Discover the Starch/Carbohydrate that Makes Us Lean and Healthy - Part 2
Updated: Jul 12
Discover the starch/carbohydrate that helps us to lose and maintain body weight, lower blood sugar/glucose levels, and that is associated with a wide range of health benefits
You can read Part 1 - Why is Fiber Good for us - of this series of articles that explains dietary fiber, the types of fiber, the health benefits of it, and more. (1)
In this article, I am going to talk about carbohydrates, specifically about carbs rich in resistant starch fiber, and its great potential to prevent blood sugar spikes, control appetite, prevent diabetes, obesity, colon cancer, cardiovascular problems, and more.
But, let's first review how carbohydrates in our diet do affect our blood sugar levels.
Our food as a source of energy and nutrients
Our daily food, carbohydrates (including fibers), proteins, and fats, are the fuel that provides our body nutrients and energy to perform vital functions such as cell repair, growth, reproduction, etc.
However, before food can be used by the body, it must be digested to be better absorb.
The process of digestion
Let’s consider our digestive system as a long, twisting tube from the mouth to the anus, where everything inside of this tube is not part of our body. To be part, our food must be digested and absorbed.
Digestion is a process that starts in our mouth, continues through the stomach, and is mostly completed in the small intestine. In this part of the intestine, carbohydrates are broken down into sugar/glucose, proteins into amino acids, and fats into fatty acids and glycerol.
It takes about six to eight hours for food to pass through the stomach and small intestine, where nutrients and glucose are mostly absorbed, and transported into the bloodstream to be delivered to our cells and body tissues.
From the small intestine, undigested food such as fiber and watercontinue theirjourney towards the large intestine for further digestion and water absorption.
The total digestion/elimination process can take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours, depending on the individual and the type of food eaten. (2)
The normal digestion process of carbohydrate, and the increase in our blood glucose/sugar
Carbohydrates are found in all foods and beverages that contain sugar, starches, and fiber and are called simple or complex, depending on their chemical structure.
As we digest a meal containing carbohydrates, our body converts it into sugar that is immediately transported into our bloodstream, leading to a faster rise in our blood sugar/glucose levels.
Sugar/glucose is the main source of energy for our cells, tissues, and organs in the body, especially our brain.
In this way, every time our blood sugar/glucose levels increase, our pancreas is signaled to release insulin, a hormone that helps control blood sugar/glucose levels and metabolism.
One of the roles of insulin is to transport sugar/glucose available in our bloodstream to our cells where it can be used as energy.
On the other hand, when we have enough sugar/glucose into our bloodstream, insulin signals our liver to store the excess available blood sugar into our muscles, fat cells, and liver, for later use.
As our cells absorb the available sugar/glucose from our bloodstream, our blood glucose levels begin to drop. When it happens, our pancreas releases glucagon, a hormone that signals the liver to release more of the stored sugar/glucose into our bloodstream.
Glucagon is another hormone produced by the pancreas that breaks down glycogen (the stored form of glucose) in the liver, bringing blood sugar/glucose levels back to a healthy level.
Basically, when our blood sugar is too high, our pancreas secretes insulin. When our blood sugar
levels drop, our pancreas releases glucagon, that helps release the stored sugar/glucose back into our bloodstream.
This mechanism helps provide sufficient energy to our cells, and at the same time, it prevents nerve damage that can result from bloodconsistently high levels of blood sugar.
This balanced interaction between insulin and glucagon plays a vital role in regulating our blood sugar levels, and in keeping it within set levels.
However, there is a limit on the amount of sugar/glucose (carbohydrate) that our bodies can process at once without compromising this delicate metabolism.
Definitively, carbohydrate metabolism is important in the development of type 2 diabetes, which occurs when our body cannot produce enough insulin or cannot properly use the insulin that is produced. (3, 4)
Resistant starch is a carbohydrate that "resists" the normal process of digestion
Resistant starches are carbohydrates with a complex chemical structure that escapes or “resists” the normal digestion process in the small intestine. Instead, it arrives intact at the large intestine where it is fermented and digested by colonic bacteria that live in this area.
In fact, our intestinal flora represents about 70-80 percent of our main immune system. Then, by keeping our intestinal flora well-fed and happy means that we are keeping our immune system strong and healthy. (5)
Is resistant starch a soluble or an insoluble fiber?
Some plants (carbohydrates) are especially rich in soluble fiber. However, most of the plants we eat contain a combination of soluble and insoluble fiber. That said, resistant starch has characteristics of both soluble and insoluble fiber.
In reality, resistant starch fiber behaves the same as insoluble fiber since it resists our normal digestion process in the small intestine. Then, it acts the same as soluble fiber because it reaches the colon of the intestine intact and is fermented and digested by the trillions of tiny microorganisms that live in our gut flora/microbiota. (6)
The benefits of resistant starch in lowering blood sugar/glucose levels and preventing obesity
As we saw above, carbohydrates rich in resistant starch fiber undergo a different digestion process. As a result, they are not fully broken down into glucose molecules. Consequently, they do not increase our blood sugar/glucose levels.
Besides, because carbs rich in resistant starch fiber are fermented and digested in the large intestine by trillions of gut bacteria, these carbs do not provide us with calories, and they do not make us fat.
Amazing, isn't it?
For these reasons, resistant starch fiber has been studied for years for its beneficial effects in improving insulin sensitivity, regulating blood glucose levels, fat metabolism, and more.
In fact, a regular consumption of this fiber is scientifically proven to be extremely beneficial in a wide range of circumstances related to our health. Including a great potential in both, preventing and treating obesity and its related diseases. (7, 8, 9)
The possible health benefits of resistant starch
Resistant starch is associated with several changes in our metabolism with a wide range of health benefits such as: (10, 11. 12, 13, 14, 15)
1- It increases the acidity in the colon of the intestine, assisting in the digestion and absorption of nutrients from our diet
2- It has prebiotic properties that selectively stimulate beneficial bacterial species. Particularly, Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium
3- Ithelps control appetite, increasing the feeling of satiety
4- It protects us against fat storage and obesity
5- It improves insulin sensitivity, lowers blood sugar levels, and prevents diabetes
6- It reduces some risk factors for cardiovascular disease
7- It may reduce inflammation and symptoms of infectious antibiotic-associated diarrhea and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
8- It has protective effects on preventing colon cancer
9- Itimproves the function of the intestinal barrier
10- It increases the production of bio-products such as short-chain fatty acids (SCFA)
11- It enhances the absorption of minerals such as calcium and iron
12- It improves and regulates the immune system
I will continue next week the third part of this article telling you how you can add resistant starch foods and supplements in your daily diet, and much more.
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