Any food that takes a longer time to break down the glucose and fructose to be absorbed by the blood is truly healthy. Hence, fufu is the deal! Juxtaposing this with rice which only takes 45 minutes to be absorbed by the blood, thus increases the risk of diabetes(Prof. Nyarkotey)
An article published by myinfo.com.gh which was attributed to one Medical Practitioner who specializes as a dietician, Dr. Ibrahim Osman, says it is dangerous to eat fufu after 4 pm. According to Dr. Osman, fufu takes a long time to digest and therefore needs to be consumed earlier before bedtime. Speaking to Daakyehene Ofosu Agyeman on TV XYZ a program dubbed My Lawyer My Counselor Dr. Osman added that it is best to eat light food before going to bed.
My take on this subject
The issue of whether heavy foods can be eaten after 4 pm is a subject of debate. This has led many dieticians and health experts to recommend light foods to clients. This old notion has become the norm. In this article, there are two main issues for analysis. Can heavy food such as fufu and other local diets be eaten after 4 pm? Are heavy foods such as fufu bad for our health as compared to light foods at night? What is the scientific justification for this subject?
The old argument
The old norm is that heavy foods such as fufu do not digest early whilst light foods such as white rice and many others digest early. Thus, light food such as rice and cohort can be eaten after 4 pm. But which is healthier? Fufu at 4 pm or white rice and others at 4 pm?
Digestion of fufu
According to Dr. Osman, fufu takes a long time to digest and therefore needs to be consumed earlier before bedtime. Does fufu digest? No! I know this article will raise several eyes browns. But what is the literature saying about the digestibility of fufu which is based on cassava and plantain? The whole argument supporting this is that fufu is a starchy food. Therefore, starchy foods are bad. The hard truth is that the starch content in fufu is resistant starch. What are resistant starch and its clinical significance?
Demystifying the myth: why Resistant Starch food is good for your Health
Being a Professor of Naturopathy with an interest in African Naturopathy, especially in the Ghanaian context, I found something interesting throughout my research on our local foods. What I found is that our local diets are highly nutritious and beneficial to our health. But it appears we have succeeded in demeaning them at the expense of foreign foods. We have shifted our studies to the negative aspects of our local foods and praising foreign delicacies. Our scientific community and medical professionals appear to buy into some of this brainwashing without conducting studies to ascertain the facts. This keeps me thinking and worrying.
Besides, any food that takes a longer time to break down the glucose and fructose to be absorbed by the blood is truly healthy. While light food such as white rice takes less than an hour to break down, fufu takes more than six hours as propagated. Rice only takes 45 minutes to be absorbed by the blood, thus increasing the risk of diabetes.
Let me state that: It is nothing but a food conspiracy by the industries that want to sell these products with the healthy label. Many nutritionists even claim that chocolate and non-veg food cause most health issues, but that also is not entirely true.
The problem lies in the staples, not the accompaniments. For decades, we have been eating the wrong staples. It is high time people see that and eat their local healthy foods like fufu and kokonte.
Not all starches are created equally
Fufu is made from a combination of cassava and green plantain. Cassava and green plantain are in type 2 of the resistant starch group. Take this clue: Type 2 starches are indigestible because they are compact, which makes it hard for digestive enzymes to break them down. I get surprised when people say fufu digest. It is therefore erroneous to say the fufu digest. Additionally, if fufu takes a longer time to digest; it is rather good for our health and not the other way. Let me explain why. What we forget to know is that not all starch is created equally. In one article by Links, R(2018), the author explained that resistant starch, for example, is a beneficial type of starch that can have a multitude of positive effects on health. Links, R(2018) further explained that resistant starch diets such as fufu support weight loss and blood sugar control. This article aims to espouse the scientific benefits of eating local foods loaded with resistant starch such as fufu. It also aims to bring to the public domain the importance of resistant starch and ultimately to educate the public that not all starch foods are bad as had been advocated for years.
History, Resistant Starch
Links, R(2018) in one of her articles explained that the ideal surrounding resistant starch emanated from the 1970s and hence has been regarded or considered to be one of the three major types of starch, including the already known digested starch and slowly digested starch. Hence, the idea surrounding resistant starch is relatively new as nutrition advocates have supported the consumption of whole grains and legumes as part of staple ingredients in a healthy, well-rounded diet. For instance, The Commission of the European Communities, the organization responsible for policy-making for the European Union, began funding and supporting research on resistant starch in 1996, and a review entitled “Nutritional Implications of Resistant Starch” was published in Nutrition Research Reviews, this review brought the concept and definition of what constitutes resistant starch and the mechanism of action. This also paved the way for recent studies on resistant starch by many researchers on the health benefits of this health-promoting compound, which led to the discovery that resistant starch consumption stabilizes blood sugar, and promotes digestive health and weight loss.
What is Resistant Starch?
Link, R(2018) article defined resistant starch as a type of starch that isn’t completely broken down and absorbed in the stomach or small intestine. Instead, it passes through to the colon and is converted into short-chain fatty acids, which act as prebiotics to help feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut. Another unique thing about resistant starch is that it is processed and metabolized the same way as dietary fiber, which comes with many health benefits. Due to this; studies consider it diabetic friendly, aids satiety, and aids digestive health. Web med also defined resistant starch as a type of carbohydrate that doesn’t get digested in your small intestine. Instead, it ferments in your large intestine and feeds beneficial gut bacteria.
Additionally, due to the way it aids satiety, some also regard it as a keto-support diet especially those considering a low-carb diet as it resists digestion or goes through the body undigested without raising blood sugar levels.
Types of Resistant Starch
Though fufu is a starchy food, it belongs to the resistant starch group. Different resistant starches exist. Sajilata et al.(2006) found four types which were highlighted in Gunnars, K(2018) article:
· Type 1: originate in grains, seeds, beans, and legumes and resists digestion because it’s bound within the fibrous cell walls.
· Type 2: Originate in some starchy foods, such as raw potatoes and green (unripe) bananas, cassava-related diets (flour, kokonte, fufu, gari, Abglikakro, et al ), and high-amylose maize starch. Type 2 starches are indigestible because they are compact, which makes it hard for digestive enzymes to break them down
Cassava belongs to type 2 group of resistant starch
Cassava flour is resistant starch. Additionally, cooling kokonte before eating also increases the resistant starch content. konkonte is ranked as a highly resistant starch diet.
In the case of fufu: the cassava and unripe plantain are both in the type 2 class of resistant starch. Fufu is therefore a highly resistant starch diet for Ghanaians.
• Type 3: We get them or formed when certain starchy foods, including potatoes, cornflakes, and rice, are cooked and then cooled. Haralampu, S(2000) explained that the cooling turns some of the digestible starches into resistant starches via retrogradation.
So because type 3 is a mixture of digestible and resistant starch, it could pose challenges when eaten at night. Though Corn has a GI of 52, which is on a low glycemic diet and is also a source of resistant starch. However, most commercial varieties of corn products may be composed of 40–60% resistant starch. The remainder is mostly digestible starch. This could pose challenges to diabetics. Besides, studies have been mixed on certain corn-related diets such as Banku and Kenkey.
For instance, Eli‐Cophie et al.(2017) found that corn and cassava mixed prepared food ‘banku’ had the highest GI value (73). This poses a danger to diabetics.
Interestingly, Kenkey passed the test. Eli‐Cophie et al.(2017) found that corn-related food Kenkey has GI (41) which is good for diabetics. Additionally, when Kenkey is cooled before eating, the
• Type 4: Chemically modified resistant starch found in certain processed foods(man-made) such as bread and cakes.
Additionally, what I also found from the literature is that resistant starch tends to coexist in the same food. For instance, the way foods are cooked or prepared can change the outlook or the amount of resistant starch in a particular food. This was demonstrated in how banana ripening (turn yellow) will degrade the resistant starches and turn them into regular starches.
This is why one study by Ogbuji et al.(2013) found that the average glycemic index for ripe plantain is 54.6 and 45.3 for unripe plantain. They also noted that the glycemic index values for fried, boiled and roasted ripe plantain are 56,54 and 55 respectively. Another study by Kouamé et al.(2017) in Côte d’Ivoire found plantain chips(unripe) to have a GI of 45 which is within the low range. The study did not support consuming Banana braisée(Charcoal –roasted light green stage plantain) which has a GI of 89 and uses the roasting method. The other cooking method for plantain such as chips used deep frying with major ingredients being salt, and refined palm oil.
A previous study by Ayodele and Godwin(2010) in Nigeria found no difference between boiled plantain (Bp), fried plantain (Fp), roasted plantain (Rp), boiled and pounded plantain (BPp), and plantain flour. The study found that roasted plantain gave the lowest glycemic index and the value was significantly lower than the other test foods.
There is a big difference between the two in terms of the resistant starch content. Green (unripe) bananas belong to the type II class. Type 2 starches are indigestible because they are compact, which makes it hard for digestive enzymes to break them down.
This has lost its resistant starch content
Mechanism of Action
Studies have found that resistant starches function similarly to fermented fiber. This was demonstrated in an old study by Englyst et al.(1996) which found that resistant starch penetrates the stomach and small intestine undigested, and gets into the colon where it feeds the friendly gut bacteria. Sears, C(2005) study found that human intestine bacteria(gut flora) overshadow the body’s cells 10 to 1 — this means we are only 10% human.
One review and one comparative study (Macfarlane, S. 2006; Brown et al. 1997) explained that when we eat most foods feed only 10% of our cells, whereas fermentable fibers and resistant starches feed the other 90%. This study is very interesting. Our local foods, loaded with resistant starches, are beneficial to us, yet we forgo them. Forgoing our local foods means we are losing a lot as Ghanaians.
Additionally, two studies (Guarner and Malagelada, 2003; Cryan, and O’Mahony, 2011) also found that the intestine is loaded with hundreds of diverse species of bacteria. The researchers found that the number and type of bacteria have the potential to influence our health.
Two studies (Wang et al. 2001; Topping et al. 2003) confirmed that resistant starch feeds the friendly bacteria in our intestines, thus taking a positive effect on the type of bacteria and their number.
Two reviews (Topping and Clifton. 2001; Wong et al. 2006) found that if the bacteria digest resistant starches, they form several compounds, including gases and short-chain fatty acids, most especially butyrate.
Resistant starch, Science
Lowers Blood Sugar
When we consume local foods from cassava-related, plantain, corn-relate, beans, seeds, legumes, etc., the resistant starch nature has been confirmed in scientific studies to control blood sugar. For instance, two clinical trials and a review (Raben et al. 1994; Higgins, 2004; Maiarz et al. 2017) found that eating resistant starch helps sustain normal blood sugar levels and aids glycemic control to avert any blood sugar spikes and prevent diabetes naturally. Another clinical trial by Johnston et al. 2010) also found that resistant starch may also improve insulin sensitivity.
One study by Brighenti et al. (2006) also found resistant starch has a second meal effect, this implies that if you eat resistant starch with breakfast, it can also lower your blood sugar spike at Lunch. This reminds me of the days when we used to eat the leftovers fufu early in the morning in the village before going to the farm. This is supported by two studies (Robertson et al. 2005; Maki et al.2012) found that this has a huge effect on glucose and insulin metabolism. According to the researchers when participants who eat these foods had a 33–50% improvement in insulin sensitivity after four weeks of consuming 15–30 grams per day.
There are trillions of bacterial cells in our gut microbiome. One of the significant aspects of eating resistant foods is that it benefits your gut health. Four studies (Jacobasch et al. 1999; Brouns et al. 2002; Lynnette et al.2009; Donohoe et al. 2011) found that when we eat resistant starch foods, they go straight into our large intestine, where the bacteria digest them and convert them into what we called short-chain fatty acids or butyrate.
Butyrate is used as the primary source of fuel by the good gut bacteria in our colon. Resistant starch both feeds the friendly bacteria and indirectly feeds the cells in your colon by increasing the amount of butyrate. The result is that butyrate improves the health of our gut microbiome, enhances digestive health, and supports the treatment of conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s, and ulcerative colitis. For instance, two clinical trials (Hylla et al. 1998; Zimmerman et al. 2012) established that resistant starch lessens the pH level, is effective against inflammation, and decreases colorectal cancer.
Additionally, resistant starch consumption benefits extend outside the colon. For instance, one animal study and a review (Gao et al. 2009; Hamer et al. 2007)found that the short-chain fatty acids, which remain in the colon and are unused further move into the bloodstream, liver, and the rest of your body, and function to support them. One review by Bird et al,( 2000) found that due to the therapeutic effects on the colon, resistant starch supports numerous digestive illnesses such as inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, constipation, diverticulitis, and diarrhea. Two animal studies ( Morais et al. 1996; Younes et al. 2001) confirmed that resistant starch consumption further improves the absorption of minerals.
Resistant starch has fewer calories than regular starch — two vs four calories per gram. The higher the resistant starch content in a food, the fewer calories it will have. Maybe, this could also explain why some communities in preparing banku add more cassava dough as compared to maize flour. Our forefathers knew exactly what they were doing but could not explain it to us in scientific terms. This could also mean that our forefathers were practicing science without documentation. Anyways, two clinical trials (Salas- Salvadó et al. 2008; Ramos et al. 2011) justified this and found that soluble fiber supplements can aid weight loss, because they can make one full and lessen our appetite. Resistant starch appears to be in the same line as soluble fiber. Hence, when we include it in our diet, it makes us full and allows people to eat fewer calories according to three clinical trials ( Anderson et al. 2010; Bodinham et al. 2010; Willis et al.2009).
Fights colon cancer
A previous clinical trial study by Hylla et al. (1998) in 12 healthy volunteers for two-4 weeks found that consuming resistant starch modified the metabolism of certain bacteria in the colon to aid in cancer prevention.
Zimmerman et al.(2012) in vitro study found that butyric acid, one of the compounds formed by the breakdown of resistant starch, may be effective in reducing inflammation in the colon and blocking the growth of cancer cells.
Other studies also opined that resistant starch might block the growth and spread of colon cancer cells and support the digestive system.
Anything with positive also has some negative side. For an instance, supplements made from corn known as Hi-Maize flour, have lower beneficial nutrients than whole-food corn-related sources of resistant starch. Also, Potato starch, for example, contains less of the calories and carbs in potatoes, but it also contains a lower amount of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals found in the potato nutrition profile as well. Too much can also trigger serious gastrointestinal issues. Eating high amounts can act as a laxative in the body and can cause side effects such as abdominal pain, excessive flatulence, and bloating.
Resistant Starch vs. Fiber vs. Starch-difference
Well, there are so many controversies surrounding this. But what is starch? Starch is a type of carbohydrate, which consists of many units of sugar joined together by glycosidic bonds. We normally get them in starchy foods, such as peas, corn, and potatoes. Links, R(2018) a renowned registered international dietician explained the difference and similarities:
Resistant starches, on the other hand, are not digested in the small intestine and instead travel to the large intestine where they are converted into short-chain fatty acids. Also, if resistant starch foods such as fufu or kokonte resist digestion, it means resistant starch doesn’t cause blood sugar to increase the same way as regular starch and boasts a much longer list of health benefits.
Meaning, that I will personally choose to eat fufu or kokote at even 8 pm as compared to white rice or what they term light food