healthy starch

If one of your goals for 2017 is to eat healthier, you might try a baked potato.

Or perhaps eat a banana that isn’t too ripe.

Or maybe some pasta.

A new report out of England concludes that foods like these that contain resistant starches have a number of health benefits with no known harmful side effects.

Researchers from the British Nutrition Foundation say more research is needed, but evidence indicates these starches can help people eat less and improve gut health and blood glucose control.

Their findings were published today in the Nutrition Bulletin.

The researchers also posted a video on the foundation’s website detailing their report.

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How the starches help

The researchers explain that resistant starch is not digested in the small intestine.

Instead, it is fermented in the large intestine, producing short fatty acid chains and becoming, in essence, a form of fiber.

Those acid chains act as an energy source for colonic cells.

The increase in fatty acids in the colon, the researchers say, helps prevent the development of abnormal cells in the gut.

Stacey Lockyer, a nutrition scientist at the foundation, told Healthline in an email that there is “consistent evidence that the consumption of resistant starch in place of digestible carbohydrates can aid blood glucose control.”

This interaction could have a potential benefit for people with type 2 diabetes.

We know that adequate intake of dietary fiber overall is important for achieving a healthy, balanced diet and reduces the risk of developing a range of chronic diseases.
Stacey Lockyer, British Nutrition Foundation

In addition, Lockyer said, there is evidence resistant starch can improve gut health as well as reduce post-meal hunger by stimulating the release of gut hormones that suppress appetite.

She said some forms of resistant starch occur naturally in foods such as potatoes, bananas, and grains.

Resistant starch can also form naturally, she added, when starchy foods such as potatoes and pasta are cooked and then cooled.

Regular consumption of these types of starchy foods, along with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and nuts, can improve health.

“We know that adequate intake of dietary fiber overall is important for achieving a healthy, balanced diet and reduces the risk of developing a range of chronic diseases including colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease,” Lockyer said.

Susan Weiner, a registered dietitian and nutritionist, noted the benefits of resistant starches is a topic that tends to come and go in the health world.

She did say the benefits touted in the foundation report are backed up by some scientific evidence, although more research is needed.

Weiner also told Healthline that there is evidence resistant starches can suppress appetite, but she noted people still have to learn to stop eating when they are full.

They also need to eat healthy side dishes such as vegetables and fruits.

“Everything has to fit together,” she said.

Read more: Artificial sweeteners may cause you to eat more »

Diets in general

Whether you increase your intake of resistant starches or not, Weiner has some advice for people who have embarked on a New Year’s diet.

The nutritionist said she advises her clients to make specific goals instead of broad objectives.

Resolutions such as “losing weight,” “going to the gym more,” or “being healthier” are too general.

Weiner said choosing one specific goal is a better way to approach a weight loss challenge.

Resolutions such as drinking water instead of soda or eating one vegetarian meal a week are more helpful and more doable.

Make one simple change at a time.
Susan Weiner, registered dietitian and nutritionist

“Make one simple change at a time,” she suggested.

Weiner added that it’s better to decide what you’re going to do “more of” instead of what you’ll do “less of.”

“It’s not only what you’re taking out of a nutrition plan, it’s also what you’re putting in,” she said.

Weiner added that people come into January with some bad holiday eating habits.

She suggests throwing away any leftover food from the holiday season.

She also urges people to avoid the store aisles with candy that is now 50 percent off.

She adds that people tend to eat at restaurants a lot during the holidays, so returning to a schedule of home-cooked meals is a healthy decision.

“It’s all part of the puzzle,” she said.

Read more: Why it’s not easy to reduce salt in your diet »