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6 gut-friendly resistant starches

Alternative carbs such as tiger nuts and konjac can benefit fit bodies.

Resistant starches are so called because they essentially bypass (or resist) digestion in the small intestine and make it to the colon where they ferment and feed the healthy bacteria, says Grace Liu, PharmD, a San Francisco-based functional medicine specialist who helps endurance athletes improve their microbiomes. This supports both our metabolism and our immunity, she says. What’s more, adds Liu, research shows consuming various types of the starch can improve insulin sensitivity, as well as crowd out bad bugs and reduce inflammation.

It's best to consume resistant starch in its cooked form since raw starch can reduce protective bacteria like akkermansia, which is associated with leanness, and bifido longum, which is tied to longevity, says Liu.

Here, she weighs in on six of these alternative carbs and how to prepare them.

black or red rice

While all cooked rice is a form of resistant starch, opt for these more exotic variations, which are richer in antioxidants, suggests Liu. “You get soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps with motility in the gut as well as binding to and removing harmful toxins.” Try it in a homemade version of your favorite takeout dishes like this burrito bowl or served with Indian lentil stew.

cassava

Also called yuca, this South American tuber is increasingly finding its way into health foods. “In addition to antioxidants and important minerals it does contain a few anti-nutrients, which can be minimized by cooking,” says Liu. Boil cassava and use in soups or try Mission Heirloom’s Yucan Crunch, a cracker made from 100 percent dried and cooked yuca pulp.

green bananas

“In tropical medicine, cooked green bananas have been used to treat dysentery and cholera,” says Liu. “In addition to phytosterols (nutrients that help with heart health), you get inulin, a polysaccharide and prebiotic that can improve gut barrier function and reduce pathogenic bacteria.” Try roasting them for a low-sugar snack or mix green and ripe bananas into a gluten-free bread along with oat bran, ground flax, and chia seeds.

konjac

Unlike most starchy carbs, this Southeast Asian tuber is associated with fat loss and often marketed as the prebiotic fiber glucomannan. “The fibers extracted from the root pulp mimic our gut lining and can increase adiponectin, a hormone that's high when we're lean and burning fat efficiently,” says Liu. Try it as a faux pasta instead of zucchini noodles.

purple potatoes

Centenarians often combine cooked and cooled resistant starches, like this phytonutrient-rich option, with some form of acidity in their diets such as citrus, says Liu. “As a result, it helps feed the healthy, butyrate-producing bacteria in the colon." Bake, boil, or roast them and enjoy in salads or veggie bowls with a squeeze of lemon.

tiger nuts

These antioxidant-rich root veggies have a sweet coconut flavor. They’re a great way to incorporate protein and a high density of omegas, magnesium, zinc, and iron into your diet, explains Liu. Buy them already soaked and roasted and enjoy on their own or use tiger nut flour in healthy breakfast muffins.