Resistant Starch: Gut Superfood

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Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » Resistant Starch: Gut Superfood

We often hear about the importance of the gut microbiome, and rightfully so. It’s central to a healthy digestive system, nervous system, immune system… basically every body system. But did you know it thrives on a particular type of food? Introducing the concept of a gut superfood… resistant starch. 

What is The Role of The Gut Microbiome?

The gut microbiome is made up of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms that live inside the human gut. This is the good gut flora everyone is after. But like any living organism, these beneficial microorganisms need support and nourishment. Otherwise, they aren’t able to fully do their job to protect and promote health. That’s where resistant starch (RS) comes in. 

Optimizing the intestinal microbiota with resistant starch can improve many aspects of health. It can improve digestion, elimination, the immune system, hormones, and even the look of our skin! The great thing is that it’s easy to increase our intake. But first, what exactly is resistant starch?

What is Resistant Starch? 

We’ve long heard about the importance of including fiber in our diets. We hear about soluble fiber and insoluble fiber and their importance for adding bulk to the stool. Both improve digestion and help balance blood sugar. So how does this relate to resistant starch?

 Resistant starch is more fiber-like than starch-like. It’s similar to dietary fiber because it can’t be digested. This starch ends up being low glycemic rather than high, so it also doesn’t spike blood sugar like typical starch would.

The Insitute of Medicine included resistant starch in their definition of fiber in 2002. 

Prebiotics For Gut Health

Our bodies don’t digest resistant starch. Instead, it serves as a type of fermentable fiber and works as a prebiotic in the gut. Prebiotics are indigestible substances that pass through our (mostly sterile) small intestine fairly intact. 

They go straight to the large intestine, which is where most of our gut bacteria live. Rather than digestive enzymes breaking these starches down, they’re fermented. The good bacteria use them as fuel and multiply. 

So, resistant starch basically acts as food for our gut flora. Prebiotics feed probiotics. That’s why you’ll see some probiotic supplements that include prebiotics on their ingredients list. When good bacteria eat prebiotics, it results in the production of “postbiotics.” 

Postbiotics and Resistant Starch

One type of postbiotic is short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These SCFAs lower bowel pH, which means a less hospitable environment for pathogens.  The most crucial SCFA in the intestines is butyrate. Butyrate is the preferred fuel for the cells lining the colon and increasing it has many health benefits.  

I talk more about butyrate and the other SCFAs in this article on postbiotics.

Types of Resistant Starch

There are four types of resistant starch: 

  • RS Type 1 — Starch that’s found in certain plant cell walls, like grains, legumes, and seeds.
  • RS Type 2 — Starch that’s rich in the polysaccharide (chain of sugars) called amylose. Amylose is indigestible when raw, so it feeds the gut bacteria. Once cooked, it no longer serves as resistant starch. You’ll find it in raw potatoes, green bananas, plantains, and some legumes.
  • RS Type 3 — “Retrograded” resistant starch. It’s made when Type 1 or Type 2 resistant starches are cooked and then cooled. Potato salad and bean salad are excellent sources.
  • RS Type 4 — A synthetic form of resistant starch from supplements. One popular commercial version is Hi-maize resistant starch. Hi-maize is a specially processed type of corn starch that’s resistant to digestion. It’s used in fiber drinks and in some baked goods.

Increasing your intake of resistant starch has a wide range of potential benefits. Some you may not notice symptom wise, but others you will. Some results you may not know until you go in to get your cholesterol or glucose levels checked.

Health Benefits of Resistant Starch

For over three decades, researchers have looked at the health effects of resistant starch. You can find both human and animal studies and the results are pretty amazing. Resistant starch may:

  • Increase absorption of important minerals like calcium and magnesium.
  • Promote gastrointestinal health by providing dietary fiber.
  • Decrease absorption of toxic and cancer-causing compounds. This may lower the risk of colorectal cancer or colon cancer.
  • Positively change microflora, particularly increasing bifidobacteria, which can ease constipation.
  • Support a balanced immune system.
  • Lower inflammation in the gut and throughout the body.  
  • Lower cholesterol and lipid levels.
  • Lower the risk of developing heart disease.
  • Combat insulin resistance by helping with insulin sensitivity.
  • Lower blood glucose levels.
  • Increase feelings of satiety.
  • Promote weight loss, combatting obesity.
  • Lower the risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
  • Improve brain and gut health.

Amazing, right? All of us could use help in at least a few of these areas. So how do we get more resistant starch? 

How to Get Resistant Starch in Your Diet

We naturally get resistant starch from the food we eat. The highest sources of resistant starch are raw potatoes, green bananas, green plantains, cooked and cooled potatoes, rice, and beans. You can see a detailed list of resistant starch foods in this chart from Free the Animal.   

Many of these foods you may not eat, as they have other negative health effects. But you don’t have to eat bagels and cornflakes to get resistant starch. Healthy foods high in resistant starch include the following:

Resistant Starch Foods

These are all rich in undigestible starches that feed our good bacteria and promote gut health. Most resistant starch studies have participants ingest 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 resistant starch content by cooking and then cooling the potatoes. That’s known as retrograded starch. If you eat grains and beans, think cold rice salads or re-heated beans with your eggs — that sort of thing. You could even add some homemade hummus. These are a few good ways to create retrograded starch and increase your RS intake. 

Starchy foods like cassava and potatoes are also good sources of prebiotics. They’re great to include in your diet to boost prebiotic intake. But when was the last time you had a Jerusalem artichoke? Plus, you’re looking at eating a lot of carbs to reach that target amount of resistant starch. There must be an easier way…

Here’s an Easier Way to Get It

In general, Wellness Mama readers tend to follow a lower carb, traditional, Paleo, or whole foods based diet. So, eating a diet based on starch and grains may not be so enticing.  

If that’s the case, try this little hack instead: Consider raw potato starch. Raw potato starch has about 8 grams of resistant starch per tablespoon. It has very few “usable’ carbohydrates. This starch doesn’t affect blood sugar levels, since the body doesn’t digest it. The gut microbiome does. 

Raw potato starch is inexpensive and tastes bland, so it’s easy to use. It’s also naturally gluten-free and overall allergen-free. Remember it has to stay raw, so you don’t want to cook it. It’s best to stir it into a cold or lukewarm beverage or add it to uncooked foods.  

Where to Find Resistant Starch

There are many good options out there for resistant starch. But these are the ones I’ve personally tried with good results and recommend. My favorite is the prebiotic powder because it tastes delicious!

Start Slow and Watch for Reactions

Of course, consult with your health practitioner before beginning any health regimen. They can give guidance on the right dose for you and discuss any personal health concerns.

It’s also best to start slow. You may want to start by simply eating more prebiotic-rich foods. You can also just add some cooked and cooled potatoes, like in this sweet potato salad. Or, try adding one teaspoon of potato starch to a smoothie, kefir, or water. Slowly build up your dose.

Side Effects of Resistant Starch 

A common reaction to potato starch is an increase in gas or bloating. You may also have changes in your stool. These symptoms result from changes in the bowel bacteria. For most people, these side effects are short-lived. If they persist, give yourself a break and stop taking the potato starch. 

Instead, work on boosting your existing good bacteria with probiotics, particularly soil-based ones. Then try adding small amounts of potato starch back in and see how you do. Usually, tolerance improves over time. 

Final Thoughts on the Benefits of Resistant Starch

Many people who consistently consume resistant starch report improved health. They have better sleep and dream recall. Their bowel movements are more consistent, and they notice improved digestion. Their blood sugar control improves, and they have better muscle tone.

Sounds good to me! 

Do you try to include resistant starch in your diet? What’s your favorite way to get it? 

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


84 responses to “Resistant Starch: Gut Superfood”

    1. Marissa Avatar

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

      1. JDR Avatar

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

  1. Ann Avatar

    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 🙂

  2. Jessica Avatar

    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.

  3. Jen Avatar

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

    1. Jen Avatar

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

  4. Stacey Avatar

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

  5. Carol Avatar

    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 🙂

  6. Jen Avatar

    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?

  7. Malori Avatar

    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.

  8. Leslie Avatar

    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!

  9. Sarah Avatar

    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.

  10. jennie Avatar

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

  11. Stacey Avatar

    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 🙂

  12. jennie Avatar

    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

  13. Sara Avatar

    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!

  14. Maryea Avatar

    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?

  15. Gina Avatar

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

  16. Melina Avatar

    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?

    1. Paige Ryan Avatar
      Paige Ryan

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

    2. Marley Avatar

      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!

      1. Pam Avatar

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

      2. Kate Avatar

        Bob’s Red Mill specifically states on their site under questions and answers that their potato starch is NOT raw. It also lists zero fiber. I’m having a hard time finding actual resistant starch that, due to conflicting claims all over the place, I can trust is RAW potato starch. Bob’s Red Mill is very trustworthy and has quality products, but they state unequivocally that their product is just NOT resistant. Their process removes all the resistant starch. Way too many carbs for diabetics and no beneficial effect. Questions about this are the most common for that product on the site. ?

        1. Skipper Avatar

          They can’t list it as fiber, because it’s not fiber, according to the government. It’s a starch. But your body cannot digest it, so it ACTS just like fiber. It’s not able to be listed as “raw,” because they didn’t just kill it or grab it fresh off the vine. Potato starch comes from potatoes, but those potatoes have to undergo non-cooking processing… ANY processing takes away the option of calling it “raw.” Food labels are not always our friends. Bob’s Red Mill does NOT cook this stuff, so it IS “raw” in common parlance, but EVERYONE has to watch out exactly what words they use, or the Label Masters will shut them down. Ask a dietition. Ask a doctor. They will explain that despite the label, despite what Bob’s is legally allowed to say, uncooked potato starch acts EXACTLY like indigestible fiber.

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