Over the last two days I have come across two articles touting the benefits of something called resistant starch. So what is it? Is it possible to reduce the calories and digestible starch content (which spikes your blood sugar levels!) in rice and pasta by cooking it in fat and the cooling before you eat it? Let’s find out!
The first was in the Washington Post and talked of a way to cook rice that dramatically cuts the calories and reduces the digestible starch.
Rice is very high in digestible starch. This means it takes a very little amount of time to digest and is therefore turned into glucose quickly, if it is not used for fuel it is converted to glycogen in your liver. Once your liver is full (doesn’t take much!) the glucose is converted to adipose fat.
Resistant starch on the other hand is a type of starch that takes longer for the body to process, it is not converted into glucose because we lack the ability to digest it. A team of college students have been tinkering with new ways to cook rice that actually reduces calories (by turning the rice into a partly resistant starch) using some simple chemistry. The full article is here.
They have found that adding some fat (they used coconut oil) of about 3% of the weight of rice you will cook so approx. 1 Tbsp of oil to 1 cup of rice and adding it to the boiling water before you add the rice, then letting it cool in the refrigerator for about 12 hours will turn some of the digestible starch into resistant starch making the rice lower in calories. Did you know fried rice has more resistance starch than steamed rice? Maybe because you normally cool the rice before frying it and cook it with some type of fat!
The next article was from BBC news and is here . This one was a study on pasta. Again pasta is a carbohydrate which when eaten is broken down into a simple sugar in your gut and spikes your glucose levels. This increases insulin in your body to reduce your blood sugar levels. Persistent high levels of glucose in the blood is very unhealthy and can lead to insulin resistance which can lead to Type II diabetes. According to Dr. Denise Robertson in the article, cooking and then cooling the pasta acts somewhat like the rice above. It changes the structure of the pasta turning it into resistant starch. Your body will treat it much more like fiber, creating a smaller glucose peak and helping feed the good bacteria in your gut. You will also absorb fewer calories.
This is actually not a new concept here is an extremely well written article on resistant starches, what other types of food they are found in and how they can aid in weight loss and digestion if you are interested. Some of the foods include green bananas, potatoes that are cooked and cooled, raw potato starch, cashews and raw oats
Why is this important? I am not a huge fan of counting calories as it is tedious and sometimes ineffective. Take for example 8 gummy bears with 70 calories versus 1 egg with 70 calories, which do you think satisfies your body more in terms of staying full and nurturing and repairing your cells? The way sugar is metabolized is completely different than the way protein is metabolized so just taking into consideration the calories is a flawed philosophy, you must look at the type of calories you are eating! If you can change the structure in the foods you eat to be a resistant starch then in my opinion it makes it a better type of calorie.
Just remember we are all bio-indivuduals, for myself and others that do not consume grains at all because we do not digest them well (if I consume rice or pasta cooled or not, my stomach blows up like a balloon!) or people that are gluten intolerant, this method will not fix those issues. But for people that include small amounts of rice and pasta in their diets with no reaction or for their children I think this is a method worth trying that can make what you are already eating healthier and more beneficial for your body!