“Bad carbs,” such as white potatoes, pasta, and rice, get a lot of bad rap.
We often hear that they are “empty calories” that quickly turn into blood sugar, leading to weight gain or even diabetes.
While “good carbs” like brown rice and sweet potatoes are certainly healthy options, what if “bad carbs” are not as “bad” as we think?
And what if what makes them “bad” is how we are eating them?
Resistant Starch 101
Before we dive into how to turn “bad carbs” into superfoods, let’s talk about a unique type of fiber called “resistant starch.”
Resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that doesn’t get digested — this is why it’s called “resistant.”
It may sound like a bad thing, but it has several benefits.
Resistant starch passes the small intestine — where the rest of the food breaks down — and reaches the large intestine (also known as the “colon”).
That is where the magic happens.
There are more than quadrillion bacterial cells living in your gut.
Let’s put this scary number into perspective: your entire body has at least ten (10!) times fewer cells than that.
You read that right: your gut bacteria outnumber the number of cells in your entire body by at least ten times.
And keeping these bacterial cells fed and happy has many impressive health benefits, such as reduced inflammation, improved sleep quality, and better mood.
So, what do you need to do to keep these bacterial cells happy?
Eat resistant starch! Gut bacteria feed on it and produce a healthy fatty acid called butyrate.
Butyrate blocks toxic substances from entering your bloodstream through the lining of your gut, which protects you from harmful substances and reduces inflammation in your body.
Do you worry about pesticides you might be eating with your fruits and vegetables or mercury in the tuna tartar you had for dinner last night?
Thanks to butyrate, these toxins can’t get into your bloodstream anymore!
Resistant starch also feeds only the good kinds of bacteria, causing more of them to grow.
Why is this excellent news?
There is a particular type of healthy gut bacteria — called lactobacillus rhamnosus — that may improve sleep quality and reduce stress levels.
Resistant starch may also help the gut produce GABA and serotonin (yes, according to the California Institute of Technology study, 90% of this happy chemical is made in your gut, not in your brain!).
In other words, eating resistant starch can make you sleep better, feel happier, and worry less.
“Ok, I get it. Resistant starch is great,” you are thinking. “But what do ‘bad carbs’ have to do with this?
Don’t they break down very fast, which makes them the opposite of resistant starch?”
Yes and no! It turns out it depends on how you eat them.
Cook Them and Cool Them: A Simple Trick to Make You Healthier
Let’s take a closer look at everyone’s favorite “bad carb,” white potatoes.
Raw white potatoes are naturally rich in resistant starch. However, preparing them destroys this beneficial fiber.
Cooked white potatoes become easy to digest and lose their ability to reach the large intestine.
The good news is that you don’t have to snack on raw potatoes to keep your gut bacteria happy!
There is a better way.
Boiling white potatoes until they are fully cooked and then leaving them to cool for at least a few hours (or overnight!) is said to increase resistant starch content significantly.
Just like that, white potatoes turn from an unhealthy indulgence into a nutritious superfood.
This approach not only works with white potatoes but also with other “bad carbs.”
Have you been scared of eating white rice or white pasta?
Fear not! Cook it, cool it, and make your gut bacteria very happy.
Resistant starch is not the only benefit of “bad carbs.” Surprisingly, many of the carbs that some think of as “bad” are nutrient-dense.
White potatoes are packed with vitamins B-6 and C (one white potato contains almost half of the recommended daily dose of vitamin C) and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and iron.
White rice is an excellent folate source and is gluten-free, which makes it an excellent option for pregnant women or those with hormonal imbalances.
White pasta is rich in selenium and manganese — and can boost your mood because it is simply delicious!
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t reheat before serving if you want to get all of the resistant starch benefits.
The heat will destroy it again.
Does eating cold potatoes or pasta sound unappealing to you?
View it as an opportunity to get creative in the kitchen!
Use potatoes, pasta, and rice in delicious cold salads or mix them with a protein and fat to make an Instagram-worthy grain bowl.
Most importantly, enjoy yourself!
It turns out that eating healthy is not about giving up certain “bad” foods, but about eating them right.