Are you feeling the resistance against starch? With the rise of the Ketogenic diet comes the decline of fibres essential for our digestive system. In France, I’m sure they’d call it: Le starch de résistance.
If you’re cutting out carbohydrates to make way for fat loss, I urge you to reconsider. Carbohydrates, particularly fibre, resistant starches, and prebiotic rich foods are essential for optimising the health of our digestive system.
One of the best ways to support a thriving gut microbiome is to feed it.
Just like teeny weeny, microscopic babies with wide open mouths, your gut microbes await your feeding, and just like humans, they can be fed junk or they can be breast-fed with the foods that they were created to thrive on—prebiotics, the special carbohydrate molecules non-digestible by humans that survive our digestive tract and reach our colon intact before selectively feeding specific strains of bacteria.
There are three classifications of prebiotics:
Non-starch polysaccharides—such as inulin and fructooligosaccharide, soluble fibre – including psyllium and acacia fibres, and resistant starch.
Resistant starch is a type of starch that isn’t digested in the stomach or small intestine, but reaches the colon having “resisted” digestion. There are different four types of resistant starch:
- RS Type 1 found in grains seeds and legumes, where the fibre is bound up in the fibrous cell walls of the plants
- RS Type 2 which is starch with high amylose content. This is indigestible in its raw state; which includes potatoes, green bananas and plantains which when cooked the resistant starch is removed and it becomes digestible to us. This can also include plantain and green banana flour which is now more readily available in supermarkets.
- RS Type 3 which forms when type 1 or type 2 is cooked and then cooled below 54 degrees Celsius. Heating these foods back up to high temperatures will again convert the starch into the digestible form, where it will not last to feed the bacteria in the colon. Examples include cooked and cooled lentils, cooked and cooled potatoes or cooked and cooled rice.
- RS Type 4 is the synthetic form of RS which would include hi-maize resistant starch, which is not recommended. This is one particular ingredient that sends my gut into summersaulting spiral curls! Hi-maize resistant starch can be found in a growing group of commercial products, such as bread, pasta and snack bars.
The first three types of RS are your friends and consuming them will allow your good microbes to “feed” on RS and produce short chain fatty acids through fermentation.
The most significant of which are acetate, butyrate, and propionate. Butyrate is of special importance due to its beneficial effects on the colon and overall health- entering the bloodstream through the colon and having an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, as well as decreasing intestinal permeability and the effects of leaky gut.
Let’s chat fibre. While we all know we need fibre to help with trips to the bathroom, a lot of us aren’t consuming a sufficient amount. As a population, we require approximately 30g of fibre per day, which the majority of us aren’t receiving.
Dietary fibre consumption, as well as carbohydrates, can protect against non-communicable diseases and reduce weight gain. According to the World Health Organisation, non-communicable diseases, known as chronic diseases, can be categorised into four subtypes: “cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes”. The low content of fibre in the modern diet may be a contributing factor towards the development of these diet-related chronic conditions.
Research has been conducted about the health benefits of fibre for over a century. It’s been indicated that fibre-rich whole foods retain their structure once they’re transported in the gut, helping to increase satiety and help with weight control. Professor Jim Mann also explains that the “breakdown of fibre in the large bowel has additional benefits, including protection from colorectal cancer” (1).
A diet high in fibre can help reshape the microbiome, creating an abundance of microbial species that reduce blood sugar (2). This means that a high-fibre diet may be able to prevent and treat diabetes.
Foods rich in fibre include whole grains, vegetables, fruit and pulses. Root vegetables are also just so easy to root for. Starchy root vegetables, like sweet potato, yams, jicama, yacon, turnips, parsnips and squash are easy-to-digest and cleansing for the body. They contain fibre and nutrients, meaning that they help keep you satiated.
Whilst these vegetables tend to be sweet in taste, they have a low level of natural sugar and a low glycemic index level. Foods with a low glycemic index are less likely to cause an increase in blood sugar levels. Root vegetables in general are also high in vitamins A and C so great boosters for the immune system. Learn more about how to kick start the immune system and get my Roasted Garlic Bisque recipe here.
Cleaning the gut is important too, so that you can have a healthy balance of good and bad bacteria. My Love Your Gut powder gently cleans the gut (it's best to avoid harsh cleanses and detoxifiers) so you can gently benefit from a clean and toned gut.
Resistant starch is a type of fibre that makes its way through the stomach and small intestine undigested, eventually reaching the gut where it helps feed the friendly bacteria. This increases the production of short-chain fatty acids, lowering the pH of the bowel and making it harder for pathogens to live there. Studies indicate that resistant starch can benefit heart health and weight loss, improving blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity and digestion.
Foods high in resistant starch include oats, rice, whole grains, legumes and potatoes. Try my Oat Flour Waffles here. While cooking and heating foods can kill off resistant starch, you can reignite its life by consuming them after you’ve let them cool. To optimise their benefits, cook them and then enjoy them cooled.
Another fabulous source of resistant starch are green bananas, also found in banana flour. This resistant-starch rich food increases our friendly gut bacteria, reducing our inflammation and decreasing our ‘bad’ gut bacteria. It also acts as a brilliant flour replacement. If you’re looking for a scrumptious way to include more resistant starch in your life, I’ve got just the recipe for you.
These banana flour pancakes from my book Supercharge Your Gut are oh-so-hard to resist. Packed full of banana flour and other goodies, they’re just what the resistant-starch doctor ordered!
Banana flour pancakes
A great way to feed your microbes and encourage a healthy diversity of bacteria, these tasty banana flour pancakes also deliver a hit of resistant starch to increase the production of short-chain fatty acids, which lowers the pH of the bowel, making it harder for pathogens to live there — and all while you enjoy your pancakes! Super simple to make, these pancakes will be enjoyed by adults and kids alike.
Try topping with coconut yoghurt or whipped coconut cream, fresh or fermented fruits or berries.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin coconut oil, plus extra for greasing
- 75 g (21/2 oz/1/2cup) green banana (plantain) flour
- 3 free-range eggs
- 11/2 teaspoons baking powder (gluten- and aluminium-free)
- 1 teaspoon alcohol-free vanilla extract or vanilla powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons Love Your Gut powder
- 1 tablespoon raw honey or rice malt syrup, or 6 drops of liquid stevia (optional)
- 60 ml (2 fl oz/1/4 cup) non-dairy milk of your choice
Combine all the pancake ingredients in a large mixing bowl. The batter should be thick, but pourable; add extra milk if it’s too thick. Allow the batter to rest for a few minutes.
Melt the coconut oil in a frying pan over medium–high heat.
Add about 60 ml (2 fl oz/1/4 cup) of the batter to the pan. Cook on each side for about 2 minutes, or until browned. Transfer to a warm plate and keep warm while cooking the remaining batter.
Stack the pancakes high and serve warm, with your favourite toppings. You can also let them cool and have them for afternoon tea.