The Most Controversial Prebiotic in the Paleo World

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Can I tell you something?

It’s more of a confession really.

I intended this series on prebiotics to be a 3-part series and I plan on sticking to that, but… well… you see, I love nerding out on nutritional science.

We’ve talked about how you can use your diet to feed your beneficial gut bacteria and we’ve gone down the rabbit hole of supplemental prebiotics.  My favorite, soluble fibers… the bad boy, non-starch polysaccharides… now to cap it all off, we’ll talk about maybe the most controversial in the Paleo community… Resistant Starch.

Will somebody queue the dramatic music?

Why Should I Care About Resistant Starch?

You’re probably thinking that we’ve been inundated by all these different forms of prebiotics and that this is going to be the same ol’ spiel.  Feed the beneficial bacteria, create short chain fatty acids, and regulate immune function.

In many ways, you’d be right.  Resistant starch provides most of the benefits that I’ve harped on this entire series, but here’s the thing… your body needs variety.  Your gut bacteria need variety.

Think about it like this.  If you were to just eat tater tots for months on end, do you think you’d be very healthy?  Probably not.

It’s a similar situation for those beneficial gut bacteria you have running around inside of you.

They need a variety of nutrients in order to thrive.  Feeding them the same kind of fiber over long periods of time puts you at risk for developing dysbiosis and other gut issues.

That’s what we’re trying to fix and avoid!

Four Types of Resistant Starch

There are essentially 4 types of resistant starch and we are going to throw one of them out anyways.  So, now we’re down to 3…

The first kind is RS1, which comes from grains, seeds, and legumes.   Legumes and grains are not part of the Paleo type diet, but seeds could be utilized as part of a nutrient dense, real food diet.

Spoiler alert:  Legumes have their place too, but more to come on that.

The second kind of resistant starch is RS2.  RS2 has a high amylose content.  It is indigestible in the raw state but becomes digestible when its cooked.  Sources of RS2 include potatoes, green bananas, and green plantains.  In order to keep the resistant starch intact, the food would have to be kept in a raw form.

Retrograde resistant starch or RS3 is exactly what it sounds like.  It’s when resistant starch is broken down via cooking, then reformed during the cooling process.  This works with potatoes, legumes, rice, etc.  You could get RS3 by eating any of these foods that have been cooked, then completely cooled.

This is where some of the controversy comes in.  Legumes and rice are not “Paleo”, but can provide outstanding benefits for our beneficial gut bacteria.  In this cooked and cooled form, you will not absorb the starch in the upper GI tract, meaning that it will have very little effect on blood sugar.

In practical terms, eating cooked and cooled legumes and rice could be a strategic addition to a real food diet, assuming you tolerate these items.  See my articles on food sensitivity testing for more information on determining if you tolerate these foods.

The last form of resistant starch is a synthetic form and is known as RS4.  This is the one we will be throwing out, as it is a highly processed form of resistant starch that does not have a place in a nutrient dense, real food diet.

Practical Ways to Add Resistant Starches to Your Diet

If you’re seeking to get your resistant starch from food sources, the following items could be great sources of this form of prebiotics:

  • Cooked and cooled potatoes
  • Cooked and cooled rice (if tolerated)
  • Cooked and cooled legumes (if tolerated)
  • Legumes (if tolerated)
  • Dehydrated bananas or plantains

There are also supplemental forms of resistant starch and they can be extremely useful in ensuring adequate fiber intake.  One of the easiest way to supplement your resistant starch is to add an unmodified potato starch, like Bob’s Red Mill.  Starting with just 1/8 teaspoonful per day, and gradually increasing over the course of weeks to a therapeutic dose of 2-4 tablespoons per day.

If you know you don’t tolerate white potatoes, green banana flour or green plantain flour are viable options for supplemental resistant starch.  You can also research a commercial product called Prebiotic Plus.

Any of these can be added to smoothies, or foods that will be kept below 130 degrees.  If you add it to a soup, for example, the temperature is going to be too high and the resistant starch is going to break down, defeating the purpose of adding it in the first place.

As I had mentioned earlier, variety is key to a healthy gut.  Resistant starch should be one of many different types of fiber you get throughout the day.  Studies have confirmed this, showing that high intakes of resistant starch with no other fibers can actually decrease the diversity of beneficial bacteria species in the gut.  This is the opposite of our goals.

This is all a lot of information to take in, so I’ve put together a short summary of this 3 part series that I think you will find useful.  It’s going to give you the run down on what types of fiber you should be taking in, what doses you should be shooting for, and some tips and tricks for optimizing your gut health.  Click here and provide your email address on the next page.  I’ll send it over to you ASAP.

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