In Nutrition

Absorb less carbs when you cook pasta, rice and potatoes like this

Absorb less carbs when you cook pasta, rice and potatoes like this

There is a way to cook pasta, rice and potatoes that lowers the amount of carbs that are digested and absorbed in the small intestine. 

So how is it possible to lower the carb load of pasta, rice and potatoes? 

It’s all about cooking these often forbidden favorites so that some of the carbohydrates in them convert to resistant starches. To do that you simply cook and cool them before eating them.

What are resistant starches?

To keep it really simple, resistant starches are starches that pass through the small intestine undigested (similar to soluble fiber) but are later broken down into short-chain fatty acids by the bacteria in the large intestine. Intake of resistant starches has been linked to improved insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels after meals and increased satiety.

There are 4 main types of resistant starch but I’m going to keep it simple and focus on one type for the purpose of this article and that is type 3 or RS3. RS3 is formed when certain starchy foods, including pasta, potatoes and rice, are cooked and then cooled. The cooling process turns some of the digestible starches in the food into resistant starch via a process called retrogradation.

What about reheating type 3 resistant starch?

There is mixed information here. Some experts say that reheating breaks down the resistant starch but I couldn’t find any citations proving that to be the case. A small study showed that cooked, cooled then reheated pasta actually reduced the rise in blood sugar by 50% compared to freshly cooked pasta. To the researcher’s surprise this was a greater reduction in blood sugar elevation than participants saw with just the cooked and cooled pasta. Leftovers anyone?

How can I get more Resistant Starch (RS3) in my diet?

  • Cold pasta salad
  • Potato salad
  • Sushi
  • Rice pudding
  • Leftover rice, pasta or potatoes
  • Lentils
  • Black beans
  • Dry oatmeal

There is no standard recommendation on resistant starch intake but given current research I think a good place to start is about 20 grams per day. If you aren’t used to eating resistant starch then you will want to increase your intake slowly or you risk overwhelming the gut bacteria which will result in a lot of gas. Here is a list of different foods and their content of resistant starch if you want to read a little more.

The Bottom Line

At this point more research is needed to figure out the precise cooking and cooling techniques that will optimize levels of RS3. In the mean time I plan to increase my intake of resistant starch by eating pasta, rice & potatoes that have been cook and cooled or eaten as leftovers.

A very important point: Regardless of the RS3 content of a food it is still important to make sure your meal is balanced with protein, fat, fiber and fluid or PF3 for short. PF3 balanced eating will help keep you satisfied, your blood sugars stable and your energy levels up. In other words, I still don’t recommend a whole plate of pasta, regardless of how it was cooked.  To follow my PF3 guidelines, try a small portion of pasta that’s been cooked, cooled and reheated (1/2-1 cup), mixed with vegetables (1-2 cups), a few ounces of protein like chicken or shrimp with some fat mixed in like 1/2 Tbsp of olive oil and fresh grated Romano cheese.