Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Real food, or why I'm not buying potato starch anytime soon

You might have heard some buzz in the paleosphere recently about consuming "resistant starch" in order to help promote proper gut health. Richard Nikoley's been going on about it on his Free the Animal** blog for a while now, and Mark Sisson recently caught my attention with his Definitive Guide to Resistant Starch and then a followup Q + A that tried to address questions people might still have on the subject.

The basics are this: certain starches (notably white potatoes, green bananas, plantains and rice) when cooked, and then cooled, contain indigestible ("resistant") starches that feed your gut biome in undoubtedly positive ways. But then, as Mark Sisson's article tells you, some folks have taken to supercharging the whole process by eating straight potato starch instead of the whole-food sources. Potato-starch sales are up -- a lot.

And that, my friends, is when it gets Too Weird For Me. (This article would agree for more science-based reasons that include an explanation of why I get what the guys on Car Talk would've called "Bronko Nagurski farts" when I eat too many plantains).

Yesterday, a reader of my blog and Facebook page asked me what I thought of the whole resistant-starch issue. My answer was more longwinded, but it amounted to this: I love the idea of eating real foods that help out the gut biome (raw sauerkraut!!), but if someone is recommending taking a supplement in not-really-exactly-food-anymore form (potato starch by itself? Blech), I start to wonder why we are being so damn gimmicky. 

You can find just about anything in the paleosphere. There are folks like me who are just doing the basics. We go off-road occasionally, but generally we just eat lots of animal protein and lots of vegetables plus amounts of clean paleo/primal carbs that are appropriate to our levels of physical activity. And then, way over on the other side, there are people jamming obscene levels of ____ into their gaping maws in pursuit of health through "hacking."

As you might know already, you can generally put me in the No Hacking camp. I'm all about simplicity these days. On the other hand, if it seems to good to be true (whole sticks of butter for everyone!), it probably is.

So.... eating green bananas? Or cooked and then cooled plantains, rice or white potatoes? Sure. That is still a whole-food solution to a very real issue of optimizing your gut biome. But gulping straight potato starch? I'm going to opt out of that one.

Pass the real food.

**Nikoley's an abrasive character to say the least. I have been reading his stuff for years and he alternately coaxes me into his blog with totaly legit knowledge bombs and then repels me with dick-ish behavior that I just don't get at all. Rather than link to his blog, I'll let you find it via your Googlemachine. You'll learn something, undoubtedly. You may also hate him within five seconds of getting there. It's all part of the experience. Your mileage may vary.