In Australia we tend to eat quite a bit of fibre- we’re Weetbix kids right? Fibre is key to good digestive health, so you’d imagine we have a fairly low incidence of bowel disease, including bowel cancer. Unfortunately not. In fact, bowel cancer remains the second most common cancer in both Australian men and women. So what’s going wrong? Fibre comes in different forms and research is suggesting that the type of fibre we consume plays a very important role in determining how healthy our gut, and therefore our entire body, really is.

This is where resistant starch comes into the picture. Resistant starch is a type of fibre that isn’t broken down by our digestive system until it reaches the large colon (large bowel). It is considered a fermentable fibre, as once it reaches the large colon intestinal bacteria ferment it and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are produced. SCFAs can be used by the bacteria in our bowel as energy, feeding them and keeping our good bugs happy. Besides being the main food source for our cells in the bowel, SCFAs play an important role in health and disease. They may reduce the risk of inflammatory diseases, obesity and heart disease, and are also involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. Butyrate is one of the most common SCFAs produced in the bowel and has potent anti-inflammatory effects within the gut. It has been used to treat inflammatory bowel disease (such as ulcerative colitis) with studies suggesting it can dramatically reduce symptoms in sufferers. It may also help to prevent colon cancer- lab studies show that butyrate helps keep colon cells healthy, prevents the growth of tumour cells and encourages cancer cell destruction in the colon.

So what are the best sources of resistant starch to include in your daily diet? Green bananas, legumes, potatoes that have been cooked and cooled (potato salad gets the tick here), cashew nuts and cooled rice salads are all good sources. Green banana flour is a great gluten-free option to bake with and can be used in many recipes from pancake batter to muffin mix. The recommended intake for resistant starch is 20g per day, however with all fibres, if they are not already a large part of your diet you may need to slowly introduce and increase the amount you consume over time, as some digestive discomfort can result from too much too quickly (bloating and gas are the most common symptoms). For more information on resistant starch and gut health please consult your healthcare practitioner.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/short-chain-fatty-acids-101/

https://www.csiro.au/en/Research/BF/Areas/Nutrition-and-health/Nutrition-and-gut-health/Resistant-starch?ref=/CSIRO/Website/Research/Health/Healthier-foods/Resistant-starch

Precise Nutrition: All about resistant starch