Since moving slightly away from the low-carb lifestyle, I have started eating more whole grains, fruits and veggies that are slightly higher in carb content. I have also been hearing more and more about “resistant carbohydrates,” and have been curious as to what all the hype is about. It seems to me that society (and those inclined to pay more attention to nutritional pop culture, so to speak) is becoming more aware of the potentially unhealthy, extremely restricted diet of a low-carb lifestyle. I must admit, for those reasons specifically, I choose to move away from a completely low-carb diet. But what are resistant carbs?
Personally, I wanted to know right up front what kinds of foods were considered to be resistant starches, because, I’ll be honest, if they are foods that I don’t like or don’t want to eat, it isn’t going to make too much of a difference what the benefits are. So, with that in mind, what foods are considered to contain resistant starch? Beans, whole, intact grains (like barley, long grain brown rice, etc.), bananas, lentils, cold potato and cold pasta all top the list. So, for me at least, I learned that potato and pasta are not the total enemy, however, if I want to indulge at all, I should eat them cold!
Now that we know that resistant starches are actually foods that we might like to eat, the first important piece of knowledge to have about carbohydrates, is that different types digest in our bodies at different rates. The slower the digestion of a carbohydrate, the slower and lower your blood sugar rises. Some carbs go all the way through the small intestine before being broken down at all! These types of carbs act more like a fibre than a carbohydrate within your body. (This is a good thing!) Foods that are considered resistant starches are also typically lower in calories than typical starches too!
There are many important benefits of resistant starches. They protect colon cells as they move through your colon and are associated with less genetic damage. They are associated with more mineral absorption, particularly calcium and magnesium. (This is great for anyone concerned about their calcium levels and ensuring that any supplements are actually fully absorbed when taken.) They keep you fuller for longer periods of time, so you won’t be looking for a snack or your next meal quite as quickly as if you had eaten a different kind of starch. Resistant starch is associated with lower cholesterol, promotes friendly bacteria, while suppressing unfriendly bacteria, promotes regularity and is associated with less fat storage after eating. A bonus on top of all of that? If you avoid gluten foods, replace any kind of wheat product with a resistant starch in foods that are required to be gluten free and you are good to go.
One of the best resources I found in my hunt for information on these mysterious resistant starchy foods was www.resistantstarch.com: An Information Portal for Health Professionals. It has all kinds of information and studies on the benefits of resistant starch. The most important piece of information to take from reading information on these types of foods is that not all carbohydrates are bad, and actually, when eaten properly are really, really good for your body, so get out there and try some of these starches that you might otherwise have thought were outside of what you should be eating.