A foodie's quest to turn up the heat through strength and conditioning with whole food and a hungry mind.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Resistant Starches: Pleasant Food With an Unpleasant Name

Today’s lunch will be the slow cooker turkey, barley and vegetable stew I mentioned in yesterday’s post. For something so easy, I am really excited to have this today. It has been raining non-stop all night and still going, so a warm stew is an ideal meal (I rhymed!) for this weather.

I like this meal for its easy prep and little need to “dress up” the meat with seasonings; it’ll be surrounded by goodness for hours in the Crock Pot. I usually use chicken breast, but found a good deal on turkey breast that I couldn’t pass up.I add whatever frozen veggies we have, chopped garlic and onion, a whole grain like barley, season with herbs and spices (cayenne is always in there), put the meat on top then pour broth or an empty condiment mixture until the veggies are covered.
The meal is great and is on my list of comfort foods that warm me on the coldest days. I will sometimes skip adding a grain like barley if there is a lot of corn already in the frozen vegetables I used, but don’t be afraid to have both.

I am by no means a “carb phobe” and think it is rarely necessary to be so. Just choose the right kind of carbohydrates; meaning whole grain with as much of the grain layers intact as possible. A whole grain will contain three layers; here’s a simple breakdown of the layers provided by Arrowhead Mills:

- Outer layer (bran) holds up to 80 percent of the grain's total mineral value, including B vitamins and most of the fiber;

- Middle layer (endosperm) contains protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals; and

- Small inner core (germ) houses concentrated amounts of B vitamins, vitamin E, protein, trace minerals, "good" unsaturated fats, antioxidants and phytonutrients—which cause damage from free radicals in the body.

Furthermore, how the grain has been processed determines the level of nutrients contained and the length of the cooking process. A great explanation of this can be found at this link; here’s a brief excerpt from the site:
“Groats, grits, steel-cut, rolled, puffed, pearled, cracked, flakes, and flour are the most common references, and all describe how the grain has been processed.
For example, groats are grains that have had their hard, inedible hulls removed but still retain their nutritious parts (germ, bran, endosperm).
How the grain has been cut or milled affects both texture (hence taste) and cooking time. Parboiled and cracked wheat, for example, is bulgur, which takes only a few minutes to prepare; on the other hand, wheat berries (the grain in its least-processed form) may take up to an hour to cook.”

Along with knowing which processed grain is more whole than the other, grains and other carbohydrates known as resistant starches are said to be better choices as well. As we know, starches are digested at different speeds depending on how they’ve been processed; resistant starch, on the other hand, passes through the small intestine and is not digested at all. Most starchy foods have some level of resistant starch, but beans and whole grains contain a higher percentage than other sources.

Need a reason to incorporate resistant starch foods in your diet? Here are several from About.com:

•Resistant starch is especially associated with one type of SCFA, called butyrate, which is protective of colon cells and associated with less genetic damage (which can lead to cancer). Butyrate also protects the cells in other ways. This is one of the real strengths of resistant starch over oligosaccharides and soluble fiber. Their fermentation does produce butyrate, but not at the levels of resistant starch.

•As with other fermentable fiber, resistant starch is associated with more mineral absorption, especially calcium and magnesium.

•Perhaps most exciting for people with sugar issues, resistant starch seems to improve insulin sensitivity. In the so-called "second meal effect", fermentable fiber and resistant starch are associated with improved glucose tolerance the next day. There is evidence that this is caused by the presense of the short chain fatty acids, and by a peptide produced in the fermentation process.

•Resistant starch produces more satiety, possibly partly through the release of a different peptide (PYY).

•Resistant starch consumption is associated with lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

•Promotes "good" bacteria, and suppresses "bad" bacteria and their toxic products.

•Promotes bowel regularity.

•Resistant starch in a meal is associated with less fat storage after that meal.

So, what makes a starch resistant? There are actually 4 types of starch qualities that would make them resistant…

1.Starch that is difficult for the digestive process to reach, often due to a fibrous "shell". Grains and legumes which are cooked intact are an example. Also, some altered starches, such as Hi-Maize corn starch, are in both this category and the next.
2.Some foods, such as unripe bananas, raw potatoes, and plantains, have a type of starch which our digestive enzymes can't break down.

3.Small amounts of resistant starch (about 5% of the total) are produced when some starchy cooked foods, such as potatoes and rice, are allowed to cool before eating.
4.Manufactured resistant starch, made by various chemical processes. It is not known whether these starches have the same benefits as those in the other three groups.

Feel overwhelmed? I do. It may take a while, but persistence to learn what is what will overcome confusion. Always be willing and able to feed your brain on how you feed yourself….it is your health, afterall.

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