The Best Way To Eat Carbs for Blood Sugar, Says Dietitian

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October 12, 2022
woman eating cold pasta in front of an open fridge
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I’m a 40-something-year-old Asian woman with a deep, profound love of rice. But, unfortunately, I recently discovered I have insulin sensitivities. I’m always looking for solutions, and thanks to the eerily-accurate TikTok algorithm, I came across a video that taught me a nifty trick on how to better control my blood sugar with carbs. The user ate a cup of freshly cooked rice and again, reheated cooked rice while testing his blood sugar. The results? Reheated rice produced more stabilized and lower blood sugar levels.

I was amazed and shocked but also a bit dubious; I truly wanted to believe this wasn’t a hoax, so I did the digging to find out if this actually worked. After speaking with a “prebiotic dietitian” Kara Landau, RD, APD/AN, an official media representative nutrition advisor for the Global Prebiotic Association, I discovered not only does this strategy work, but resistant starch can also be defined as one of the best ways to eat carbs for blood sugar.

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How resistant starch benefits blood sugar levels

While resistant starch naturally occurs in foods like whole grains, green bananas, and legumes, some of the familiar starches like potatoes, rice, and pasta can actually develop resistant starch through a process called retrogradation. This occurs when starches are cooked and thoroughly cooled.

If the thought of eating cold rice or pasta doesn’t sound the most appealing, reheated food will still maintain this benefit. “If you want to still consume the food hot, you’ll get the benefits of resistant starch, still retaining the structure,” says Landau.

Landau refers to resistant starches as the “third fiber” because it has many similar actions within the digestive tract. Resistant starches give us the best of both worlds when it comes to fiber – combining the insoluble fiber benefits of not being digested by our stomach, with the healthy gut bacteria benefits of soluble fiber. So yes, resistant starch can be considered a prebiotic!

“People often complain about a lot of bloating when they have too much of the isolated soluble fibers that you find a lot in high fiber [foods],” says Landau. “Resistant starch is significantly well tolerated than the ‘other fibers.’ It’s a lot more gentle on the stomach, which is what we find. We know that resistant starch was a very dense part of people’s diets hundreds of years ago and they were consuming significantly more [of it].”

Why you should still eat a variety of high-fiber foods for blood sugar

Before we get too excited and chuck all those healthy fiber sources aside, it’s important to note Landau suggests “people consume a blend of all three” fibers, which means incorporating healthy sources of soluble and insoluble fiber within the diet.

“Most people know insoluble fiber really helps with digestion and passing things through, whereas soluble fiber swells and moves down and the resistant starch sort of goes with them further down to the distal part of the colon where most of the fermentation will take place and therefore having that prebiotic effect,” says Landau.

So while eating our cooked and cooled carbs gives us a little wiggle room for my fellow insulin-sensitive folks, we should aim to eat a blend of all three “fibers” on a regular basis. They’ve been found to aid in things like insulin resistance, decreased cancer risk, and can even help with weight management.

“It’s shown when your blood sugar levels are being regulated, your appetite hormones are being regulated,” says Landau. “As a result, people find that when they consume resistant starch with some protein at one meal, that the next meal they cut their calories significantly because of the satiety effect.”

Related: 9 Recipes Featuring Both Prebiotic and Probiotic Ingredients for a Happy Gut

How to incorporate resistant starch into your meals

So, how does one go about making a quick and gut-friendly meal? Landau suggests a legume-based pasta that will naturally have some resistant starch. Cooling and reheating the pasta will also help develop even more resistant starch within the dish, and adding a veggie-heavy sauce will help give you that blend of insoluble and soluble fiber naturally. Plus, because lentils pack a protein punch, it’s a perfect blend for the resistant starch, fibers, and protein satiety that aids in weight loss and maintenance.

“It’s a missing nutrient from practically everyone’s diet and I just really want people to understand how much better they will feel due to the plethora of benefits that come with blood sugar level regulation, with satiety hormone regulation, with the gut health benefits from this one particular nutrient that gets no air time,” Landau says. “And I think that we can incorporate it in really delicious ways and it shows that it actually is a way of opening up more food for people to consume rather than less. If you want to keep white rice and potatoes in your diet, I certainly would never say you can’t, but if you want to consume and feel confident that you [are] reaping health benefits, this is truly one way to achieve that.”

Read next: 7 Expert-Approved Ways to Avoid a Blood Sugar Spike (Without Avoiding Carbs)

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