Can starches be healthy? In recent years the medical community has reported that starches in foods like potatoes and grains are generally unhealthy. This is especially the case in low-carb diets like Atkins. However, it’s important to note that there are different kinds of starches. One is amylose. This is something called a “resistant starch” that is found in many foods. The standard American diet (SAD) absorbs 3-8g of amylose per day. If you’re consuming too much resistant starch or have certain health conditions you should consider a low amylose diet. This limits foods that are high in starch like beans, potatoes, rice, and corn.
There are various reasons why people go on a diet low in amylose starches. They include issues related to digestion, gluten, and disease. You also might be consuming a large amount of starch and need to decrease the amount. Regardless of the reason, it’s important to know which foods contain amylose. You can then swap them out of your diet and replace the nutrients with non-starchy foods. If you have certain conditions and illnesses then this type of diet can provide various benefits. In some situations, amylose could worsen serious illnesses like cystic fibrosis, which could cause health complications.
What Is Amylose?
This is a type of chemical compound. It’s found in carb molecules that form a string. Amylose is one of two of these strings and makes up about one-fifth of starch compounds. This is a complex substance because it’s starch with fiber that can’t absorb water. In other words, “good” bacteria ferment the starch in the gut instead of digesting it.
When people eat it’s important to provide the gut with different kinds of microbes. That’s why it’s important to eat different kinds of foods. They have different nutrients that help to digest food better. That includes amylose.
Amylose is a non-sticky starch when cooked. It doesn’t dissolve when put in water. Foods high in amylose like rice keep their shape when cooked. That’s why it’s used for functions like as a thickener in food processing.
Amylose can provide various health benefits including:
- Immunity: One key benefit of amylose is it helps to boost the immune system. It makes enzymes that can fight cancer cells and gut bacteria that can cause sickness. A 2016 study showed that resistant starch and supplements can help to improve a person’s immune system.
- Prebiotic: These chemical compounds are fermented by the body instead of being digested. Amylose is a rare type because it’s not a fiber type. Prebiotics help produces good gut bacteria. This explains why starch is so important for different body functions.
- Diseases: Some studies show that amylose might help to prevent or treat various conditions/diseases. They include heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, and tooth decay.
- Weight: Amylose might help with weight loss and also prevent obesity. Some studies show that foods high in amylose might help to fight obesity. Some studies show people who ate high-amylose foods had blood sugar improvements for two meals. The starch might help with long-term weight loss.
Possible Risks/Side-effects of Amylose
1. Cystic Fibrosis (CF)
If you’re a CF patient then it’s a good idea to reduce your intake of resistant starches. The reason is they don’t have enough digestive enzymes. That includes the ones that break down starch. This can cause various digestion problems like heartburn.
People with CF have about 3x higher risk of SIBO versus people without CF.
2. Inflammatory Diseases
In some situations, high-amylose foods can help to lower inflammation. However, certain types of inflammation are caused by stuff that’s starch-sensitive. These include Crohn’s disease and a type of arthritis. So, if you’re at high risk for these diseases a low-starch diet like keto would be a good option for you.
There are some weight loss supplements and prescription diabetes drugs that might interact badly with resistant starch foods. The reason is they block an enzyme that helps with digestion.
If you eat big amounts of amylose foods and take such supplements/meds this can cause various side-effects. They include stomach-aches and various digestion problems like LBM.
4. Mold exposure
People who have had exposure to fungus-like mold have a higher level of a certain kind of enzyme. If a person has too much mold it can cause damage. Some experts think that removing all amylose from one’s diet is the best way to treat the mold.
5. Gluten intolerance
Studies show that many people with celiac disease are gluten-intolerant. This is probably because gluten causes inflammation. Some experts think that high-starch diets might make gluten intolerance worse.
6. Digestion problems
Amylose might trigger digestion problems among people who have them. This is especially the case with SIBO patients who have too much bacteria in their small intestine. There are certain conditions related to SIBO like IBS and acid reflux. So, people with these conditions should reduce how much starch they eat.
Low Amylose Diet
If you want to follow a diet that’s low in starch then it’s important to know which foods are high in amylose:
If you’re a fan of tropical fruits then make sure to eat ripe varieties. Unripe/cooked types are the highest in amylose, which could trigger symptoms if you have certain conditions.
2. Root vegetables
These include cassava, boiled/cooled potatoes, and yams. These foods are generally healthy but are also quite starchy.
When talking about the nutrients in this grain it’s usually about whether you pick whole grain or refined grain. That’s certainly a factor in terms of carbs/starches. However, if you’re on a low-starch diet watch out for any rice that’s been cooked then cooled.
Some bread products are high in amylose due to them being high-starch. It’s better to go with whole grain or multi-grain bread. These bread are still relatively high-carb/starch but much lower than white bread.
Fun Fact: The original versions of corn weren’t edible. Corn is a whole grain that contains many vitamins and minerals. If you’re going to eat corn make sure you eat organic and non-GMO versions.
6. Raw starches/flours
Go with arrowroot and other healthy types.
7. Beans, seeds, and nuts
It’s important to soak these items before cooking with them. This helps to remove possibly harmful substances like lectins. These are carb-related proteins.
There’s some debate about whether or not lectin is “toxic.” That’s because many fruits/vegetables with them are generally considered to be healthy.
Here are some low-amylose foods:
- Meat, fish, and chicken
- Non-root vegetables
- Fruits (not bananas)
Sugary snacks and white bread are also low in starch but you should avoid them even if you’re on the low amylose diet.