A Complete Guide to Resistant Starch

You can create resistant starch by cooking then cooling potatoes, rice, and other foods to help you feel fuller and improve digestion. Resistant starch can reduce the amount of carbohydrates you absorb from certain foods and improve overall health.

assorted bowls of oatmeals with toppings

Get ready to learn all about healthy starches in this complete guide to resistant starch!

In the world of healthy eating, starch tends to get a bad rap. Many of the carb-rich foods in our diet contain starches, which are essentially long chains of glucose (aka sugar).

Highly-refined starches (foods like flours, pretzels, white bread, white rice, and pasta) are common culprits for weight gain, overconsumption, insulin resistance, and type-2 diabetes. However, not all starches are created equal.

What if I told you there was a special kind of starch that actually boosts digestion, prevents certain diseases, and promotes healthy weight loss?

While highly refined starches cause our blood sugar to spike, other kinds of starches pass through your digestive system unchanged. This digestion-resistant starch is called resistant starch and can be tremendously beneficial to your health because it functions a little like soluble fiber.

Intrigued yet? Lucky for you, today’s post is a complete guide to resistant starch.

While many people can probably tell you a thing or two about starches and carbs, I am about to make you an expert.

Welcome to resistant starch 101, friends. Here is everything you need to know.

What is Resistant Starch?

While you’ve probably heard of highly refined starches and whole grains (barley, brown rice, and buckwheat—to name a few), resistant starch is not the same.

Just like the name suggests, resistant starch is not easily digested, so it isn’t broken down by the small intestine. Whereas digestive enzymes transform regular starches into glucose, resistant starches move through the stomach and small intestine undigested.

Then, they arrive in the colon (the longest part of the large intestine) more or less intact.

Inside the large intestine, gut bacteria begin to feed on the resistant starch and ferment it, producing something called butyrate (butyric acid).

Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid that acts as an energy source for enterocytes, or the cells lining your GI tract.

This kind of resistant starch is found in foods like whole grains, rice or potatoes that have been cooked and cooled, plantains, green bananas, and more.

In this guide to resistant starch, we’ll also be breaking down the different types and benefits, then providing recommendations on how to eat more of it. Stay tuned!

Types of Resistant Starch

Believe it or not, there are several types of resistant starch and some might work better for your body than others. Generally, you can separate this category of starch into four distinctive types, depending on where they come from.

  • RS Type 1: This type of resistant starch is found in grains, seeds, and legumes. It resists digestion because it is bound within the fibrous cell walls. Note: these kinds of foods don’t always work well for everyone, as gluten and grains contain inflammatory protein and antinutrients that can make people feel less than stellar (even if you aren’t gluten-free).
  • RS Type 2: This encompasses the fermentable fiber that is found in green bananas and raw potatoes. These starches are compact, which makes it harder for digestive enzymes to break them down.
  • RS Type 3: This type of resistant starch is pretty special. It is created when some of the naturally-occurring raw starches in white potatoes and rice are cooked and then cooled. This happens in a process known as retrogradation, and it promotes fat oxidation and reduces abdominal fat.
  • RS Type 4: This man-made resistant starch is what you would find on the nutrition labels of cakes, bread, and other processed foods. However, don’t automatically assume that man-made starch is a bad thing. Some studies show that the soluble fiber resistant dextrin improves insulin resistance in women with type 2 diabetes.

Cooked then Cooled Potatoes & Rice Contain Resistant Starch

For years the health world has told people to avoid things like potatoes and white rice, but we now know these things are absolutely ok in moderation, especially when they are cooked and cooled.

This means that a herby potato salad should always be in your rotation. Bonus points for if you leave the potato skins on for extra fiber and nutrients, too.

I also suspect that this is why I tend to not feel super bloated after I eat sushi since the rice has usually been cooked and then cooled, but I can’t find data to back this up. The vinegar added to sushi rice may also contribute to that.

potatoes on a plate

Health Benefits of Resistant Starch

So, is resistant starch good for you? Let’s find out. According to Healthline(1), these are some of the most impressive health benefits of resistant starch.

  • Decreased risk of disease: When resistant starch enters your large intestine, bacteria convert it into butyrate, which is a short-chain fatty acid. Studies show that the more short-chain fatty acids that are found in the colon, the lower the risk of both colon cancer and cardiovascular disease.
  • Increased fat burn: Studies show that meals containing 5.4% of resistant starch significantly increase the body’s ability to burn fat.
  • Improved gut health: Resistant starches foster the growth of good gut bacteria, which in turn aids digestion, boosts your immune system, supports your endocrine system, and does a whole lot more. (Not to mention, gut health is intrinsically linked to mental health.)
  • Reduced insulin and blood sugar spikes: There is some research linking the consumption of resistant starch to lower blood sugar and fewer insulin spikes.
  • Mineral absorption: A lot of essential minerals are absorbed in our large intestines, and having a healthy supply of resistant starches strengthens such absorption.
  • Vitamin production: Did you know that our gut bacteria are responsible for producing a lot of the folate and vitamin k that our bodies need? For that reason, we should be consuming foods —aka resistant starch— that help those bacteria thrive.
  • Weight loss: Resistant starches increase satiety and feelings of fullness, which consequentially aids in weight loss. They are also great for metabolic health.

Adding Resistant Starch To Your Diet

What would a guide to resistant starch be if it didn’t tell you how to actually incorporate it into your diet?! Here are some of the easiest ways to add resistant starch to your diet.

  • Raw potato starch: To retain the resistant starch, you mustn’t cook the raw potato starch. Instead, try adding a spoonful or two to your favorite smoothie recipe. (Might I recommend this Frozen Banana & Cacao Smoothie Recipe.)
  • Cooked and cooled white rice: If you cook and then cool white rice, it will create type 3 resistant starch. If you’re worried about having to eat cold rice, don’t be. You can reheat the rice without destroying the resistant starch.
  • Raw oats: Raw oats are terrific for making homemade energy bites. Simply pulse them in a food processor and mix them with nut butter, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Yum!
  • Cold potatoes: Many people eat their potatoes warm (myself included), but doing so sacrifices the potato’s fat-fighting powers. To maximize their resistant starch, bake your potatoes in an air fryer or oven, allow them to cool, then cut them into smaller pieces. Afterward, you can whip up a batch of this drool-worthy Herby No-Mayo Potato Salad.
  • Green bananas and raw plantains: Sure, unripe bananas aren’t as sweet as the yellowy-brown ones, but they are loaded with resistant starch. To help a bit with the taste, try tossing them in this Pineapple Spinach Smoothie Recipe (Tastes Like Candy!).

Frequently Asked Questions

Below you will find the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about resistant starch.

How much resistant starch should you eat?

Although the recommended daily intake for resistant starch is about 5g per day, the optimal amount is way higher. To maximize all of the amazing benefits, dieticians recommend getting about 6g per meal or 15-20g per day.

Can you eat too much resistant starch?

Resistant starch functions a lot like fiber, so consuming too much can lead to issues like minor gas and bloating. However, a lot of people with good gut health don’t experience any symptoms at all.

Is resistant starch for everyone?

Some people respond well when they introduce resistant starch into their diet. Others? Not so much. If you have gut problems like IBS, then resistant starch might make things worse.

If you’re interested in adding resistant starch to your diet, I recommend starting small, as it can take your body up to six weeks to get used to it. I’ve found that adding one spoonful of raw potato starch to no-cook meals like smoothies is a great way to get started.

Are there any side effects of resistant starch?

If your body doesn’t respond well to resistant starch or if you ate too much too fast, then you might experience side effects like bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, and heartburn. However, if you have good gut health, then you should be in the clear.

If you find yourself dealing with those less-than-ideal side effects, then I would recommend increasing your consumption of probiotics and reducing your resistant starch dosage.

When should you take resistant starch?

When you’re just getting started, I recommend adding about two tablespoons of resistant starch to your diet each day. Add one tablespoon to your breakfast smoothie, and have another with dessert.

Try these Best-Ever Black Bean Brownies for a resistant starch-friendly treat.

I hope this comprehensive guide to resistant starch helped you to learn more about healthy starches and how to incorporate them into your diet! Have any questions? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Healthy Recipes With Resistant Starch

If you’re ready to add resistant starch to your diet, here are some super simple ways to do so:

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Instead of prescribing what I think you should do, I help you find what works for you.

A health expert, author, and creative entrepreneur

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