Resistant starch (RS) is one of the panacea supplements that seem too good to be true. It’s cheap, easy to take, dramatically improves gut health, and has a noticeable affect on stabilizing blood glucose. But what is resistant starch, and how can you improve your blood sugar with it?
There are four types of resistant starch:
- Type 1: This RS is bound in fibrous walls of plant foods like grains, legumes and seeds, and oats.
- Type 2: This is found in foods like plantains, unmodified potato starch, raw potatoes, and unripe bananas. This starch resists digestion because of its high amylose content, which can be digested when cooked.
- Type 3 (also known as retrograde RS): This kind is formed when starches are cooked and then cooled in a process known as retrogradation, which renders starch less digestible. You’ll find retrograde RS in foods like cooked and cooled potatoes, beans, rice, and even bread.
- Type 4: Man-made by a chemical process, this starch is known as industrial RS.
Resistant starch is required by beneficial gut bacteria as a food source; without RS, the good guys become outnumbered by pathogenic bacteria. In exchange for RS, our gut bacteria produce a short-chain fatty acid known as butyrate, which is the primary fuel source for intestinal cells. It’s a nice little relationship.
One of the most exciting aspects of this decidedly plain-looking supplement is its ability to modulate blood sugar. Elevated, fasting, blood glucose levels are associated with everything from nerve damage to poor circulation and diminished eyesight. The research on resistant starch indicates that it helps lower fasting blood sugar levels, which is a ray of light for people with type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
Studies have also shown that RS is effective in lowering blood glucose levels after a starchy meal in average and overweight people; the effect was increased when used in conjunction with soluble fiber.
People with type 1 diabetes are experiencing significantly reduced fluctuations in blood sugar readings over months of test comparisons. If you have diabetes (or know of friends or family with the condition), taking 1 to 4 tablespoons of resistant starch per day could help you sleep more soundly and without worry of slipping into a coma. Studies have shown that RS actually increases insulin sensitivity via fatty acid metabolism, meaning that diabetics could lower their overall amount of insulin intake.
Research has demonstrated that the colonic fermentation of resistant starches balances blood glucose both at the time of intake and during the next meal. If you have issues with crashes after meals, RS could be just the thing you need.
Where to find it
Bob’s Red Mill produces the best supplement-able form of resistant starch available at a very reasonable price: under $3 a pound for the most part. The best places you can purchase resistant starch are at Natural Grocers, Sprouts, and Jimbo’s Natural Foods. You can also purchase it on Amazon.
Reduced meal frequency has been associated with optimized blood sugar levels, according to recent research. That’s all fine and good, but what does it have to do with RS? Lucky for you, more studies have been conducted demonstrating the efficacy of resistant starch for increasing satiety; the more RS you consume, the fuller you feel and the longer your fullness stays.
RS also promotes the oxidation of fat molecules; it helps you burn fat and even increases body composition.
Begin experimenting with ¼ to ½ a teaspoon at a time, and see how your gut responds. Optimal levels of RS intake are between 15 and 30 grams per day, which is between 2 and 4 tablespoons. But don’t rush — people who start RS supplementation too quickly report unpleasant side effects like cramps, fast bowel movements, and excess gas.
The resistant starches found in Bob’s Red Mill Unmodified Potato Starch, raw potatoes, unripe bananas, plantains, reheated and cooled potatoes, and rice and beans have a dramatic affect on blood sugar and metabolism. Considering that our ancestors thrived on many raw foods like roots and tubers, it makes sense that RS would be a missing link in the modern diet. If you want to improve your blood sugar levels, don’t forget about resistant starch.