Foods With Resistant Starch That Help With Digestion

We all know about the health benefits of dietary fiber, but there is a food component that is a part of the dietary fiber, that has been getting some new but well-deserved notoriety. Resistant starch is a type of starch found in ordinary foods that earn its name from the fact that it is resistant to digestion. This means that it passes into your large intestine and interacts with your oh-so-important gut flora.

Typically when we think of starchy foods, we think of things like white bread and pasta. Unfortunately, these simple starches are rapidly digested, sending their sugars into your bloodstream, contributing to weight gain and increasing your risk for diabetes and heart disease. On the other hand, foods that contain resistant starch pass through the stomach and small intestine without being absorbed into the body.

When resistant starches enter your large intestine, they are fermented by your gut bacteria which releases substances that are good for your health.​


Health Benefits of Resistant Starch

foods high in resistant starch
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Scientists have been busy conducting studies on the health benefits of resistant starch. They are looking into whether resistant starch might be beneficial to your health in two ways:

1. Weight Management: Early research on the subject is beginning to show indications that perhaps eating foods that contain resistant starch can not only help people to lose weight but can also help to offset the diseases that go along with weight gain, such as:

2. Colon Health: In addition, researchers are finding some preliminary evidence that may indicate that eating foods that contain resistant starch might possibly help to:

For both of these areas, however, there is not yet any hard evidence of these possible health benefits.

How Much Resistant Starch Should You Be Eating?

Estimates as to how much resistant starch you should be consuming range from a minimum of 6 grams to a maximum of 30 grams. It is estimated that most Americans typically consume less than 5 grams per day, so clearly there is a lot of room for improvement! As you increase your intake, do it slowly so as to minimize the chances of experiencing unwanted gas and bloating.

Note: If you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), the first few choices are IBS-friendly. The rest (those marked with an asterisk) may need some caution!



bunch of unripe bananas
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Bananas are a delicious source of resistant starch. They have the maximum amount of resistant starch when they are unripe — the content of resistant starch reduces as the banana ripens. If green (unripe) bananas are not of maximum appeal to you, you may find that you can tolerate the taste better if you place them in a smoothie.



raw potatoes
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Potatoes actually have their highest level of resistant starch when they are raw. But don't think you are doomed to eating uncooked spuds! You can also maximize your intake of resistant starch from potatoes if you allow them to cool before eating. 



bowl of white rice
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Similar to potatoes, you will maximize your intake of resistant starch from rice if you allow the rice to cool before eating it. Levels of resistant starch are similar whether your rice of choice is white or brown.



bowl of rolled oats
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Optimizing your resistant starch intake from oats is a little tricky. Unfortunately, cooking the oats in water, as most of us are accustomed to doing so as to make oatmeal, diminishes the resistant starch content. As you probably don't want to eat them raw — when their resistant starch content is highest — you could try toasting them to see if that preparation would appeal. Rolled or steel-cut oats are your best bets as sources for resistant starch.



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Cooked plantains, a staple of many tropical diets, contain high levels of resistant starch. These high levels are found in both yellow and green plantains. If plantains are not a regular part of your diet, you may want to give them a try to see why they are so popular in so many cultures.



Spilled chickpeas
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If chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are not a regular part of your diet, you may want to become acquainted with these nutritional powerhouses. They are a good source of dietary fiber, along with many important vitamins and minerals, as well as being a good source of resistant starch.

No need to eat them raw! Cooked and/or canned chickpeas contain high levels of resistant starch. You can sprinkle chickpeas on salads or enjoy them as a side dish or snack. 

If you have IBS, you will be pleased to know that canned chickpeas, well-rinsed, are considered to be low in FODMAPs, those carbohydrates that can contribute to IBS symptoms. Just keep your serving size to 1/4 cup.



bowl of lentils
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Cooked lentils are an excellent source of resistant starch. This is in addition to the fact that lentils serve as a wonderful source of plant-based protein. You can enjoy lentils in soups or side dishes.

Similar to chickpeas, lentils can be IBS-friendly (e.g. low-FODMAP) if they come from a can, are well-rinsed, and limited to a 1/2 cup serving.



Close-up of sourdough bread
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The various bread options offer varying levels of resistant starch. Pumpernickel bread contains high levels of resistant starch. Surprisingly, breadsticks and pizza crusts have high levels as well. 

If you have IBS, the above options may be a problem for you if you are reactive to either the FODMAP fructan or the protein gluten. Better high resistant starch bread options for you are corn tortillas or artisanal sourdough bread (traditionally prepared).


Green Peas*

bowl of green peas
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Green peas, even when cooked, are a very good source of resistant starch. Enjoy your peas in soups or as an easy side dish. 

*Unfortunately, green peas have been found to be high in the FODMAP GOS and therefore may be problematic for people who have IBS.



variety of beans
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Most types of cooked and/or canned beans are good sources of resistant starch. However, the highest levels of resistant starch are seen in white beans and kidney beans. You can enjoy your beans in soup, as a stand-alone side dish, or mixed with rice.

*Beans are typically a high-FODMAP food and thus may contribute to digestive symptoms in people who have IBS.


Pearl Barley*

pearl barley
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Most recipes that use barley call for pearl barley — barley in which the outer husk has been removed. Pearl barley is a good source of resistant starch, as well as other important vitamins and minerals. You can enjoy pearl barley in soups, pilafs, or salads.

*Pearl barley is considered a high-FODMAP food due to the fact that it contains higher levels of fructans and GOS.

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