Typically, the first image that pops into our minds when we hear the word “starch” is all the “carb-y” things: fries, bread, cakes, cookies, pasta, etc … simple carbohydrates we typically limit for more efficient fat loss.
However, there are other types of starch, namely a type called “resistant” starch, that could possibly help boost your fat loss. Read on to see why you should consider adding it to your menu.
What is Resistant Starch?
It turns out not all starch is created equal. An easy example most of us already know: a sweet potato does not equal a candy bar or piece of cake in terms of nutrient value, calorie density, or its effect on your body. One is candy that consists of mostly simple sugars, the other is a high-nutrient, fiber-rich whole food.
But going even deeper than this, starches (even in healthy carb sources) can also come in different forms. Regular starches like those in potatoes, rice, beans, and other grains are typically fully broken down (minus their fibers) during digestion, releasing energy directly into your bloodstream.
Resistant starch is a little different in that it “resists” digestion. Instead, it moves undigested through your stomach and to your colon, where it feeds the good bacteria residing there.
And as many of you who take probiotics probably know, an essential part of maintaining good gut health is making sure you have plenty of good bacteria populating your gut. Resistant starch promotes this by selectively feeding the good bugs so they can flourish, which results in a ton of health benefits like reduced inflammation, and possibly even reduced risk of developing colon cancer. [*] [*]
How Can Resistant Starch Help With Fat Loss?
As a bonus, it turns out that resistant starch has also been shown to help fuel fat loss and promote leanness. (Aka: get ready to fall back in love with the right type of carbs).
Let’s take a look at the several ways it does this.
1. Improves Insulin Sensitivity and Lowers Glucose Levels
When we eat carbs (especially “simple” carbs in the form of sugar”) our bodies release the hormone insulin to help keep our blood sugar levels in check. This process is normal but can hinder fat loss if it occurs repeatedly and insulin levels stay elevated for long periods of time.
This is because insulin plays a large role in fat storage. Namely, if you’re eating more carbs (glucose) than your body needs for fuel, it seeks to store this fuel elsewhere. The easiest option?
Storing it as body fat.
This may be why studies show suppressing insulin release leads to greater weight loss: less glucose and insulin equals less fat storage, which in turn allows your body to use it’s own body fat as a source of energy, instead of all that extra glucose. [*]
Where resistant starch comes into play in this is that it not only causes less of a blood sugar spike (and therefore less insulin release), but it also has been shown to increase insulin “sensitivity.” [*]
Insulin sensitivity simply refers to how sensitive your cells are to the blood-sugar-lowering effects of insulin. When you eat too many carbs too often, your cells can start to “resist” insulin, which keeps your blood sugar chronically elevated and unable to use the carbs as fuel, thus storing most of the glucose as fat to get it out of your bloodstream.
When your cells are sensitive to insulin, however, they readily respond to insulin, so you don’t need to secrete as much, which could equal less fat storage.
2. Increases Satiety and Could Cause You to Eat Less
Some starches seem to make us want to binge (bag of chips, anyone?) but resistant starch appears to do the opposite.
Research shows resistant starch can increase feelings of fullness from meals, while also causing people to eat fewer calories overall. [*] [*] As we know, feeling satisfied with our meals goes a long way in sticking to a weight loss regime long term.
3. Improves Gut Bacteria
As we saw earlier, studies show that resistant starch selectively feeds our good gut bacteria, causing them to flourish. [*]
And it turns out these good bugs are pivotal when it comes to losing weight and keeping it off.
Just to show you how powerful feeding and growing your good gut bacteria can be:
One study found that over the course of three months, women taking probiotics (beneficial bacteria) lost 50% more weight compared to a group taking a placebo. Even better: they also continued to lose weight during the maintenance phase of the study. [*]
Other research has found that when transplanting gut bacteria from obese mice into those of lean mice, the lean mice gain fat. [*] This shows that gut bacteria balance in people with higher body fat percentages in different than lean individuals.
Researchers believe good gut bacteria have these positive effects on weight loss by releasing a hormone called GLP-1, which helps promote fullness and may help your body burn more calories. [*]
Where to Get Resistant Starch
Okay, so where do you get this weight loss friendly starch? The easiest options:
• Cooked, then cooled potatoes (cooling is essential as it transforms regular starch into resistant starch through the cooling process; it’s best to let them cool overnight)
• Green bananas and plantains
• Raw potato starch (Bob’s Red Mill is a great brand). Sprinkle a couple of teaspoons into your smoothie.
• Properly soaked beans (soak overnight before eating)
Try to start with small portions and a lower dose (1 tsp) of potato starch (if you decide to go that route). If you eat too much at once, you may experience some bloating as your gut bugs adjust, so it’s best to ease into it.
Another tip: combine your resistant starch consumption with probiotics or probiotic foods like coconut yogurt or sauerkraut. Since resistant starch feeds good bacteria, you’ll be adding them in while also encouraging more to grow.
A final note: let’s toast to a carb that helps us shred.