Most people, when thinking about carbohydrates, usually think of pasta, bread, rice and potatoes. These are starchy foods – containing mostly ‘simple carbohydrates’ which are converted into sugar very quickly by the body (which can cause a variety of health issues).

Despite popular belief, not all carbs are bad – in fact we need some carbs as part of a healthy and balanced diet.

Resistant starch (RS) is a good type of carb for our health. It can be found in varying quantities in different foods, including those listed above. However, certain factors including cooking method, ripeness and other nutrients can make a big difference in the type and amount of starch a food releases.

What is resistant starch?
human digestive systemRS is a carbohydrate, obtained from food, and is fermented in the colon.

The sugars from RS are taken up more slowly than other starches to provide a longer-term energy supply for the body. This is preferable to short term energy that often gets partly stored as fat.

It’s called resistant starch because of the ability to resist digestion in the small intestine and enter the large intestine (colon) undigested. RS is a soluble dietary fibre – which means it’s dissolved in water within the digestive system.

What are the health benefits of resistant starch?
Key benefits include:

  • helps with weight control (it’s around half the calories of other starches, per gram)
  • improved blood sugar balance and insulin sensitivity (helps reduce risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases)
  • feeds ‘friendly’ gut bacteria to form butyrate (a preferred energy source for the colon that can also help prevent colon cancer)
  • helps us feel fuller for longer
  • reduces inflammation responses (helps combat various digestive disorders)
  • assists with bowel emptying regularity (helps ease constipation and improve general digestive health)
  • gluten free

What foods can I get resistant starch from?
Foods that are high in RS:

  • rolled oats (uncooked)
  • puffed wheat cereal
  • muesli
  • bread (pumpernickel, Italian, rye)
  • potatoes & sweet potatoes (cooked, then cooled)
  • basmati rice (cooked, then cooled)
  • bananas (underripe)
  • white beans (cooked)
  • lentils (cooked)
  • ryvita crispbreads

RS can also be obtained from supplementary sources (often available from speciality health food shops) such as raw potato starch, green banana flour, tapioca starch and raw mung beans.

My advice on including resistant starches in the diet
Resistant starches can form part of a healthy and balanced diet due to their valuable health benefits. 

Rolled OatsTry to get the majority of your intake from beans, lentils, bananas, oats and sweet potatoes rather than the other foods listed above, as these tend to be nutritionally better overall.

Aim to eat RS foods at the same time as other foods within a meal or snack, and increase consumption of them gradually over time to allow your digestive system to adjust.