How resistant starch and safe starch can enhance Paleo and low carb diets
By Joanne Eglash on April 29, 2014
What's the new buzz term in the low carb and Paleo diet communities? Resistant starch. One of the wizards in the weight loss world, Jimmy Moore, invited a group of experts to explain the role that resistant starch can play in achieving your goals on his "The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Show."
Guest host was Richard Nikoley, author of "Free The Animal: Lose Weight & Fat With The Paleo Diet" (click for details). Joining him was, among others, Tom Naughton of "Fat Head" fame.
Let's start by saying that we recognize the word "starch" can cause low carb and Paleo dieters to recoil in horror. However, before you condemn what you assume are evil carbs, consider what Richard and other experts have discovered about the benefits of resistant starch.
It's not a new concept: One of the definitive articles on the topic was written in 2005 in the Nutrition Bulletin, and explains: " Resistant starch (RS) refers to the portion of starch and starch products that resist digestion as they pass through the gastrointestinal tract."
So where does RS come into play with regard to low-carb diets? It has "prebiotic potential. There is also increasing interest in using RS to lower the energy value and available carbohydrate content of foods," says author A. P. Nugent (Nutrition Bulletin, Volume 30, March 2005).
Thus resistant starch has become known as a way to facilitate good bacteria. Sources are varied (as are views on what constitutes the best), and examples include green bananas and cooked, cooled potatoes.
On his site, Richard offers this tip on white rice: "Uncle Ben's original parboiled rice is the most healthful on a number of levels. Way more nutrition and the parboiling process forms something called "resistant starch" that feeds your healthful gut bacteria critters. " In addition, he recommends putting the leftover rice in your fridge to create even more resistant starch.
Health and fitness expert Mark Sisson, bestselling author of "The Primal Blueprint: Reprogram your genes for effortless weight loss, vibrant health, and boundless energy" (click for details), notes that he recommends experimenting with resistance starch to see if it works for you.
As Mark points out: "If mixing a little white powder or an unripe banana into a smoothie consistently correlates with better sleep, better digestion, better blood markers, and a better subjective impression of being and existing, it’s likely going to be safe and good and overall beneficial to the rest of the health markers the gut biome interacts with and which science is still investigating."
So what should you use to try your own experiment? Mark suggests Bob's Red Mill Potato Starch (click for details) or green banana flour.
Now let's segue to safe starch, which Tom Naughton notes that he originally dismissed and then came to embrace. It's a related concept and earned attention when Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet featured it in their own spin on the Paleo diet: "Perfect Health Diet: Regain Health and Lose Weight by Eating the Way You Were Meant to Eat."
The reason for eating safe starches (which includes white rice and potatoes) is to avoid a glucose deficiency. It also can alleviate digestive problems, which the Jaminets describe in detail in their book.
And, in a marriage of minds, says Tom, "the Jaminets mention that they regularly cook several potatoes ahead of time and then store them in the refrigerator (a habit Chareva recently adopted as well). That means a good chunk of their safe starch is also resistant starch, the kind that keeps our gut bugs fat and happy."
Note: Remember the practice of "less is more." Before you rush out and buy green bananas and potatoes until your grocery cart overflows, read the details on what the Jaminets recommend in "Perfect Health Diet: Regain Health and Lose Weight by Eating the Way You Were Meant to Eat" (click for more information).
For final thoughts, consider the wisdom of Chris Kresser, the ultimate expert in customizing the Paleo diet to meet your own needs ( click here for information about "Your Personal Paleo Code: The 3-Step Plan to Lose Weight, Reverse Disease, and Stay Fit and Healthy for Life.") On his site, Chris offers these thoughts, crediting Richard's insights:
"Richard Nikoley over at Free the Animal has been writing a lot about resistant starch, and a lot of people with blood sugar issues have seen drops of, like, 10 or 15 mg/dL of their fasting blood sugar just from taking 4 tablespoons a day of potato starch, which has, as you know, a lot of resistant starch in it. And in my patients, I’ve seen a similar response and also with people with long-term constipation and gut issues. Of course, it makes sense that resistant starch could play a significant role there. So, I would say at least tentatively now that if anyone is on a ketogenic or very low carb diet, that you might consider some prebiotic fibers or resistant starch just to make sure that you’re feeding your gut bugs what they need to survive."