Have your pasta and eat it too!

Winter has wound up, but that doesn’t minimise the need for some comfort food every now and then. Big carby meals filled with pasta or mash potato is a great way to satisfy the comfort eating monkey on your back. But it also a great way to spike your blood glucose and send you into a sleepy food coma, as well as triggering the production of fat cells. What if there was a way that you could eat your starchy foods and avoid the blood glucose hit? There might actually be a way you can have your cake and eat it too….

It’s called Resistant Starch. It’s a starch that resists digestion by regular digestive enzymes, so it passed through the colon for fermentation by gut flora.  Resistant starch is a PREBIOTIC, not to be confused with a PROBIOTIC. The difference between these two is that the prebiotic is the fertiliser for the probiotic, which is the bacteria. The reason that resistant starch is important is because it is very beneficial for your digestive system to help maintain colorectal health. In men and women in Australia, bowel cancer is the most easily preventable cancer and yet it is our 3rd biggest cancer killer. By not breaking down in the stomach (which is where the digestive enzymes are), it means it can pass further down the chain of the colon and to help to feed the good bacteria AS WELL as cleaning the colon.

Resistant starch is found in things like grain, beans, legumes, rice, pasta, etc. But the tricky thing is that the level changes depending on the TEMPERATURE of the food. So it is much higher in things like raw potato, raw grains, and raw beans, although a lot of those things aren’t healthy to eat raw, but a steaming bowl of fresh pasta holds almost no resistant starch.  Although I am no scientist, I believe the heating bursts the cells of the resistant starch. HOWEVER, once the food is cooled, the resistant starch kind of crytsalises and forms a different type (but still very good for you) of resistant starch. 

This also has big implications for the levels of blood glucose in your body. Typically we are told to avoid big bowls of pasta and rice as your body will convert carbs to sugar and your blood glucose will spike, releasing insuling and converting to fat. And this is true of the regular cooked pasta, fresh off the stove, however, once it has cooled and resistant starch is present again, the impact on your blood glucose is also reduced. Which means that rather than your body breaking it down in the stomach, releasing to the blood stream, etc, more of the pasta passes through your digestive system undigested. Allowing you to enjoy the comfort food and avoid the post pasta coma. Interesting huh!

What does this mean for you? 

A lot more research needs to be done about the cooking, cooling, reheating process to determine the impact on resistant starches, but it seems to be a growing topic of interest. In the meantime, a few studies have shown the following:

-       Freezing, defrosting and then toasting bread favourably alters the glucose response to breads.  (http://www.nature.com/ejcn/journal/v62/n5/full/1602746a.html)

-       Cooking, cooling and lightly reheating pasta can also have a better impact on resistant starch (http://www.medicaldaily.com/healthy-meal-cooking-and-cooling-pasta-changes-starch-quality-cut-calories-fat-307300)

-       Adding potato starch to your cooled mashed potatoes, is a great way to boost the resistant starch and reduce the impact on blood glucose.

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