Resistant Starch Q&A
Noted diabetes educator and nutrition consultant Hope Warshaw weighs in on the simple steps consumers can take to double their intake of resistant starch.
Question 1: What is resistant starch and in what kind of food can it be found?
Starches can be found in a broad and diverse group of foods that provide about half, if not more, of the calories people consume. Two different kinds of starch exist: 1) those that are digested in the small intestine; and 2) those that are not digested in the small intestine but are found in the large intestine. The latter group is defined as resistant starches (1).
Resistant starch is found in common foods such as legumes, whole or partially milled grains and under ripened bananas. When cooked and served cold as in salads, several starches, including potatoes, pasta and rice; contain resistant starch. Resistant starch is also present in a high amylose corn ingredient, named Hi-maize, which is increasingly being used in commercially prepared products such as bread, cereal and snacks. Resistant starch can also be made by chemically modifying starches.
Facts and Figures: Quantity of resistant starch found in commonly consumed foods and ingredients
Question 2: Recently, you published a review article on the health benefits of foods containing natural resistant starch. Does resistant starch benefit certain populations more than others, (i.e., is it only for people with diabetes)?
Both commercial and natural sources of resistant starch have been linked to an array of health benefits, such as weight management, improved insulin and glucose response, and digestive health (1,2). In addition, unlike with some dietary fibers, people can tolerate up to 45 grams of fiber daily from resistant starch without gastrointestinal (GI) side effects (3,4,5,6). Health professionals should rediscover resistant starches as a significant food component and ingredient that may provide health benefits associated with reduced risks of diseases such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer.
Question 3: Resistant starch has a fair amount of dietary fiber. Given the shortfall in dietary fiber consumption, how can consumers increase their fiber intake with resistant starch?
Health professionals know and recognize two categories of dietary fiber — soluble and insoluble. Resistant starch can be thought of as a third type of dietary fiber, providing some of the health benefits of both soluble and insoluble fiber as well as some unique health benefits of its own. It was hypothesized, and recent research shows, that people can derive health benefits from higher intakes of resistant starch in the range of 15-20g/day. At an average consumption rate of 4.8 grams per day in the United Sates, many consumers fall short of the recommend daily intake of resistant starch (15-20g/day). Well-tolerated resistant starches from both naturally-occurring sources and ingredients added to commercially or home-prepared foods may help people to look at this carbohydrate as a palatable way to reach the recommended 25-38 grams of fiber per day.
Question 4: Can you provide some practical ways for consumers to double their intake of resistant starch?
Nutrition professionals educate people about the ways they can eat healthier. It’s helpful to teach consumers about the ways they can make small changes to their current eating habits in favor of healthier eating. There are three approaches one can take to help consumers increase their intake of resistant starch: 1) from naturally-occurring sources 2) by adding resistant starch to home-cooked meals and 3) from commercial foods with resistant starch added. Nutrition professionals can help consumers by pointing out all three sources of resistant starch.