Oh heck! I never meant to get into nutritional science but fear I have to in order to persuade you to eat your carbohydrates!
A food blogger that champions all things ‘low-carb’ and then, on the face of it, appears to do a u-turn by subsequently suggesting you eat high-carb, starchy foods might seem to have gone a bit ‘bananas’. Which is, as I shall reveal later in this post, quite literally true!
There are three increasingly popular buzz-words flying around at the moment that are relatively new as far as my understanding goes - probiotics, prebiotics and resistant starch - all three are absolutely essential for a healthy digestive system and long-term health. Here’s why…
Probiotics are types of ‘living’ friendly bacteria, like those that inhabit your gut. They’re found in cultured and fermented foods such as yogurt, buttermilk and sauerkraut. Probiotics help control the bad bacteria in your gut and allow the good bacteria to proliferate.
Prebiotics are ‘non-living’ carbohydrates that feed probiotics. They’re found in legumes (non-Primal) whole-wheat products (non-Primal) Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root, onions, cabbage, asparagus and leeks - although you’d need to eat a significant amount of these prebiotic foods in their raw state to achieve the recommended daily amount of prebiotic fibre. Not the easiest, nor the most pleasant, thing to accomplish!
Resistant starch is a prebiotic that has unique health benefits. Basically, it is the undigested part of starchy carbohydrate food that passes through the digestive tract unchanged, which is why it’s called ‘resistant starch’. It is good news for people following a low-carbohydrate diet or those trying to lose weight, because resistant starch can’t be digested and absorbed as glucose (like other carbohydrates are), instead it becomes food for bacteria. Nevertheless, it does increase a sense of fullness, which helps people eat less. It also improves insulin sensitivity, lowers blood sugar levels and improves metabolism.
To be perfectly honest though, it’s taken me a while to get to grips with the idea that starch of any description can be good for you. Having eschewed all high-carbohydrate food for almost two years I was borderline paranoid in my resistance to resistant-starch - such is my fear of carbohydrates and the havoc they have wreaked on my body over the years.
Sarah still has to be persuaded, though I’m hoping that this blog post might convince her that it’s not only okay, but actually advisable to eat resistant starch. There are 4 types:
RS Type 1 – is found in beans, grains, and seeds, which can’t be digested because the starch is bound-up within fibrous cell walls.
RS Type 2 – found in raw potatoes and unripe bananas, which in their raw state are intrinsically indigestible.
RS Type 3 – found in cooked and cooled white potatoes and white rice, the cooling process (called retrogradation) changes the structure of the food so that digestible starch becomes resistant starch - that’s a green light for home-made potato salad and sushi then!
RS Type 4 – an unnatural, man-made chemically modified resistant starch (sounds unpleasant!)
I originally thought combining cooked and chilled potato (chilled = refrigerated) and green banana flour would be a clever way to get a double-whammy of resistant starch in a Primal/Paleo-friendly potato gnocchi recipe. However, I’m still in the process of working this through. Subjecting resistant starch to temperatures exceeding 130℉ degrades it. On the other hand, retrograded starch (the cooked and chilled type) is supposedly maintained if it’s subsequently re-heated - at least when re-heated gently. Whilst all the banana flour nutrients including potassium are retained during cooking, I don’t want to risk nullifying the resistant starch in my potato gnocchi so, until it’s tried and tested, the jury’s still out. If it does work - meaning my gnocchi cooks and stays intact in less than barely simmering water - I’ll be posting the recipe soon!
Meanwhile, supplementation is the easiest way to reliably get enough resistant starch into your diet. To this end I have developed a totally moreish Raw Chocolate Banana Milkshake - a delicious milk smoothie that contains a healthy quota of green banana resistant starch, and tastes so good that it has quickly earned its place as my preferred breakfast. Must be addictive, because it’s the thing I most look forward to before falling asleep at night!
I have been trialling green banana flour for the past week. I started with a full tablespoon (about 10g -15g) as a supplement from Day 1. Caution: If you are suffering with any digestive issues such as gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhoea or constipation, build your tolerance slowly - start with half a teaspoon and gradually increase the amount up to the optimum (15g to 30g) over a few weeks.
After several days, I get a sense that everything is functioning better and moving more efficiently - although I have developed one side-effect, which is rather loud, persistent tummy ‘gurgling’. I like to think that this is my hitherto half-starved friendly bacteria expressing relief at being properly fed, rather than my gut protesting!
Whatever, I intend to persist with my resistant-starch-enhanced smoothie regimen because, in a nutshell, resistant starch is a superfood for the digestive system. It ends up in the large intestine where, as far as the friendly bacteria are concerned, it's like manna from heaven. As they use the resistant starch for energy they release small carbohydrate molecules, which feed other bacteria, which in turn excrete butyrate. Ta dah! Butyrate is where it’s at! The preferred fuel for the cells lining the colon, butyrate is a potent anti-inflammatory that encourages blood flow and helps keep the cells healthy, which in turn reduces the risk of colorectal cancer.
Not only does resistant starch and it’s by-product butyrate promote healthy gut flora and optimise digestive health, any surplus butyrate not used by the cells in the colon is carried by the bloodstream to the liver and other parts of the body, where it has other beneficial effects including enhanced immunity, increased metabolism, weight loss, satiety, decreased inflammation and improved stress resistance.
Sounds good to me, especially when all these health benefits are contained in an indulgent chocolately drink! Who knew that feeding your hungry microbiomes could be such fun?
Raw Chocolate & Banana Milkshake (Serves 1)
180ml whole milk (preferably raw), very chilled
1 under-ripe banana, peeled and cut into several pieces (about 200g unpeeled weight)
1½ tbsp raw cacao powder
1 tbsp green banana flour
1 dsp pure vanilla essence
Large handful of fresh ice cubes (about 60g)
Liquid stevia, to taste
Put the milk, banana, cacao, banana four and vanilla essence into a blender jug. Blend until well combined - my Vitamix (*see note below) takes about 30 seconds to do this.
Add the ice cubes and blend again until smooth, cold and creamy - another 15 to 20 seconds.
Taste, then add 2-4 drops of organic liquid stevia to sweeten.
Pour into a tall glass and decorate with whipped cream and a sprinkling of chocolate curls, if liked.
Carbohydrate 48g Protein 12g - per glass
I am happy using up one-third to a half of my daily carbohydrate intake in one generous glass of Raw Chocolate Banana Milkshake because I’m already at what I consider to be my ideal weight (just over 7 stone). Generally, I find this milkshake is enough on its own to sustain me until I sit down to eat my main meal of the day, which I always try and do before 6pm. If I get peckish, I might snack on some cheese, a small piece of fruit or some nuts, but basically everything I eat in a day never adds up to much more than 100g of carbohydrate, which is considered low-carb (100g to150g per day). If you want to lose weight by eating very low-carb (50g-100g per day) try substituting 125g of fresh or frozen berries e.g. blueberries, raspberries or strawberries for the banana and cacao. This will reduce the grams of carbohydrates in your milkshake by about 18g.
* I use a Vitamix C-Series blending machine to make healthy drinks, smoothies, hot soups, sauces, frozen desserts and more, in a matter of minutes. If you are using a different blender or container size, you may need to make adjustments to the processing time, and/or ingredient quantities. To be honest, if I had to choose just one kitchen gadget to magically bestow on cooks everywhere, it would be this Vitamix!
For people who are lactose intolerant, vegan or who suffer from a nut allergy, I will be developing more non-dairy, nut-free, resistant starch milkshakes and smoothies shortly. Watch this space!