Friday, February 29, 2008

Resistant starch: The new power nutrient

As seen on KMGH-TV7

Learn more at:

March National Nutrition Month 2008 It’s always been fascinating to work in the field of nutrition. New and interesting nutrition science research findings constantly emerge. The challenge is to tease out the relevant and truly useful information, from the promises of quick fixes. For 2008 March National Nutrition Month, I am going to explore something new and a bit different. While this may be the first time you have heard of it, it’s actually been a part of your diet most of your life. Research, well-documented and replicated, points to the health benefits of a component in starchy food called resistant starch, a type of dietary fiber.

Those on low-carb diets may have been avoiding starchy foods such as potatoes, grains, beans, corn, rice, bread, pasta and cornflakes, billed as causing blood sugars to rise, and packing on unneeded calories. But all these foods contain resistant starch, formed particularly when cooked starchy foods are cooled.

Keep it cool Cooking causes starch to absorb water and swell. As it slowly cools, portions of the starch crystallize into a form that resists digestion. Cooling either at room temperature or preferably in the refrigerator will raise resistant starch levels. Don’t reheat. That breaks up the crystals, causing resistant starch levels to plummet.

It gets its name because it “resists” digestion in the body, and though this is true of many types of fiber, what makes resistant starch so special is the impact it has on weight loss and health overall.

Health benefits More than 160 studies have examined this little-known nutrient’s health and weight-loss benefits. A WHO Expert Consultation on Human Nutrition statement, "One of the major developments in our understanding of the importance of carbohydrates for health in the past twenty years has been the discovery of resistant starch.”

Resistant starch has shown that can it increase your body’s ability to burn fat. Escaping digestion in the small intestine, it passes to the large bowel for fermentation, and creates a beneficial short-chain fatty acid called butyrate. Butyrate may block the body’s ability to burn carbohydrates. Instead the body burns both stored fat and recently consumed fat for energy---preventing it from ending up on your thighs.

It shuts down hunger hormones. Animal studies have found that resistant starch prompts the body to stimulate production of a satiety-inducing hormone, a peptide (PYY), which increases feelings of fullness. You eat less.

Cancer Research shows that the butyrate created by resistant starch is protective of colon cells, making it less vulnerable to the DNA damage which can lead to cancer. It can also create a pH drop inside the colon, which boosts the absorption of calcium and blocks the absorption of cancer-causing substances.

Diabetes Like other fibers, resistant starch helps control blood sugar levels. Because it skips routine digestion, researchers see lower blood sugar and insulin levels following a resistant starch-rich meal. Another exciting area of research is looking at its ability to improve insulin sensitivity.

How to eat enough Right now, there is no recommendation from USDA for resistant starch intake. Preliminary data shows the average American woman consumes about 4 grams of resistant starch each day. Nutrition experts believe the research is strong enough to advocate doubling that to 8 grams per day. Simply adding ½ to 1 cup of cooled resistant starch-rich food per day can help you get to that level.

Tips for adding resistant starch to your diet

Beans 8 grams per ½ cup
Ø Dust off your recipe for a traditional Three-bean Salad
Ø Snack on hummus or bean dip with whole grain crackers or crisp carrot sticks
Ø Savor Spicy Black, Pinto Bean and Corn Salsa (recipe below)

Bananas (slightly green) 6 grams per small piece of fruit
Ø Slice and mix with yogurt and granola
Ø Top a favorite curry with banana chunks
Ø Think kid…peanut butter and raisins on banana for classic “Ants on a Log”

Potatoes and yams 4 grams per ½ cup
Ø Serve cold potato salad
Ø Toss chilled, chunked red potatoes into a green salad
Ø Go elegant and serve Vichyssoise--cold potato soup

Barley 3 grams per ½ cup
Ø Create a cold barley salad of cooked cooled barley, red peppers, peas and Italian dressing
Ø Sprinkle onto leafy green garden salads
Ø Mix with chopped fresh basil, olives and olive oil and stuff into hollowed tomatoes

Corn 2 grams per half cup
Ø Combine cooked cooled corn with tomatoes, cucumbers and green onions
Ø Sprinkle on top of your green salads
Ø Wrap it up in your taco

Spicy Black, Pinto Bean and Corn Salsa

2 - 14 ounce cans black beans, drained
1 - 14 ounce can pinto beans, drained
1 - 14 ounce can corn, drained
3 large tomatoes, chopped
½ medium red onion, chopped, or I bunch scallions, chopped
1 bottle hot sauce (I used ½ bottle of Cholula’s)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 T olive oil
½ bunch cilantro, chopped

Combine all. Good served immediately but even better if it can sit in refrigerator for an hour for flavors to blend. Serve with whole grain corn chips as a dip, or over chopped green lettuce for a main meal salad.