While bananas are known to provide all kinds of health benefits to your body – especially the spike in potassium – this isn’t the only surprising side effect you will experience when consuming bananas. Actually, Eating bananas can actually provide your body with a specific molecule that aids your digestion and makes you feel full: resistant starch!
Here’s why it’s important to have resistant starch in your diet. For more healthy tips, check out our list of the 7 Healthiest Foods You Should Eat Right Now.
What is Resistant Starch?
Resistant starch is the new cool kid on the carb block. It lowers blood sugar after meals, feeds good bacteria in the gut microbiome, and helps with weight loss by slowing digestion to keep us full longer.
Resistant starches belong to a larger category of low-digestion carbohydrates (LDC): these are carbohydrates that are not fully digested. Other LDCs include fiber and sugar alcohols. In fact, some research has shown that foods high in resistant starch provide half the calories of their traditional starchy counterparts due to lack of absorption!
Resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that acts more like fiber than carbohydrate. This starch deserves its name because it really “resists” digestion due to its hard outer wall. This resistance to digestion plays a notable role in appetite and has downstream effects on appetite and blood sugar.
“Resistant starch is not digested and passes through the GI tract unchanged, where it acts as a prebiotic and soluble fiber,” says Kate Gerweck, MS, RD, LD. “The resistant starch in bananas has been studied in relation to gut health and has been shown to significantly improve stool quality, reduce reports of painful, cracked, or hard stools, improve the frequency of bowel movements, and reduce medication use.”
Usually the cook-and-cool method helps in producing the beneficial resistant starch. For example, boiled potatoes do not provide resistant starch. When potatoes are boiled and cooled – safely overnight in the refrigerator – resistant starch is produced. Bananas are characterized by the fact that no cooking is required to take advantage of their resistant starch benefits!
Eating greener bananas will give you more resilient strength.
Bananas are unique in that they must be eaten while still green to take advantage of their resistant starch content. Green bananas leave a chalky residue taste – that’s the aftertaste of resistant starch! When a banana turns more yellow or develops brown spots, its starch content has decreased and has been replaced with sugar. Brown bananas are good banana bread for this reason! While eating a simple green banana may be appropriate for some of us, we can easily mask the chalky taste by incorporating it into a smoothie like we throw bananas into some of these 27 best immune boosting smoothie recipes.
Did you know that you can also keep your bananas greener by doing this simple trick that keeps bananas fresh?
How does resistant starch improve health?
There are three main body processes that researchers have found to be positively affected by resistant starch. The first is blood sugar control and insulin resistance.
“Resistant starch is the most underrated part of a blood sugar diet,” says Kelly Schmidt, RD. “Resistant starches should be highlighted as their benefits support wellbeing at the core for intestinal health, but also for insulin sensitivity.”
Since about half of the carbohydrates in resistant starch are not digested, they never get into the bloodstream to raise blood sugar! If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or insulin resistance, you can benefit from including this magic molecule in your diet! Research has shown that consuming up to 40 grams of resistant starch per day can improve insulin sensitivity in those with metabolic syndrome!
The second emerging research area for resistant starch involves the effects on the gut microbiome. This four trillion army of bacteria lives in the GI tract and determines a large part of metabolic health, including weight loss, hunger signals and cravings.
The best way to create a healthy gut microbiome is to eat foods that increase the diversity of healthy bacteria in our gut. These are known as prebiotic foods. Prebiotics feed the good bugs in our intestines, help them grow over time, and so are more numerous than the bad ones. This balance can be established by consuming foods that are rich in resistant starch!
“The resistant starch in a banana acts as a prebiotic, meaning it feeds the good bacteria. An improved balance of gut bacteria has been linked to improved blood sugar levels,” says Lacy Ngo, RD MS.
The third way that resistant starch is beneficial to health is by controlling appetite. As this strength resists digestion, it also slows down gastric emptying. This prolongs our hunger signals for hours after eating a meal or snack high in resistant starch. Choosing foods that are slow to digest will keep us full for hours and help us make better decisions about our next meal and overall, thereby reducing our overall daily caloric intake.
In conclusion, eating foods high in resistant starch will keep us full longer, contain half the calories of other carbohydrates, and potentially lower our total calorie consumption in a day. Sounds like a magic trick for weight management.
Whether you’re trying to control your waistline, keep your gut in check, or improve your metabolic health, this little-known strength can help you achieve your goals! If you’re wondering how to add more resistant starch to your diet, check out these 20 Resistant Starch Recipes.