Senior Health

4/28/2022 | By Densie Webb

Starch is another name for complex carbohydrates used by the body for fuel. Resistant starch is exactly what the name implies – complex carbohydrates that “resist” digestion. This type of starch travels from the small intestine undigested to the large intestine where it provides fuel for the good bacteria (microbiome) that live there. When resistant starch is broken down by this intestinal bacteria, the production of short-chain fatty acids (such as butyrate) increases, which research suggests may be beneficial to health.

Resistant starch and your health

Resistant starch differs from regular starch, which provides the body with sugar when digested. Because resistant starch literally resists digestion and doesn’t produce sugar, it may benefit insulin resistance. It also provides fewer calories than regular carbohydrates and so may be beneficial for weight control.

Because resistant starch helps to establish and maintain a healthy microbiome, it can benefit intestinal health, which in turn impacts every part of your body, even the brain. The trillions of microbes that live in your large intestine produce chemicals that can have a positive effect on how your brain works.

Research also suggests that resistant starch might help prevent or treat Type 2 diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and various types of cancer. From the nervous and immune systems to mental health and digestive function, a healthy intestinal tract plays a pivotal role in overall health. More studies in humans are needed to understand these benefits.

Types of resistant starch

whole foods diet seeds in bowls. photo by Lightkeeper Dreamstime. When resistant starch travels undigested to the large intestine, it provides fuel for gut microbiome and may be beneficial to health.

Researchers have identified five types of resistant starch. Three are naturally occurring in foods, including rice, pasta, or potatoes that have been cooked and cooled, soybeans, whole grains, corn, seeds, plantains, green bananas, lentils, and flours such as cassava flour, plantain flour, or potato starch.

One of the remaining two types can either occur naturally or be man-made, and the other is completely man-made, i.e., starch that has been altered physically, enzymatically or chemically to be used in processing foods like cakes and cookies. It’s often listed as “modified food starch” on ingredient labels.

Modified starches are used for the same reasons as regular starch – to thicken, stabilize, or emulsify food products. Although modified doesn’t automatically mean genetically modified, some modified starches may be made from genetically modified ingredients.

Bottom line

Anything that has a positive effect on your intestinal tract can benefit your overall health. Though there are no official recommendations for how much resistant starch you should include, try to include sources of natural resistant starch as often as you can

Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384.

© 2022 Belvoir Media Group. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Densie Webb

Densie Webb, Ph.D., R.D., a registered dietitian, has been writing about food, nutrition, and health for over 15 years. She is the author and editor of eight books, the associate editor for, and a regular writer for the American Botanical Council.