Resistant Starch: Gut Superfood

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Note from Katie: Resistant Starch has gotten a lot of press lately for its ability to culture beneficial gut bacteria. It is a prebiotic, which complements a probiotic. I invited Genevieve from Mama Natural to tell us more. Enter Genevieve…

We often hear about the importance of probiotics, and rightfully so. They can help improve our digestion, elimination, immune system, and even the look of our skin!

Probiotics are live bacteria and/or yeast that live inside our body. We bring them into our systems via foods, supplements, and soil. This is the good gut flora that everyone is after. But like any living organism, probiotics need to be nourished and supported, which is where prebiotics come in.

Feed Your Good Bacteria

Prebiotics are indigestible substances that pass through our gastrointestinal tract and promote the growth of good bacteria in our lower bowel. They are essentially sugars and fibers, short or long-chain carbohydrates, that act as “food” for our flora.

Foods rich in prebiotics include acacia gum, raw chicory and dandelion leaves, bananas, Jerusalem artichoke, onions, garlic, and leeks. These are great to include in the diet to boost your prebiotic intake.

But when is the last time you had a Jerusalem artichoke? Plus, you need to eat a lot of these foods for a therapeutic benefit. There’s got to be a simpler way.

Resistant Starch to the Rescue

One of the easiest, cheapest and most potent ways to boost your prebiotic intake is through the consumption of resistant starch. Like other prebiotics, this starch passes through the upper digestive tract and stimulates good bacteria growth in the large intestine and colon. Additionally, resistant starch increases fermentation and the production of short-chain fatty acids like butyrate. Why is this important? Well, these acids lower the pH of our bowel, making it less hospitable for nasty pathogens and bad bacteria. Additionally, butyrate is the preferred fuel of the cells that line the colon.

Health Benefits of Resistant Starch

For over three decades, studies have looked at the health benefits of resistant starch in humans and animals, and the results are pretty amazing. Resistant starch has been shown to:

  • Increase absorption of important minerals like calcium and magnesium
  • Decrease absorption of toxic and carcinogenic compounds
  • Affect positive changes in microflora, particularly increasing bifidobacterium
  • Help with insulin sensitivity
  • Lower overall blood glucose levels
  • Increase feelings of satiety

Good stuff, right? So how do we get more of it?

How to Get Resistant Starch in Your Diet

We get resistant starch from the food we eat. The highest sources are raw potatoes, green bananas, green plantains, cooked and cooled potatoes, rice and beans. If you eat grains and beans, think potato salad, cold rice salads, re-heated beans with your eggs, that sort of thing. You can see a detailed list of resistant starch foods in this chart from Free the Animal (PDF).

Most resistant starch studies are based on ingesting 30 grams a day. According to the chart linked above, a 200 gram boiled potato can have up to 9 grams of potato starch. You can boost the starch content by cooking and then cooling potatoes. But still, you’re looking at eating a lot of carbs in order to reach that target amount of resistant starch.

Here’s an Easier (and Paleo-Friendly) Way to Get It

I know that many Wellness Mama readers are paleo/WAPF/real food and don’t eat some of these foods. If that’s the case with you, try this little “hack” devised by some folks on Free The Animal’s Blog instead: Raw potato starch (I like Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch). Raw potato starch contains approximately 8 grams of resistant starch per tablespoon, and very few “usable’ carbohydrates. This starch doesn’t affect blood sugar levels, as your body doesn’t digest it. Your gut bacteria does.

Raw potato starch is inexpensive and bland in taste, so it’s easy to use. Keep in mind that it has to stay raw, so you don’t want to cook it. It’s best to stir it into cold or lukewarm beverage or add it to uncooked foods.

(Wellness Mama Note: I have personally tried this potato starch and this plantain flour with good results)

Start Slow and Watch for Reactions

Of course, consult with your healthcare provider before beginning any health regimen to determine appropriate dosages and any health risks. It’s also best to start slowly and watch for detox reactions. You may want to start by simply eating more prebiotic foods or cooked and cooled potatoes. Or, you can try adding 1 tsp. of potato starch to your morning smoothie or before bed mixed in kefir or water. Some people find it more effective if they pair it with a probiotic. Slowly build up your dose.

A common reaction to the potato starch is an increase in gas, bloating, and changes in your stool. These symptoms are the result of rearrangements in your bowel bacteria. For most people, these side effects are short lived. If they persist, it is best to stop taking the potato starch and work on boosting your existing good bacteria with probiotics, particularly soil-based ones. Then try incorporating small amounts of the potato starch back in and see how you do. Many people, who consistently include resistant starch in their diet, report improved sleep, dream recall, bowel movements, digestion, blood sugar control and muscle tone. Sounds good to me!

About the author: After battling weight, digestive, and immune system issues for many years, Genevieve, aka Mama Natural, knows firsthand the harmful effects of conventional life. Through a long road of detox, she discovered the healing power of real food and natural living. This transformation spread into every area of her life – physical, emotional, and spiritual. Today, she helps other moms live happier, healthier lives through her popular videos on YouTube, her blog, MamaNatural.com, and frequent contributions to Wellness Media as a featured member.

Do you work to include resistant starch in your diet? What is your favorite way to get it?

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Reader Comments

  1. Katie. I know you have hashimoto’s. I do too. I’m doing the auto- immune protocol and night shades are a no-no. I’m confused about your recomendation to eat potatoes/ potato starch. Can you say anything about auto- immune and resistant starch?

      • I’ve never heard of it. Where do you get it?

        • Also, would tapioca flour work the same way?

        • Food for less $3.28

    • I have recently added this to my diet with good results. Thank you for the suggestion!

    • Hi, since the Bob Mill’s potato starch is not made from oragnic potatoes
      and potatoes are one of the “dirty dozen”, is it really that clean to eat?
      Thanks for your reply!

      • Bob’s Red Mill is a purveyor of non-gmo foods only. I know this because I called them by telephone.

  2. If you have SIBO would it be better to eradicate that first before using resistant starch? Will it feed pathogenic bacteria as well?

    • Check with a doc to be sure but I personally would get rid of the SIBO first

  3. Wow! This is really interesting. We get a lot of Jerusalem artichokes in our CSA box and they give us the WORST gas. Now I guess I know why–our bowel bacterias are rearranging?

  4. I’m starting an auto-immune paleo diet so I have to avoid nightshades. I assume this means I need to avoid potato starch. If I were to try the plantain flour instead, should I just throw a tbs or two in a drink or how do you use it? Is it ok to cook baked goods with it or does that ruin the benefit? Thanks!

  5. What is the best pre and? probiotic recommended

  6. We have had great success with the GAPS diet for our son. Please comment on if this is beneficial for the GAPS folks. Thank you. Jennie

  7. Hi Katie

    Nice write up and thanks for the link!

  8. We had the same experience with Jerusalem artichokes many years ago! 🙂

    Sadly I can’t do the resistant starch because of a condition I have called small intestin bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This is where you have too much bacteria in the small intestine. It lives off of the indigestible starches, which I have to avoid. I second your recommendation to take it slow and stop if the gas and bloating continue 🙂

  9. Please discuss whether or not this would be beneficial for GAPS folks. Thanks 🙂

    • It really depends on the case with GAPS but I’d try plantain after intro and see how the body does

  10. Thank you for this. I have been upping my safe starches to try to get more resistant starch but didn’t want to go too high on the carbs. I will try the flour and see what happens. I try to look after my gut with homemade sauerkraut and kombucha, and the flour sounds like an easy addition to my regime.

  11. Hi Katie, I have been using Bob’s Redmill potato starch with good results. The concern I have is that it is not organic and potatoes are one of the dirty dozen. Do you have thoughts about this and do you know of an organic alternative? Thanks!

  12. What about if we’re following the AIP and avoiding nightshades? Is potato starch still okay? I tend to get itchy skin after eating nightshades.

  13. I bought some a while ago, for this reason, but haven’t figured out how to use it. In a smoothie, maybe? Any other ideas?

  14. This is a great article! After recent episodes of severe abdominal gas cramps and pain, I have recently been trying to tailor my diet to a low FODMAP diet. It has worked tremendously, but I also want to incorporate probiotics and prebiotics into my diet. The options are limited, and often overlap with the recommended low FODMAP diet. Do you have any tips on reconciling a low FODMAP diet and a diet rich in pro- and prebiotics? I am more interested in keeping the FODMAPs low, but would love to have the best of both to maximize my body’s well-being. Thank you in advance! And I love your website btw, it has been supremely helpful in many areas of my health 🙂

  15. I’ve tried the potato starch and it’s stimulating to my system and I can’t sleep at night

  16. Does the potato starch have to be “raw”? What about cooking it in a muffin?

    • Oops, just realized you said it had to be raw in your article.sorry.

  17. I’m so glad I saw this post. The past few days my tummy had been upset with lots of bloating, loose stool and diarrhea and I had no idea why. Then I thought back to what i’d been eating and realized I hadn’t had much in terms of starchy foods. So last night I had rice with dinner and a slice of freshly baked bread and lo and behold I feel so much better.

  18. I wonder if you could describe the consistency of plantain starch. I have have diverticulitis issues for the past year, and more recently after reading through Free the Animal blog, believed RS would be a great dad to my plan. However, after 3 different tries, I’ve had to admit I just can’t tolerate PS. It’s just too sludge-like in my gut, just like it sits in a glass of water before being stirred, I imagine the same happens once it separates in my gut. Is plantain starch less dense and sludge-like? What bums me out the most is that I felt the difference adding RS made, i.e. sleep and dreams and body temp. Tia 🙂

  19. Will this potato starch be harmful for someone with arthritis?

    • Yes, stay away from nightshades. They are known goitrogens. They will cause greater inflammation.

      • Nightshades are not goitrogens.
        Goitrogens are soy, raw cruciferous vegetables, and pesticides.

  20. Can you please explain what soil based probiotics are?

  21. How much plantain flour do you use? Did you start slowly?

  22. Hi. It’s mentioned that most studies are based on a 30 gram consumption. Is that the amount we should be working up to? If not, what is the recommended amount?

  23. Is the plantain flour you use raw?

    Thanks, I love you site!

  24. What if I dehydrated raw jeruselum artichokes and then powdered? Would that work as a resistant starch?

  25. As always great article great topic. I love your work and your website is a delight to be on. I just really want to thank you for all your work. I’m a huge fan!

  26. How about tapioca starch? Thank you.

  27. What about candida overgrowth? Is it safe to consume potato or plantain starch? Thank you!

    • I would also be interested in an answer regarding the use of resistant starches with candida overgrowth as anticandida diets say no potatoes, bananas, tapioca….well, or starches of any kind…but obviously there is an imbalance in the gut that could benefit from probiotics. Thanks in advance for your response.

  28. I bought some potato starch from holland and Barretts health food shop, will this work or has it got to be bobs red mill version? I don’t like buying things over the Internet and the shop bought version is £10 cheaper! Is there any reason why all these articles recommend bobs red mill version?

    • There is nothing special about Bob’s Red Mill version of uncooked and raw potato starch. Any source should provide similar amounts of resistant starch. Within the United States, Bob’s Red Mill is generally available and is trusted to be natural. You could eat raw potatoes if you preferred that instead.

      • Thanks for your reply 🙂 it’s a bit confusing that every article names that particular brand, was starting to think it had something about it that other sources were missing. I will carry on with the stuff I bought from the local shop then. Thank-you again.

  29. Hi, thanks for all the great info. I have Lyme disease & a whole bunch of autoimmune diseases. I follow paleo (and on/off AIP). I’m in australia and found a local business that makes organic green banana resistant starch. I was very excited.
    My question is, it has a carb content of 75%, do you think this would be processed in the body like u mentioned with the potato starch (that u don’t “use” and convert the carbs)?
    Hope to hear your thoughts!
    Thanks again x

    • Green banana starch is also resistant starch. One study found that if the bananas are really green when they are processed, they can be more than more than 60% resistant starch. If they are more green than yellow when processed, they are about 40% resistant starch. If they are yellow with a green tip, bananas have about 10% resistant starch and if bananas are yellow with brown spots, they are about 2% resistant starch. As the bananas ripen, the resistant starch turns to sugar, but the bananas store their starch in a form that is resistant to digestion. Yes, it will have the same effects if it was processed while the bananas are truly green.

  30. Which potato to make the potato starch?

  31. So how much potato starch would be recommended to ingest on a daily basis?

    • Researchers have suggested that 20 grams of resistant starch or more a day are needed to get all of the benefits. However, studies have shown a range of effects. If you are trying to reverse a health problem, you will need more than if you are trying to maintain a healthy gut. Any amount of resistant starch that you add to your diet will help in any case. I recommend a tablespoon of resistant starch/day for overall healthy gut but two tablespoons/day or more for improving insulin sensitivity.

  32. I was diagnosed with a rare disease called Amyloidosis , a blood / autoimmune disorder .There is no cure , but there is a treatment that includes months of chemo and a stem cell transplant . Since I started the treatment in 2014 , I have had a lot of gastrointestinal issues and someone with the same disease and issues said that a GI doctor had told them to take tapioca powder . Would this have the same affect . Thank you in advance and if you believe in prayer would you mind offering up one for me and my family /

    • I can’t answer your questions although I would love to know the answers. However I do believe in prayer and will pray for you and your family! I am so sorry for your suffering.

    • I do not know anything about that condition and will indeed pray for you and your family. I can comment on tapioca powder. Tapioca is usually regarded as a starch that is easier to digest – I think this is why it is given to babies or used in baby foods. There is a tapioca resistant starch (a type 3 form) but it is rarely if ever used in the US. It is manufactured by a European company called Cerestar and some European researchers have published clinical studies with it.

      While I do not know what that particular GI doctor would have had in mind, I am guessing that he/she would be more likely to think of easy digestion instead of relative obscure European research on resistant starch.

      It has only been recently recognized that the microbiota in the gut are intimately linked to immunity and metabolism. You might consider trying a small quantity of resistant starch to see if can tolerate it. It is well known that resistant starch produces more of the short-chain fatty acid butyrate within the gut than other fibers and that butyrate is the preferred food for colon cells. While it is a component of keeping large intestines healthy, it might not work the same way in diseased guts. I have no idea whether (1) you have the type of gut microbiota that ferment resistant starch, which produces beneficial butyrate, (2) your colon’s response to fermentation in general and specifically resistant starch fermentation. I wish there were, but there is absolutely no way to predict what will happen and I would not dare to venture a recommendation. You might consider compiling some of the studies on resistant starch, butyrate and colon health and ask your GI doctor for his/her opinion. this article might give you the data to start: http://www.resistantstarch.us/health-benefits/digestive-benefits/

  33. Hi Wellness Mama. What are your thoughts on tigernuts as a source of RS?

    I have just starting eating them, and I must have started out too quickly as they’re giving me strong detox symptoms!!! (Think gas, gas, and more gas, plus overwhelming fatigue.)

  34. So do people experience this extra gas because of extra fermentation occurring in the colon? Overtime does the body adapt and the gas effects go away? RS is truly an interesting topic.

    • Hi Jono. I think I was taking too much RS to begin with, which contributed to the excessive gas. I drastically cut back consumption and have been slowly building up my dosage, and haven’t had any more issues : )

      • Thanks for the insight Anna 🙂

  35. Any idea how much resistant starch remains after heating it above 130 degrees (e.g. cooking muffins, pancakes, etc.)? Would glycemic levels of cooked foods — such as pancakes — be curtailed if supplemented with uncooked RS2 (e.g. plantain flour) in a drink? Any insight or reference on whom to ask would be fantastic 🙂

    • Plantain and banana resistant starch cooks out between 65-70 degrees C, and the resistant starch is generally lost. Some quantity of it will retrograde, but we don’t know how much RS3 is reformed under different conditions. The only resistant starch that reliably remains resistant starch after baking is RS2 – resistant starch from high amylose corn, brand name Hi-maize. The very high amylose content significantly increases the gelatinization temperature so that it doesn’t cook out in baking. At this point in time, it is the only natural resistant starch with this characteristic. There are some RS4 chemically modified resistant starches that will withstand baking, but they are fermented differently in the intestines and are not equivalent to the natural resistant starches.

      • That’s some great insight! I’ve heard of the Hi-maize recently so I’ll have to check it out. Do you have any insight as to whether glycemic levels of cooked foods — such as pancakes — be curtailed if supplemented with uncooked RS2 (e.g. plantain flour) in a drink?

        • If plantain flour is consumed in a drink and remains uncooked, it will retain its resistant starch content. However, keep in mind that some of the resistant starch from the original plantain is lost when the plantains are dried to create the plantain flour. Unless you know the drying conditions or the plantain flour is tested for its resistant starch content, you don’t really know how much is there. I have not seen reliable data on the resistant starch content of plantain flour. I have some information about green banana flour, but not plantain flour. Cooked foods are a different story. Hi-maize has been used for so long and in more than 80 clinical studies, that it is a known and proven resistant starch source. It reliably contains >50% resistant starch. Many clinical studies have shown that it retains its resistant starch is still there after baking into pancakes, muffins, cookies, bagels, pizza crust, arepas, corn chips, biscuits, pasta, etc. Does this answer your question?