Ancestral diets are becoming more popular as people educate themselves on what the human body needs to thrive. Our bodies are adapted to certain lifestyles and diets that have been part of our experience for millennia, and only recently have our food selections and lifestyles shifted so dramatically. Now it is common for diet ideologies to completely ignore our ancestral heritage, which has had devastating impacts on our gut health.
Perhaps the most critical part of the ancestral diet that we are missing out on today is resistant starch, and our guts are paying the price.
The magic of resistant starch
Resistant starches (RS) are, as the name implies, resistant to digestion. Many people assume that RS doesn’t make a difference because we can’t digest it, but the magic happens because it is unable to be digested by the human gut.
Humans evolved from the trees to the savannas, and in that process we adapted to different sources of food. One of the most plentiful food sources available in grassy plains were roots and tubers. Foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, and other root vegetables are mostly made of resistant starches. When our ancestors consumed RS foods, their gut bacteria flocculated onto the bits of undigested food to gain energy of their own.
But when root vegetables and tubers are cooked, the starches become digestible and the beneficial bacteria in our gut have nothing to thrive on. This might not seem like a big deal because they’re just bacteria, right? Well, research has shown that microorganisms outnumber human cells 10 to 1. This makes bacteria, as Ron Burgundy would say, “kind of a big deal.”
Human life has evolved to become intrinsic with bacterial life. When we consume an appropriate range of food and enough RS, our gut bacteria have smorgasbord to feast on. And when your gut bacteria is happy, so are you.