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Do you know that eating cold carbohydrates (carbs.) can improve your blood glucose management?

That’s right, eating your rice and pasta cold is the key!

Have you ever heard of a ‘resistant starch’? Neither had I until recently, but the benefits are amazing, particularly if you have diabetes. 

So, I’m spreading the word!  Keep reading. 

What is a resistant starch? 

It’s all about digestion. Where other types of starch are broken down in the small intestine, Resistant Starch passes through the small intestine intact and is digested/fermented in the large intestine.

So, it’s classified as a type of fibre which has a lower Glycaemic Index (GI) than other starches.

What are the benefits of eating resistant starch?

The bonus for people with diabetes is, resistant starch has been shown to help improve insulin sensitivity and glucose control.

It’s also great for gut health, as the resistant starch is digested through fermentation, by good bacteria in the bowel (large intestine).  

(source: Nutrition Australia The Healthy Grain and the British Nutrition Foundation ). 

Examples of resistant starch

Resistant starch is found in under-cooked pasta, under-ripe bananas, pulses, seeds and cooked and then cooled potato and rice. 

Yes that’s right, cold rice and pasta. It’s all in the way the food is cooked that makes it a resistant starch. Rice and pasta that is cooked and then allowed to cool before being eaten, has a lower GI – Cold Rice

Want to find out more? Keep reading as Kathy Usic, CEO of the Glycaemic Foundation, shares her insights on the benefit of eating cold carbs! 

Q: Is it true that the way food is cooked can alter its GI?

A: “Foods and drinks provide fuel for our body in the form of carbohydrates, fat, protein and alcohol. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source.

“The glycaemic index (GI) is a way to classify foods and drinks according to how quickly they raise the glucose level of the blood. Factors such as the size, texture, viscosity (internal friction or ‘thickness’) and ripeness of a food affect its GI. For instance, an unripe banana may have a GI of 30, while a ripe banana has a GI of 51. Both ripe and unripe bananas have a low GI.

“Fat, protein, soluble fibre, fructose (a carbohydrate found in fruit) and lactose (the carbohydrate in milk) also generally lower a food’s glycaemic response. Fat and acid foods (like vinegar, lemon juice or acidic fruit) slow the rate at which the stomach empties and slow the rate of digestion, resulting in a lower GI. The carbohydrate food is more slowly converted to glucose and absorbed into the bloodstream.

“As well, fermenting foods or the sourdough method of baking bread also lower the GI. Other factors present in food, such as phytates found in wholegrain breads and cereals, may also delay a food’s absorption and therefore lower the GI.

“Cooking and processing can also affect the GI. Food that is broken down into fine or smaller particles will be more easily absorbed and so has a higher GI. Foods that have been cooked and allowed to cool (potatoes, for example) can have a lower GI when eaten cold than when hot.” 

Q: Is it true that starchy carbohydrates such as rice and pasta, when eaten cold, have a lower GI and can have a lesser impact on BGL than when eaten hot?

A: “Correct.  For example pasta has a glycaemic index value of 40-50. This can be further reduced by cooking it less (al dente). This is because al dente pasta resists the effect of digestive enzymes and has a lower GI.  

“However, cooking pasta for longer accelerates starch gelatinisation, increasing the GI. The same principle applies to rice when cooked and cooled the starch ‘retrogrades’ becoming more resistant to digestion and therefore lowering the GI.”

Q: Can you explain how this is possible?

A: “Resistant starch helps to maintain blood sugar levels by increasing the body’s sensitivity to insulin.

“Resistant Starch is a prebiotic fibre that is crucial to the formation of good human gut microbiota. It feeds the beneficial bacteria of the large intestine.

“Research suggests that healthy gut microbiota significantly reduces the risk of colon cancer.

“A small proportion of the starch found in potatoes is resistant to this enzymatic degradation.  The amount of resistant starch in a potato depends on how it is cooked and eaten, for example”: 

  • Boiled potatoes = 2.4g per 100g
  • Cooled-and-reheated potatoes = 3.5g per 100g
  • Baked potatoes = 3.6g per 100g
  • Cold potatoes (whether boiled or baked) = 4.3g per 100g

Q: Do cold carbs have less total carbs than hot? 

A: “No resistant starch doesn’t alter the carb quantity of food (only the QUALITY and glycemic response). 

“The ‘available carbs’ are the same in the cooked vs cooled foods.” 

Q: Do you have any tips on how people can prepare carbs to make them resistant?

A: “One way of increasing the resistant starch content of foods is eating foods cold after cooking them. Potato, pasta and rice salads are classic examples. 

“Even reheating starchy foods provide additional health benefits by lowering the GI, which is great if you don’t like to eat them cold.  

“Other good sources of resistant starches include legumes (good old baked beans), rolled oats, barley and bananas (not over ripe).

“A good tip is to always cook more than you need, say of potatoes for dinner. Cool and refrigerate them and add them to salads the next day”.

For more information on the Glycaemic Index, or recipes for meal time inspiration, visit GISymbol.  

Q: How can food preparation help people with type 1 diabetes to better manage their BGL?

A: “It’s important to look at the whole plate when deciding what foods to eat in combination.

“Eaten alone, protein and fat have little effect on blood glucose levels, but that’s not to say they don’t affect your blood glucose response when they are combined with a carb-rich food.

“Protein will stimulate additional insulin secretion, resulting in lower blood glucose levels. Protein and fat both tend to delay stomach emptying, thereby slowing the rate at which carbohydrate can be digested and absorbed.

“So a high fat meal will have a lower glycemic effect than a low fat meal even if they both contain the same amount and type of carbohydrate. 

“Remember, the type of fat is just as important, so choose the good fats from poly and monounsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocado and oily fish such as tuna and salmon”.

Q: What are the benefits of eating resistant carbs?

A: “Australian researchers at the CSIRO have lead the world in researching the health benefits of resistant starch and the development of BARLEYmax™ a non GM barley grain high in resistant starch. 

“Information on the health benefits of resistant starch can be found at The Healthy Grain.  

“Earlier this year, the CSIRO published a Report that found Australians currently eat 23g fibre a day and 83% do not meet the suggested dietary target for health.

“Most adults would need to boost intake by at least 30% to meet the suggested target of 28-38g fibre a day, which is recommended for good gut function and optimal health and wellbeing,” Kathy Usic, CEO, GI Foundation. 

Thanks Kathy! 

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