the University of Toronto,
Canada that showed adding resistant starch to soup
decreased appetite.

8.Resistant Starches Cut the Risk of A Diet High In Red Meat

Eating a lot of red meat can cause serious health problems
such as colon cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

But eating resistant starches
alongside red meat can
prevent some of these associated problems from occurring
in the first place.

According to a 2014 study from Flinders University in
Adelaide, Australia, people eating 300g of lean red meat
every day for four weeks experienced a more than 30
percent rise in the levels of miR-17-92 molecules in their
rectal tissue (a marker for increased risk of heart disease
and cancer). But after consuming 40g of resistant starch
every day for four weeks alongside the meat, the
participants’ levels were brought back down to a normal
range. Resistant starches are believed to help prevent the
mucous in the colon from degrading – which is more likely
when the diet is rich in red meat – and protect colon cells
from abnormal changes.

9. Energize Your Colon with Resistant Starches

Resistant starch is one of the best methods of producing a
compound called "butyrate" – levels are twice as high as
through the consumption of wheat fiber and four times
higher than pectin (Champ MJ 2004).  

Why is this important? Butyrate is the preferred energy
source of colon cells. Butyrate in resistant starch also helps
to reverse damaging cell changes in the colon, according to
a 2000 study from the Auckland Cancer Society Research
Centre, University of Auckland, New Zealand – this helps to
protect against colon cancer.

10. Resistant Starches Get Rid of Damaged Cells

In addition to reducing the risk of cancerous cell changes in
the colon, resistant starch also induces the death of
damaged cells – another beneficial action when it comes to
preventing and fighting cancer.

Reports such as a 2003 study by the Institut für
Tierhaltung und Tierzüchtung, Stuttgart, Germany
demonstrate how this action takes place and the beneficial
effect it has on cancer prevention.

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Leftover pasta is actually good for
your health, studies have found.
Re-heating the starch turns it into a
resistant starch, which helps control
blood sugar and improves digestion.