Read this post to learn about an autoimmune friendly diet based on the Mediterranean diet, with inflammatory foods removed and beneficial ones added. The Resistant Starch Diet promotes healthy living for those with sensitive immune systems.
What is Resistant Starch (RS)?
Resistant starch doesn’t seem to get a lot of press, but it can be a powerful tool for weight loss and health. Simply put, resistant starch is a type of starch that is resistant to being broken down in the small intestines. This undigested starch then goes to the large intestine and feeds bacteria that in turn produces butyrate and vitamin K2, both of which have many positive effects on the body. In addition, the friendly bacteria multiply, which benefits stomach and immune health.
Who Is The Resistant Starch Diet Suited For?
I recommend this diet to people who want to prevent chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and weight gain. This diet also helps those who are very mildly sensitive to food – people who aren’t as sensitive to lectins.
This diet is sort of like a modified Mediterranean diet. The differences are I got rid of the most harmful lectins (wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), some legumes), gluten, dairy, bread (high glycemic index, yeast), and added cooling of starches for resistant starch (RS) (hence the name of the diet).
A Mediterranean diet doesn’t avoid gluten, dairy, or products from flour-like bread and pasta, and doesn’t emphasize “safer” foods. If you can handle gluten and WGA, then there’s no need to restrict it, but flour-based products aren’t conducive to weight loss or optimal health unless you restrict your meal sizes. So, while this is nothing new, there are some small, but important differences.
If you have no inflammatory issues whatsoever, my recommendation for optimal health is to eat this diet or a Mediterranean-type diet that’s suited for your needs, as it has the most research behind it. If you’re someone who notices a difference from dietary modifications, then pay attention to what your body is telling you.
A 10-year study found that adherence to a Mediterranean diet and healthful lifestyle was associated with more than a 50 percent lowering of early death rates .
A Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of heart disease in people at high risk by “about 30 percent” when compared with individuals on just a low-fat diet .
In the beginning, this diet has helped me with inflammation issues, but it wasn’t a complete cure.
I try to emphasize the “safer” foods for people with food sensitivities, but I’d recommend following a low lectin diet for people with more serious inflammation or autoimmune issues.
Many people can’t handle the restrictiveness of the low-lectin diet, so I recommend this instead. If your lifestyle precludes you from sticking to a strict diet, I recommend this diet and also supplementing with sialic acid and acetylglucosamine (NAG) to bind to lectins.
Some people can eat whatever they want and be healthy – as long as they don’t eat too much. They can handle gluten, dairy, etc. For these people, I recommend just eating real food, not too much, and make sure to include fruits and vegetables. You’ll get 80 to 100 percent of the benefits from this simple approach in comparison with this diet.
The Resistant Starches I Use
Resistant starches aren’t the main health benefit of this diet. I call it such because these foods contain decent levels of RS.
There are 3 types of natural RS. As you’ll notice, following this diet provides plenty of all three of these starches, in addition to other kinds of insoluble fiber, as well as soluble fiber. All fibers are not created equal and making sure to get a range of fibers is important.
- RS1 is found in seeds, nuts, legumes, and whole grains
- RS2 is found in uncooked potatoes, high-amylose corn, and green bananas
- RS3 resistant starch is formed when starch-containing foods are cooked and cooled such as in legumes, potatoes, and rice; the process of cooking out the starch and cooling it is called retrogradation
The main resistant starches of the diet are semi-green bananas, legumes, and parboiled rice.
Hi-maize resistant starch is a great low inflammatory substitute if you are sensitive to legumes or phytic acid. In addition, you can use cooled russet and Japanese or purple sweet potatoes (my favorite).
Cooled parboiled rice doesn’t have as much resistant starch as the semi-green bananas, lentils, or potatoes, but as a staple of this diet, it adds up.
Canned legumes from BPA-free containers are also good, as long as you’re not sensitive to them. I love the taste of prepared chickpeas and they provide quite a bit of RS, based on my subjective experience.
For a clinical dosage, you should have greater than 20 grams a day. With three green bananas (5 grams each), and most of your other calories from rice, lentils, and potatoes, you should be getting more than 30 grams of RS in total.
Note that if you have a carb intolerance I would recommend limiting the potato content to a serving a day.
If you get fatigued after carbs, I would limit grain starches to two servings a day.
Use Hi-maize and Waxy Maize as your main starch sources if you feel you are getting inflammation (experienced as fatigue) from plant-based starches (in essence, all starches).
Core Ingredients of the Resistant Starch Diet
When I say something should be soaked, let it sit in water for 24 hours before you cook it and dump the water. Then cook it.
If you have autoimmune or chronic inflammatory issues, you want to increase animal consumption. If you are worried about cancer or heart disease you want to decrease animal consumption, but you still want to include animal foods. I don’t recommend vegan or vegetarian diets. Chicken is the safest animal food for food sensitivities and fish is the best food for heart health. I recommend:
- Eggs (pay attention to see if you have a sensitivity)
- Pea protein – morning and/or afternoon if you’re not eating animal protein in the day; it’s the least allergenic protein powder I’ve experimented with
It’s better to cycle than eat the same food every day. Two to three eggs is a reasonable serving, as is ~four ounces of fish, chicken, or beef. I always have pea protein around if I run out of these foods.
Preferably use pastured eggs, wild-caught fish, and pastured chickens. These are more important for long-term health rather than the shorter term.
I buy frozen wild Alaskan salmon. I also buy smoked wild Alaskan salmon sometimes since it’s also convenient.
The healthiest method of preparation is as follows: soft-boiled eggs, steamed fish, and broiled chicken and beef. Once in a while, I’ll fry some beef since it’s delicious, though I realize this isn’t the optimal way to prepare it. Cooking chicken and beef in the oven make it taste three times better than boiling. It isn’t the healthiest option, but I’m not too concerned by it.
- Cod liver
- Sprouted flax – should be sprouted
- Sesame seeds – should be soaked
- Chia seeds – should be soaked
- Hemp seeds
- Sprouted sunflower seeds – better sprouted; unsprouted is good, too
- Coconut shreds
- Almonds – should be soaked or boiled until peel comes off
- Ghee – in moderation for sauteing, stir-frying, and using for sleep
- Extra virgin olive oil in moderation
- Hemp oil in moderation
- Black cumin seed oil
- All other nuts if not sensitive
Flax, sesame, olives, and avocado stand out as particularly beneficial. Flax is a good source of soluble fiber and is a demulcent or soother for the stomach. It contains ALA, the omega-3 fat which is important for optimal health. They both contain healthful lignans. Nuts aren’t as important as flax and sesame, but they are convenient to snack on during the day.
I’ve noticed improvements when soaking grains, therefore I recommend all grains be soaked before cooking.
Let the starches cool for a day for more RS.
- Hi-maize – my main source of RS these days. Nice, clean, hyperinflammatory starch
- Waxy Maize – Nice, clean, hyperinflammatory starch
- Go Raw Granola buckwheat groats for a snack on the road
- Squash (all kinds)
- Parboiled rice, white basmati rice or brown rice (should be soaked if brown rice)
- Corn on the cob
- Carrots, beets, starchy vegetables
- Purple sweet potatoes
- Japanese sweet potatoes
- American sweet potatoes (more inflammatory than Japanese and purple, but fine if you have no sensitivity)
- White potatoes (more inflammatory than Japanese and purple, but fine if you have no sensitivity)
- Buckwheat (should be soaked for 24 hours)
- Plantains (raw or cooked)
- Quinoa (should be soaked for 24 hours)
- Traditional sourdough bread
- Steel cut oats (should be soaked for 24 hours)
- All other grains should be soaked for 24 hours
All other WHOLE grains are fine if you don’t have any autoimmune issue like brain fog or chronic inflammation, and you can handle them. It’s always best to soak or sprout your grains.
You need to experiment for yourself. For people who do have health problems, stick with these. Pay attention to sensitivities from russet potatoes, as they are from the nightshade family.
Choose instead literally WHOLE grains (whole wheat bread is referred to as a whole grain, but not according to this usage) and WHOLE starches.
Brown rice, Japanese sweet potatoes, corn on the cob and buckwheat are whole starches. These foods, even if eaten warm, take longer to digest and therefore don’t cause the same spike in insulin.
For rice, I find three types acceptable. Brown rice has the lowest glycemic index and is the most nutritious, but also has more lectins than white or parboiled. If you’re not sensitive to these, then I recommend you consume this type.
Basmati rice is the cleanest rice I’ve tried and has the least phytate (even less than white rice), but the glycemic index is the highest of the three and it is the least nutritious. If you’re sensitive to phytate then I suggest you consume this.
Parboiled rice is a nice medium, with most of the nutrition of brown rice, little phytate/lectins, and a glycemic index in the middle of brown and basmati.
I’ve tried other kinds of white rice and I find basmati to be superior. Basmati rice has been cultivated and revered in India for thousands of years and originates from India.
According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, basmati rice has a “medium” glycemic index (between 56 and 69), which is in the same rank as brown rice and whole wheat bread.
- All sprouted legumes are ideal
- Tempeh (cooked)
- Black bean dip
- Chickpeas/hummus – without any preservatives or additives (pay attention to see if you have a sensitivity)
- Lentils should be soaked for 24 hours; let cool for more RS (pay attention to see if you have a sensitivity)
- All other legumes if you’re not sensitive
- Unripe bananas
- Wild frozen blueberries (beware of sensitivity to blueberries)
- Blackberries (I usually buy the frozen ones)
- All other fruits if you’re not sensitive
Go easy on the fruit if you have IBS.
- Leafy greens
- Broccoli sprouts, other sprouts
- Fermented veggies (sauerkraut, pickles)
- Raw garlic – 1 clove; go easy if you have IBS
- Cucumbers – juice it if possible
- Celery – juice it if possible
- Tomatoes; go easy if you have IBS
- Cruciferous veggies, cooked (broccoli, etc) – go easy if you have IBS
- Mushrooms, etc; go easy if you have IBS
- All other veggies
Beware of consuming too many veggies if you have IBS, especially the last mushrooms and cruciferous veggies.
- Black cumin seed oil
- Nori or other Seaweed for Iodine (or supplement)
- Nutritional yeast
- Italian Seasoning
- Braggs amino acid soy sauce substitute for salty flavor
- All other spices
- Olive juice, sauerkraut juice, pickle juice
Treats in between meals
- Honey mix or raw honey – plain (great before bed and upon awakening).
- Jasmine Tea
- Bragg apple cider vinegar
Frequency and Number of Meals
How many meals you have and how much you snack in between meals depends on your calorie needs.
If you have low-calorie needs, you will eat two meals and maybe a bit of fruit in between. If you have a higher calorie need, you can have four or five meals a day and snack in between.
I suggest going as low as comfortable. This means to eat as little as possible so that you don’t have strong cravings and/or anxiety. A small amount of craving is fine and healthy, but make sure you don’t crave too much.
More frequent and smaller meals are better than fewer and larger meals. If you have some type of glucose energy production disorder or neuroendocrine issues I can’t emphasize this enough. If this is the case, try to eat within an hour of waking up and ignore all of the intermittent fasting advice in the blogosphere.
Also, pay attention to portion sizes. An ounce of nuts is much less than you think.
What not to eat
- Sugars and refined carbs
- Oils in excess (2 tbsp of olive oil and 1 tbsp of ghee may be used a day)
- Processed foods
- Bread or foods from flour (even whole grain)
- Extruded foods (rice cake/crisps) – they have a higher glycemic index
- Carrageenan, BPA, other food additives (except sodium benzoate)
You can get all the fats you need and more from nuts, seeds, animal foods, avocados, and olives.
Oils are extremely calorie dense and easy to overdo. If you want many of the benefits of olive oil, this is achieved by eating whole olives.
Keep in mind that this is a template. If after trying the template you feel that you do better with more oils, then go for it. More olive oil isn’t a problem as long as you aren’t going over your caloric needs.
I actually recommend more extra virgin olive oil for people with the most serious cases of food sensitivities. I would first suggest you try excluding them or using them in moderation (2 tablespoons a day in total).
How Can Resistant Starch Help With Weight Loss?
Normally, most starches are rapidly broken down and absorbed by the body as glucose. This causes a rapid rise in insulin, which eventually leads to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance and obesity are closely related. Resistant starch helps weight loss in the following ways:
- Fiber: While the exact mechanisms of fiber protecting against weight gain are still under investigation, its ability to increase satiety and decrease subsequent hunger, along with altering the secretion of hormones related to food digestion, are considered likely mechanisms.
- Calorie reduction: Resistant starch isn’t a calorie-dense food.
- Satiety: Multiple recent studies have shown that naturally occurring resistant starch increases satiety and reduces food intake in the short term (within a few hours) and longer-term (for 20 to 24 hours).
- Fat oxidation: Resistant starch helps burn fat and may lead to lower fat accumulation. One clinical trial showed that it increased fat oxidation after a meal. These findings suggest a possible metabolic effect of resistant starch that may affect body weight.
- Fat storage: Resistant starch has been shown to improve fatty acid energy production within fat tissue.
- Improves energy production: An animal study demonstrated that resistant starch independently altered energy production in ways that prevented weight regain in a high-fat diet.
In addition, resistant starch causes the release of a gut hormone called GLP-1. This hormone “convinces” the hypothalamus that you are satiated and slows the rate at which your food goes through your stomach. Since you are already eating a ton of fiber on this diet, this slowed emptying rate creates a backlog and you are too stuffed to eat more. Once your brain and stomach are on board, it becomes simplified. My personal experience validates these mechanisms. It’s actually painful to eat a lot when you eat these types of starches.
7 Benefits of The Resistant Starch Diet
1) The first is the RS content, mainly from semi-green bananas, legumes, tubers(potatoes), and various other whole grains. Butyric acid is an HDAC inhibitor and these drugs are effectively used against depression and other cognitive disorders.
2) Besides the RS, the diet also has two other types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Both of these are important for the gut and general health.
3) The diet contains phytate and many other phytochemicals to prevent disease since it includes lots of veggies, fruit, and other plant-based foods.
4) The glycemic index or more accurately the glycemic load is pretty low because the whole grains are actually whole and not flour products, which spike blood glucose relatively quickly.
5) The diet is also nutritionally dense because it solely consists of whole foods and contains quite a bit of potassium and magnesium, two nutrients that are lacking in the standard American and low-carb diets. It’s also nutritionally complete by including animal foods to get the nutrition that can’t be obtained by a purely vegetarian or vegan diet.
6) It’s balanced by not going to any extremes on the macronutrients, meaning it doesn’t contain a ridiculous amount of carbs, fat, or protein like some other so-called performance enhancement diets that generally result in the opposite effect. The balance is consistent with our historical diets. People have always consumed tubers (starches), nuts, seeds, fruit, veggies, and some animal products (especially fish, fowl (chicken), eggs, and occasionally beef). Also, what’s most important is our diet in the past 10,000 years and that includes rice and other grains. Humans are very capable of adapting relatively quickly to new diets over even one to two thousand years.
7) Last, but perhaps most importantly, the food has a very low-calorie density, which is why everyone who tries it feels stuffed with consuming half the amount of calories. It’s hard to include more than 1,800 calories for me when I’m on the diet, so I usually go under that. It’s kind of like getting stomach bypass surgery in that it limits how much someone can eat. The difference, however, is that you also feel satiated instead of starving. Eating less calorie restriction is the single most important thing you can do for your health and cognitive performance. It’s the most effective way that I’ve found to be able to sleep less with the same level of cognitive function.
Grams of Resistant Starch per 100 g for Various Foods
The foods listed here are relatively “safer” than other foods with RS.
The RS content obviously isn’t the whole story, though. These and other foods are also loaded with other prebiotics and the effects are slightly different.
Still, these foods aren’t recommended if you have lots of food sensitivity. See the lectin avoidance diet if you are sensitive to various foods.
Keep in mind that other fibers in these foods also feed good bacteria in the gut, so the RS content isn’t the whole story. These figures are minimums unless there’s a dash that indicates a range.
Unripe banana: 4.7 – 34
Rice – cooked and cooled: 5.48
Corn – cooked and cooled: 4.4
Chickpeas – cooked and cooled: 6.35
Lentils: 3.4 – 9.84
Black beans – cooked: 10.76
Navy beans: 10
Plantain, cooked: 3.5
Plantain flour: 35 – 68 (I started to use whole raw green plantains found in grocery stores, and I put them in a shake. No issues with it, as opposed the inflammation I got from unmodified potato starch)
Buckwheat groats- boiled: 6g
Potatoes – steamed and cooled: 5.8g
Peas – cooked and cooled: 6.7g
Split peas: 10g
White yam: 4.3g
Normal Portion Sizes
One big mistake I see people make is not understanding that the portion size is critical. I’m going to assume for simplicity’s sake that people will eat three main meals a day. I suggest two of those meals be balanced. The other meal can be just a salad and 1 – 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Oils are only allowed if they’re eaten with vegetables and nothing else and measured out. Breakfast is the most important meal. Each balanced meal should contain a single serving of a starch, protein, fat, legume, and vegetable. Fruits should be consumed between meals if hungry.
The following is all the starch you need in a meal, assuming you are consuming >3 meals a day.
- 1 medium summer or winter squash or
- 1/2 cup of brown rice is a serving or
- 1 corn on the cob or
- 1/2 cup of buckwheat or
- 1 medium potato or
- 1 medium Japanese or purple sweet potatoes or
- 1 beet and a few cooked carrots
- 2-3 eggs
- 4 ounces of chicken, fish, beef
- 1/2 avocado
- 1 oz of nuts or seeds
- 1/2 cup of legumes
- a fistful
- 1 medium squash
- 1/2 cup chickpeas/1/2 stick of tempeh/other legumes
- 2-3 eggs (depending on size)
- However many leafy greens you can grab with one hand
- You can have a balanced meal for lunch, too, but it isn’t necessary
- 2-3 green bananas (depending on size),
- 1 oz nuts (walnuts, almonds, pistachio, macadamia, cashew)
- Some citrus fruit or berries if still hungry
Alternatively, you can have a leafy green salad with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and spices.
- 1/2 cup of brown rice
- 4 oz chicken
- 1/2 cup of lentils/other legumes
- 1/2 of an avocado
- However many leafy greens you can grab with one hand
How It Looks in an Overall Diet Plan
You only need to cook and prepare once a week. Total cooking and preparation time should take about an hour a week. You’d need to visit the store maybe once a month (excluding purchasing veggies) since most of the food isn’t very perishable. Bubbies fermented pickles and sauerkraut is ideal if you hate shopping for veggies frequently because they last a long time.
Seeds need to be ground with a coffee grinder. I place them in a container and store in the fridge. I do this about once every two weeks. You could also sprout them to make them healthier but it’s not important enough nutritionally for me to bother with it.
Brown rice and lentils can be cooked together and also last for the whole week if stored correctly. In practice, I usually try to make a new batch after four days because I don’t like to push it, but if I’m lazy, then I will eat them for up to a week after. I like to cook them in chicken broth, as it’s extremely beneficial for the gut and brain. I then transfer to a sealable storage container and snack out of it throughout the week. I try to practice some kind of portion control by stopping to eat when I am satiated but before I’m overly stuffed. I cook it with fenugreek and ginger. These two herbs are important for weight loss and overall health. They slow the stomach’s emptying rate and increase satiety. They are also extremely cheap.
Carrots can be cooked at the same time as the rice and lentils in the same pot. If cooked separately, I boil them enough so that they are semi-soft.
I put all of the condiments in one container and generously spread it out over the pot of food; using this method, I don’t have to open 20 spice bottles every day to add to my food. I then sprinkle on some Braggs amino soy sauce and eat it cold. The condiments and salt are really what makes this food palatable and enjoyable. Tomato powder is delicious. Combined with the other spices, the food becomes pretty tasty.
How to Prepare Meals on the RS Diet for Taste and Convenience
If you want your meals to taste amazing, with preparation under 15 minutes, then this is how you do it:
-Equipment: Use a frying pan or a wok. Make sure it’s not made from Teflon.
-Base: Put a tablespoon of ghee and dump on lots of chicken broth, enough to cover most of the dish. I’m normally not a fan of butter and oils, but 1 tablespoon won’t hurt and adds a ton of flavor. You can even try 2 tablespoons.
-Preheat: Put stove on number 4.
-Veggies: Put any combination of the following veggies: spinach, onions, garlic, bell pepper, squash, tomatoes, carrots, celery, etc..
Let it simmer and that’s it. You can add anything else that you want to it, including potatoes, meat, rice, and anything else. This method of cooking makes all food taste great.
Basic Supplements to Think About with the Resistant Starch Diet
1) Fish oil, vitamin D3, and iodine. Fish oil isn’t necessary if you eat fish four times a week. Vitamin D isn’t necessary if you get lots of full-body sun daily. Iodine isn’t necessary if you eat seaweed.
2) NOW Foods zinc picolinate. This diet is high in foods with phytic acid, which binds to zinc, in addition to the high copper content, which competes with zinc. Through my research, zinc is the only mineral that can be a potential problem. No need for a multi-vitamin.
3) Calcium citrate. If you aren’t eating dairy or bones/bone broths, you absolutely need to take calcium.
4) Glycine. This isn’t necessary if you consume lots of chicken broth.
5) Creatine. Creatine is in muscle meat and the body produces some on its own. This is a fantastic substance to supplement with at low dosages such as a gram a day. Creatine only becomes essential for vegans and people who eat little fish and meat.