Dr. Jamie Kane, from Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine in New York, discusses the benefits of some carbohydrates and suggest that they shouldn’t all be shunned. He states that “resistant starch lowers blood sugar after a meal, helps reduce appetite, is anti-inflammatory, improves gut health and may even help prevent colon cancer.” Whole grains, some legumes (chickpeas, kidney beans, and lentils), green bananas and cold pasta contain resistant starch.

Resistant starch (and fiber in general) helps keep your microbial balance healthy, so you have a greater proportion of good to bad gut bacteria. When you eat resistant starch, it passes undigested through the small intestine, where nutrients are absorbed, to the colon. In the colon it becomes fuel for our body’s healthy bacteria. Dr. Kane explains that “our gut microbes are involved in nearly every organ system from the endocrine to the nervous to the GI and immune.” Resistant starch helps improve the protective lining of your intestines, which helps reduce inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.

Blood sugar levels rise more slowly after meals with resistant starch, which helps the body’s better use of insulin. In one small study, people burned up 23 percent more fat after a meal with 5 percent resistant starch than they did with a meal without it.

Unprocessed foods are the healthiest way to get resistant starch — but there are exceptions. Pasta, potatoes and white rice are good sources of the type of resistant starch that forms when foods are cooked, then cooled. This process alters the chemical structure of the carbs in these foods. Remember cold pasta and cold potatoes are found in salads.

Green bananas are the best source of resistant starch. As the bananas ripen, the starch turns to sugar. Bran is best known for its high fiber count and is found in all cereal grains. It’s in bran muffins, shredded wheat, whole wheat bread and pasta, oatmeal, brown rice and graham crackers. Also foods that start with the letter “P,” which includes pears, peaches, prunes, peas, and plums, and then there are the foods that start with “B” such as beans, broccoli and brussels sprouts are good sources.

Most dietitians recommend getting the resistant fiber from foods — not supplements. It’s hard to get too much of a nutrient from food and you also get many other vitamins, minerals and health-promoting compounds with the fiber.

The American Heart Association recommends getting 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories consumed. For children ages 1-3 years old this works out to be about 19 grams per day, for ages 4-8 years old, it’s 25. For adults, it’s recommended to consume about 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.

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