Monday, June 25, 2007

A Tale of "Resistant Starch" & What is Being Left Out

"Resistant starch" is one of the latest trendy ingredients in foods.

Resistant starch is naturally found in legumes, grains, and ripe bananas, as well as cold pasta and cold potatoes (more so in cold potatoes than hot potatoes), and is a kind of starch that is resistant to digestion by enzymes.

With fine particles and a bland taste, resistant starch has properties similar to fiber, and is being used to reduce calories and glycemic index of foods and is being tested for use in addressing condititions ranging from colon cancer to gallstones to hypocholesterolemia.

There's a commercial product called Hi-Maize that is being added increasingly to breads, cereals, and other processed foods to increase dietary fiber, promote weight management, improve intestinal function, improve glycemic management, etc.

There are plenty of good studies regarding resistant starch, but that's no surprise since adding fiber of any kind is usually a good thing and insoluble fibers have a long history of offering health benefits.

What prompted this blog note was a blurb recapping the Australian government's recommendation in the 1990s that all citizens consume more dietary fiber by eating more bread. A well-known story was recounted in a recent Nutrition Today article:

"A large baker in Australia was able to produce a white bread with Hi-maize resistant starch (from high-amylose corn) that contained more dietary fiber per slice than multigrain brown bread but retained the taste characteristics of the more popular white bread. This proved advantageous because people, especially children, had been unwilling to eat the multigrain and whole-meal breads. The white bread, called Wonder White, provided the first soft white bread high in dietary fiber in Australia...Within 20 weeks on the market, the bread captured 12% of the white bread market, and it continues to be a leading brand."

This kind of thing is always so sad. Great. More fiber. But what about all the hundreds of little phytonutrients and antioxidants that are missing in white bread?! Not that I'm a big whole wheat fan (wheat can tend to make me sneeze), but I am a whole foods fan whenever possible.

When deciding what to eat, it's as important to pay as much attention to "what is being left out" as to what is being included.

Funny enough, it's the same thing with conversations. Just listen to all the presidential hopefuls and pay attention to "what is being left out" of each speech as well as what is being included. :-)

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