What Are Resistant Starches?

What’s a resistant starch and what is it resisting?

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
5-minute read
Episode #70


What Foods Contain Resistant Starches?

Resistant starches are found in dried beans, bananas and mangos (especially under-ripe ones), and starchy foods like potatoes, rice, and pasta that have been cooked and then cooled. Something about the cooking and cooling process converts starches into resistant starches. So, for example, a cold pasta or potato salad will contain more resistant starch than freshly cooked pasta or a baked potato.

Sourdough bread is higher in resistant starch than bread made with regular yeast. Something about the fermentation process that creates sourdough appears to alter some of the starches. The end result is that sourdough bread doesn’t create as quick an increase in blood sugar as regular bread. Cool, huh? I recently wrote about the health benefits of sourdough on my Nutrition Data Blog. I’ll include a link in the show notes.

Resistant Starch is Not a Ticket to Overindulge

So, does this mean that you can eat all the carbs you want as long as they’re in the form of pasta salad and sourdough bread? Sorry. If you’re concerned about your calorie intake or your blood sugar response after meals, the most important thing is to limit the amount of pasta, bread, and other carbohydrates you eat. Choosing a slice of sourdough instead of regular bread might give you a slight additional advantage but the difference is incremental at best.

And if it’s the fiber-like action you’re most interested in, dried beans are the best natural source for resistant starches. But, of course, dried beans are also a great source of fiber, so you’ve kind of got that base covered already.

But not to worry. Food processors are working hard to make it easier for you to add more resistant starches to your diet. There are already a number of products for diabetics, including cereals, shakes, and snack bars, that use resistant starch to lower the carbohydrate count and blood sugar impact. And now, resistant starches are starting to show up in reduced-calorie foods, especially those being pitched at low-carb dieters. Resistant starch is often listed as “resistant cornstarch” or “modified cornstarch” in the ingredient list.

There’s also a flour replacement product called Hi-Maize, which is made from modified cornstarch. The idea is that you can replace some of the flour in your recipes with this product and end up with baked goods that are lower in digestible carbohydrates and calories—and have some extra fiber-like benefits as well.

How to Get the Benefits of Resistant Starch

If all this sounds like something you’d like to try, here’s my quick and dirty tip for incorporating resistant starches into your diet: It’s fine to take advantage of the benefits of resistant starch, either by choosing foods that are naturally higher in resistant starches or by substituting some of these new products for regular carbohydrate foods or ingredients.

Just make sure that most of your diet still consists of wholesome and minimally processed foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, protein sources and so on. A cookie made with resistant starch can help you save a few calories and reduce your carbohydrate load—but it doesn’t turn cookies into health foods.

Post your comments and questions on my Nutrition Diva Facebook page, tweet to me on Twitter, or email me at nutrition@quickanddirtytips.com.

Have a great day and eat something good for me!


Resistant starch and bowel health

Resistant Starch in the Management of Diabetes

Health Benefits of Sourdough

Potatoes image courtest of Shutterstock


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.