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May 19, 2024 7 min read

In the quest for effective weight loss strategies, the role of resistant starches has garnered increasing attention. Resistant starches are a type of dietary fiber that resist digestion in the small intestine, instead fermenting in the colon and yielding various health benefits.

Both human and animal studies found that the benefits of resistant starches include the potential to aid in weight loss. By understanding how resistant starches work and incorporating them into a balanced diet, individuals may be able to enhance their weight loss efforts in a sustainable and healthful manner.

What is Resistant Starch?

Resistant starch is a type of starch that is not fully broken down and absorbed by the body, behaving more like dietary fiber. It “resists” digestion in the small intestine, passing through to the large intestine, where it can provide benefits similar to fiber.

Following clinical trials, it has been associated with various health benefits, such as improved insulin sensitivity, better blood sugar control, and enhanced gut health by promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.

Resistant Starch, Prebiotics, and Probiotics

Prebiotics, probiotics, and resistant starch play important roles in gut health:

Prebiotics

Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that feed beneficial bacteria in the gut. They help stimulate the growth and activity of these bacteria, which can improve digestion, boost the immune system, and potentially reduce inflammation. Resistant starch acts as a prebiotic because it resists digestion in the small intestine and reaches the colon, where it can be fermented by gut bacteria.

Probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are beneficial for digestive health. Bacteria like Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli help maintain a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which is essential for digestion and overall health. While resistant starch itself is not a probiotic, it can promote the growth of probiotic bacteria by serving as a food source for them.

— Resistant starch

Resistant starch is a type of starch that resists digestion in the small intestine and reaches the colon intact. Its combined characteristics of a fermentable dietary fiber and prebiotic foster a healthier gut microbiome.

Research suggests that the metabolites produced from the fermentation of resistant starches may play a role in mitigating diet-induced obesity, making them a valuable addition to a weight loss diet.

In the colon, it can be fermented by gut bacteria, producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) like butyrate and other metabolites that can positively influence metabolism and contribute to weight loss. SCFAs are important for colon health and have been linked to various health benefits, including reduced inflammation and improved gut barrier function.

Resistant starch may improve carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, and SCFAs influence the reduction in cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood.

In summary, prebiotics like resistant starch help feed probiotics and other beneficial bacteria in the gut, promoting a healthy gut microbiome. Including foods rich in resistant starch, such as whole grains, legumes, and cooked and cooled starchy foods, can be beneficial for gut health.

What Role Does Resistance Starch Play in Weight Loss?

Resistant Starch for a Healthy Gut

Many studies have shown that resistant starch can help you lose weight by making you feel fuller, reducing your appetite, and improving your metabolic health. 

The ability of RS to modify the environment of the gut microbiota is one of the most compelling aspects.

1. Increased Feeling of Satiety

Resistant starch has been shown to increase satiety hormones and reduce hunger, leading to a greater feeling of fullness after a meal. It may help you feel fuller for longer and reduce overall calorie intake. This effect is thought to be due to resistant starch's ability to slow down digestion and absorption in the gut. It may help you feel fuller for longer and reduce overall calorie intake.

2. Improved Insulin Sensitivity

Resistant starch has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, which means that cells are better able to respond to insulin and take up glucose from the bloodstream. This can help regulate blood glucose levels and reduce the risk of insulin resistance, a condition that can lead to obesity, type 2 diabetes, weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and increasing the likelihood of cardiovascular disease.

3. Reduced Fat Storage

Resistant starch can slow down the digestion and absorption of carbs, leading to more stable blood sugar levels after meals. This can help prevent spikes in blood sugar that contribute to fat accumulation in fat cells and insulin resistance.

4. Enhanced Fat Burning

Some studies suggest that the effects of resistant starch may increase the oxidation of fats, leading to more efficient fat burning. This can help reduce body fat accumulation in the body over time.

5. Enhanced Gut Health

Resistant starch acts as a prebiotic, promoting the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. These bacteria can produce short-chain fatty acids like butyrate, which have been linked to improved glucose metabolism, reduced fat accumulation, and improved weight management.

Overall, including foods rich in resistant starch in your diet, such as whole grains, legumes, and cooked and cooled starchy foods, may help improve glucose metabolism and reduce fat accumulation, especially when combined with a balanced diet and regular physical activity.

It's important to note that while resistant starch may offer these potential benefits, it is not a magic bullet for weight loss. A balanced diet, that includes all three macronutrients, proteins, carbs, and fat, is essential for providing energy and helping to build structures in the body. Furthermore, regular physical activity, and other lifestyle factors also play crucial roles in achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

Related reading: How to Use Protein Powder for Weight Loss Purposes

Types of Resistant Starch

Types of resistant starch

There are four recognized types of resistant starch, categorized based on their structure and how they resist digestion:

  1. RS1 — Physically inaccessible starch: Found in whole or partially milled grains, seeds, and legumes, where the starch is physically inaccessible to digestive enzymes.

  2. RS2 — Resistant granules: Found in raw potatoes, green bananas, and high-amylose corn, where the starch is in a compact granular form that resists digestion.

  3. RS3 — Retrograded starch: Formed when certain starchy foods, such as potatoes, rice, and bread, are cooked and then cooled. The cooling process causes the starch to form a more resistant structure.

  4. RS4 — Chemically modified starch: Starch that has been chemically modified to resist digestion, often used in processed foods for its functional properties.

A fifth type, RS5, has been proposed to include starch that is bound within a matrix of other food components, making it resistant to digestion. However, this classification is not yet widely accepted.

How to Incorporate Resistant Starch Into Your Diet Without Side Effects

To incorporate resistant starch into your diet without experiencing side effects, consider the following tips:

  • - Start slowly: Introduce resistant starch gradually to allow your digestive system to adjust. Begin with small amounts and gradually increase over time.

  • - Choose the right sources: Include foods that are naturally rich in resistant starch, such as legumes, whole grains, green bananas, and cooked and cooled potatoes or rice.

  • - Cook and cool: For foods like potatoes and rice, cooking and then cooling them can increase the resistant starch content. This process, called retrogradation, changes the structure of the starch, making it more resistant to digestion.

  • - Combine with other fibers: Pair resistant starch-rich foods with other high-fiber foods to help prevent digestive issues. Fiber-rich foods can help regulate digestion and reduce the risk of bloating or discomfort.

  • - Replacement: Replace some flour in your baked goods with plantain flour or potato starch.

  • - Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water when increasing your intake of resistant starch to help aid digestion and prevent constipation.

  • - Listen to your body: Pay attention to how your body reacts to foods high in resistant starch. If you experience any discomfort or digestive issues, reduce your intake or try different sources of resistant starch.

It is important to note that low-fat diets can enhance the benefits of resistant starches, while high-fat diets can hinder them. By incorporating resistant starch into your diet gradually and choosing the right sources, you can enjoy its potential health benefits without experiencing side effects.

Why Cook and Cool Starches Before Eating Them?

Cooked and cooled resistant starch

When starches are cooled after cooking, a process called retrogradation occurs, which changes the structure of the starch molecules and increases their resistance to digestion.

During cooking, starch molecules absorb water and swell, undergoing gelatinization, which makes them more easily digestible.

However, when the cooked starches are cooled, the gel structure reforms in a more crystalline arrangement.

This new structure is more resistant to the enzymes in the digestive system, so the starch passes through the small intestine largely undigested and reaches the colon, where it can be fermented by gut bacteria.

This process increases the resistant starch content of the food and provides several health benefits, including improved gut health, better blood sugar control, and increased feelings of fullness.

Resistant Starch Sources to Include in a Weight Loss Diet

Green Banana Resistant Starch

Here is a list of foods that are good sources of resistant starch:

  • - Legumes: Lentils, chickpeas, beans (kidney, pinto, black beans), peas.

  • - Whole grains: Barley, oats, brown rice.

  • - Green bananas: Unripe bananas contain more resistant starch than ripe bananas.

  • - Cooked and cooled potatoes: Potatoes that have been cooked and then cooled, such as in potato salad.

  • - Cooked and cooled rice: Similar to potatoes, rice that has been cooked and then cooled contains more resistant starch.

  • - Cooked and cooled pasta: When pasta is cooked and then cooled, it undergoes a process similar to cooked and cooled rice or potatoes, where the starches retrograde and become more resistant to digestion.

  • - Seeds: Flaxseeds, chia seeds.

It's important to note while resistant starch supplements are available, it's generally recommended to obtain resistant starch from whole food intake whenever possible, as they provide additional nutrients and fiber. If you're considering a supplement to increase your resistant starch intake, it's best to consult a healthcare provider or dietitian to determine if it's suitable for you and to ensure you're taking it safely and effectively.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the incorporation of resistant starches into the diet holds promise as a strategy for supporting weight loss. Their ability to promote feelings of fullness, improve insulin sensitivity, and enhance fat oxidation suggests that they can be a valuable addition to a regimen to lose body weight.

However, it's important to note that while resistant starches can complement a healthy lifestyle, they are not a magical solution for weight loss on their own. For optimal results, they should be part of a balanced diet that includes various nutrient-dense foods and regular physical activity.