Lately there have been many new diets that swear by restricting eating starchy carbs like pasta or potatoes. This happen to be just the kind of foods that we often find so delicious and eat a lot in Europe.

Pasta with shiitakeWhen you eat a starchy meal the starch gets rapidly degraded in your gut to sugars that are quickly digested, which ensures that the sugars enter your bloodstream. This will, in turn, trigger the release of insulin in order to get the blood sugar level back to its normal values. Insulin causes the sugars to be stored in your muscles as an energy reserve. This increased amount of insulin in your blood also makes more hungry. So if you eat a starchy product you will get after the initial energy boost you will fancy another sugary snack because the increased insulin will let your blood sugar levels drop. A low and constant blood sugar level is associated with a good health.

It has been known for decades that when you eat a plate of pasta or potatoes after they have cooled down that you will get less sugar content out of the meal. By boiling the starch in water and then allowing it to cool down a part of the starch transforms into the so-called retrograded starch. This form of starch we cannot digest by ourselves, but they form a very good meal for our intestinal flora in the colon.

The retrograded starch possesses many of the beneficial qualities that fibres have also. Our healthy intestinal flora will produce all kinds of substances that are positive for our immune system and our vasculature. The sugars from the retrograded starch are not released in your bloodstream, thus you will consume fewer calories with the same meal.

A recent survey by the BBC, however, came up with surprising results. It turns out that when you let a plate of freshly cooked pasta cool down and reheat again in a pan, this meal will have only half the impact on your blood sugar level compared to the same meal eaten fresh. From this you can deduce that the reheated meal only provides half the calories compared to the fresh meal.


LeftoversIt’s clear that our gut flora is essential for our good health. What we eat determines to a large extend how our gut flora is composed. The intestinal flora feeds to a large extent on the fibers that we cannot digest in the small intestine. But also on the retrograded starch. This type of starch you can also find in many foods in small quantities. Examples are whole grains, seeds, legumes and bananas that are not quite ripe.

Nowadays in the supermarket you can find all kinds of bottles with probiotics at the dairy department. They are advised to drink for a healthy intestinal flora, but whether they have any effect is questionable. Research shows that the live bacteria contained in the drink hardly survive the acidic stomach and get into the intestines. And when you stop drinking these drinks on a daily basis, these bacteria are flushed out of your intestines.

With some disorders of the intestines, probiotics can help, but there is no evidence that these drinks promote the health of normal healthy people. The companies that produce these drinks recently had to adapt their health claims on the packaging’s in Europe, because the European Food and Drug administration concluded that the evidence was incomplete.
When you suffer from an irritable bowel syndrome you should carefully try out the effect of eating meals with retrograded starch on your colon. Perhaps it’s better to leave these probiotic drinks in the supermarket and just make sure that you’re eating enough fibres for a healthy intestinal flora.

A carbohydrate rich meal like a plate of pasta, especially when you reheat it, can be a healthy meal. Try to consume your carbohydrates as early as possible on the day because then you can use them that same day in the form of energy.