Contributed by Christina Iaboni
MHSc, Registered Dietitian
Oats are a whole grain and have long been known as a healthy breakfast option, but did you know that uncooked oats in particular contain higher amounts of something called resistant starch? Resistant starch has been gaining in popularity recently and offers plenty of health benefits. Here is everything you need to know about resistant starch and how to incorporate it into your diet.
Resistant starch can be classified as a type of fibre and is basically what it sounds like : a starch that is “resistant” to digestion. Starch is one of the main forms of carbohydrates in our diets and is found in plant-foods such as potatoes, beans, and grains. Resistant starch can’t be digested by the small intestine like other forms of starch and is fermented in the large intestine. As the starch ferments, it becomes a prebiotic : it feeds the good bacteria in our gut in order to maintain a healthy balance between them and the bad bacterias. The fermentation process also produces short-chain fatty acids which help fuel the cells in our colon and can be beneficial for our gut health(1). More and more research is suggesting that a healthy gut plays a crucial role in our overall physical and mental health. (2)
Some of the other known health benefits of resistant starch include (3) :
In addition to uncooked oats, other whole grains such as barley, beans, lentils and seeds are also high in resistant starch .The amount of resistant starch can also change in some foods based on the way it is cooked. For example, cooked and cooled rice, pasta and potatoes are higher in resistant starch than the varieties that were cooked and not cooled (basically eaten right away). When you reheat the leftovers, the higher amount of resistant starch remains. Green bananas are also high in resistant starch since their starch becomes more digestible as they get ripper. (3) If you are feeling creative, you can even try green banana flour, which can be found at health food stores or online. Just add a teaspoon or two into a smoothie or mix it into your overnight oats (But be careful, if you bake with the flour, the resistant starch disappears due to the high temperature!). Also, many foods high in resistant starch are high in fibre. When incorporating them into your diet, make sure to do it progressively and to drink plenty of water to prevent digestive discomforts.
As you might have guessed it, eating more overnight oats is a tasty and easy way to incorporate resistant starch into your diet. The best thing is, you also get the benefits of fibre, protein and some essential vitamins and minerals (such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus and selenium). Milk and the wide variety of toppings that you can add to your oats like fruits, nuts (or nut butters!) and seeds also increase the nutrition content. So, what are you waiting for? Enjoy some today for breakfast or as a great snack!