There has been a huge upswing of talk about probiotics in the last few years. There has also been an increase in the number of studies that show how what happens in our guts and with our gut microbiota (the colony of millions of good and bad microbes that live inside our digestive tract) has a direct and HUGE impact on all aspects of our health from our digestion and inflammatory bowel issues to weight loss, thyroid function, joint issues, chronic diseases and even our brain function.
One way to first establish and heal, and then to support a healthy microbiome, is by giving your little internal colony the right ‘food’. Probiotics do help, but even before that come ‘Prebiotics’
Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates – indigestible to us in the larger sense, but because they don’t digest they reach your microbiome intact where they feed your good bacteria.
What does this have to do with potato salad and mofongo (and what IS mofongo??)
There are three types of prebiotics:
Non-starch polysaccharides (inulin and fuctooligosaccharide), found in onions, bananas, leeks, artichokes, chicory, cane sugar and asparagus
Soluble Fiber (including psyllium husk), found in fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains and flax
And Resistant Starch. – from raw potatoes, green bananas, plantains, cooked-and-cooled potatoes, cooked-and-cooled-rice, parboiled rice, and cooked-and-cooled (This is where the potato salad and mofongo come in! – Don’t worry, I’ll tell you what it is below)
Each type feeds different types of gut bacteria, but Resistant Starch has some very unique benefits.
Why is it called Resistant Starch
Most starchy foods, carbohydrates are digested quickly and can cause spikes in blood glucose or insulin and, as we all know, tend to cause weight gain.
Resistant starch however, is not digested in the stomach or small intestine, reaching the colon intact. (this is how it got it’s name) So when consumed, we don’t have spikes in either blood glucose or insulin and we don’t gain significant calories either.
There are four types of resistant starch:
RS Type 1: Starch is physically inaccessible, bound within the fibrous cell walls of plants. This is found in grains, seeds, and legumes.
RS Type 2: Starch with a high amylose content (amylose is a soluble component of starch that forms a stiff gel at ordinary temperatures), which is indigestible in the raw state. This is found in potatoes, green (unripe) bananas, and plantains. Cooking these foods causes changes in the starch making it digestible to us, and removing the resistant starch. (MOFUNGO.. it’s in this category!)
RS Type 3: Also called retrograde resistant starch since this type forms after Type 1 or Type 2 RS is cooked and then cooled. These cooked and cooled foods can be reheated at low temperatures, less than 130 degrees and maintain the benefits of resistant starch. But be careful! Heating at higher temperatures will again convert the starch into a form that is digestible to us rather than “feeding” our gut bacteria. Examples include cooked and cooled parboiled rice, cooked and cooled potatoes, and cooked and cooled properly prepared (soaked or sprouted) legumes. – so pour your warm curry over cooled and room temperature rice! (Potato Salad is this type)
RS Type 4: This is a synthetic form of RS – (not recommended, always go for the most ‘REAL’ foods). A common example is “hi-maize resistant starch.”
Once resistant starch reaches the large intestine, bacteria attach to and digest, or ferment, the starch. This is when our bodies benefit from the resistant starch.
What resistant starch does
As I said above your gut is filled with hundreds of types of bacteria, some good…some.. not so much. The balance of each type has profound effects on our health. Resistant starch stimulates and feeds the good bacteria, helping to maintain this healthy balance.
The good bacteria “feed” on resistant and produce several types of short chain fatty acids (through fermentation), the most significant of which is butyrate. Butyrate is of particular importance due to its beneficial effects on the colon and overall health. It is the preferred energy source of the cells lining the colon. (more on this below) It also helps in increasing metabolism, decreasing inflammation and it improves stress resistance.
So how does Resistant Starch affect my overall health?
Metabolic Syndrome is something that seems to have gone haywire in the last couple of decades. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, a high blood sugar level, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Even if you don’t have all of these conditions, any one of them is of concern.
Insulin resistance and chronically elevated blood glucose are associated with a host of chronic diseases, including metabolic syndrome and its associated conditions. In one study, consumption of 15 and 30 grams per day of resistant starch showed improved insulin sensitivity in overweight and obese men, equivalent to the improvement that would be expected with weight loss equal to approximately 10% of body weight.
Further, resistant starch has been shown to exert a “second meal effect.” This means that not only does the resistant starch decrease the blood glucose response at the time it’s consumed, but blood glucose and insulin levels also rise less than would otherwise be expected with the subsequent meal. Bonus!!!!!
Resistant starch seems to have several beneficial effects that may contribute to weight loss, including decreased blood insulin spikes after meals (as discussed above), decreased appetite, and decreased fat storage in fat cells. There may also be preservation of lean body mass, though further studies in humans are needed to confirm if there is a significant impact in overall body weight.
Further, several studies have shown alterations in the gut microbiome in association with obesity, which subsequently change towards the balance seen in lean individuals with weight loss. Without getting overly technical, this has to do with the balance of types of beneficial bacteria –resistant starch seems to put them into the correct balance.
Back to Butyrate, intestinal and other inflammation
As we mentioned previously, resistant starch intake increases production of butyrate by our gut microbes. Butyrate acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory agent for the colonic cells, and functions to improve the integrity of our gut by decreasing intestinal permeability and therefore keeping toxins in the gut and out of the bloodstream.
The short chain fatty acids that aren’t utilized by the colonic cells enter the bloodstream, travel to the liver, and spread throughout the body where they exert additional anti-inflammatory effects.
Resistant starch may also decrease the risk of colorectal cancer, by providing protection from DNA damage, creating favorable changes in gene expression, and increasing apoptosis (programmed cell death) of cancerous or pre-cancerous cells.
If you have a chance to avoid colorectal cancer by eating more potato salad (and this odd stuff..mofongo)….would you do it?
Adding resistant starch to your diet – (or is she finally going to tell us what mofongo is?)
Food sources of resistant starch include green (unripe) bananas, plantains, properly prepared cooked and cooled parboiled rice or legumes, and cooked and cooled potatoes. (There’s that potato salad and mofongo again!)
Bob’s Red Mill Unmodified Potato Starch (NOT potato flour) is one of the best available sources of resistant starch with around eight grams of in one tablespoon.
Plantain flour and green banana flour are also excellent sources, and there may be benefits to including all three of these sources, alternating them to get more benefits than relying on just one.
All three are bland in flavor and can be added to cold or room temperature water, almond milk, or mixed into smoothies. Just remember, if you do add them to warm foods, they should not be heated above 130 degrees.
Start slow and work up to a regular daily amount
If you choose to try using resistant starch, start with about ¼ teaspoon once daily, and very gradually increase the amount. You may find you have some increased gas and bloating as your gut flora changes and adapts, but you should not be uncomfortable. If you have marked discomfort, then back off on the amount you’re taking for a few days until you feel better, and then try increasing again gradually.
Everyone is unique. However studies have shown that the benefits of resistant starch reach their peak between 15 to 30 grams a day which is 2 -4 Tablespoons in real language. Above this amount is generally just wasting your starch!
NOTE: If you experience marked GI distress with even small amounts of RS, this may be an indication of SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) or microbial dysbiosis, and you may need to consider working with a healthcare practitioner to establish a more balanced gut microbiome by other means before trying to use resistant starch. As always, when in doubt, contact a healthcare professional – preferably one versed in Functional Medicine – who will look at the whole body and help you find balance in all areas and not just prescribe a pill to fix a symptom.
Now granted, Mofongo can be healthy or not, depending on how it is made.
I make it with pan-fried (not deep fried as in many recipes) plantains, fried in ghee or a little coconut or avocado oil, which I then throw into a big bowl and mash until they are pasty and let them cool.
Then I fry up a ton of finely chopped onions, garlic and some spices (salt and pepper, smoked paprika, but you can use your favorites)
Toss it all in with the mashed plantains and mash it all up to a pasty lump – you can add a bit of broth to thin it if it is too thick.
Sometimes I add some bacon or a few crumbled pork rinds on top (a little fat won’t kill you! – use a good quality naturally processed bacon from a good supplier. The pork rinds..well, sometimes you just splurge – just don’t get crazy!)
It sounds weird, it tastes FABULOUS – and the cooled plantains are FULL of resistant starch!
I included a link to the results I got from Google when I looked up official recipes – you can choose your favorite and adjust it to be as healthy (or not) as you want.
What is Mofongo – Guy Fieri (Video)
As to the potato salad, I will leave you to yourself on this. Google healthy potato salads and you will find dozens of recipes and you are sure to find one that appeals to you that is not smothered in commercial mayo.