What Is Potato Starch?
Potato starch is a versatile product that’s used in commercial food production and by home cooks to improve the texture of many foods.
In addition to its culinary uses, potato starch and its derivatives are used as dietary supplements and may offer a few health benefits when taken in large doses.
This article explains everything you need to know about potato starch, including what it is, how it’s used, and how it may affect your health.
What is potato starch?
Starch is a type of complex carb that’s found in the roots, seeds, and tubers of plants. It’s the main source of glucose — the primary energy source for your body’s cells — in your diet and is concentrated in starchy vegetables, like corn, cassava, and potatoes (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
The food, pharmaceutical, and paper industries extract starch from vegetables for use in a variety of products due to their thickening, gelling, and stabilizing properties. Concentrated starch products are also tasteless and odorless (3Trusted Source).
Popular commercial starches include corn, tapioca, wheat, and potato starches (3Trusted Source).
Potato starch is extracted from crushed potatoes. The starch is washed from the crushed potatoes and then dried. Its neutral flavor and high thickening capacity make it desirable in the food industry.
Nutrients in potato starch
Just 1 tablespoon (12 grams) of potato starch offers (4Trusted Source):
Carbs: 10 grams
Is potato starch gluten-free?
This is why potato starch is commonly used in gluten-free baking to add texture to baked goods, like breads and cakes.
People with gluten-related conditions can safely replace wheat flour with potato starch.
How does it compare to cornstarch?
Potato starch is similar to cornstarch, but it has a few differences.
Both are mostly flavorless and can be used in a variety of recipes as thickening agents. However, potato starch has a lower gelatinization temperature and larger starch granule size than corn starch, meaning it thickens recipes in less time (7).
Culinary experts claim that potato starch can withstand higher temperatures for short periods, while cornstarch can withstand longer cooking times but tends to clump together at very high temperatures.
How is potato starch used?
Potato starch is used as a thickener in the food industry and by home cooks.
When potato starch (and other starches like cornstarch) comes into contact with liquid and heat, it swells and ruptures. This causes starch molecules to leach out, which thickens whatever dish it’s added to.
Another desirable quality of potato starch is that it’s transparent and forms a clear gel, so it won’t affect the color or opacity of dishes, like fruit pie fillings. In fact, you can use potato starch to make completely transparent potato chips called glass potato chips.
Furthermore, this starch may improve the texture of baked goods, like cakes and breads. In particular, potato starch is used in gluten-free baked goods to provide structure and improve texture without the need for gluten.
Finally, some people supplement with raw potato starch due to its alleged health benefits.
Does potato starch have any health benefits?
Studies show potato starch supplements may offer several benefits, including improving certain aspects of gut and metabolic health.
Keep in mind that these benefits are related to consuming large doses of potato starch in raw, unmodified form or taking resistant starch supplements derived from potato starch. This isn’t the same as eating foods like cakes and gravy made with potato starch.
May improve SCFA production
Potatoes and potato starch are sources of resistant starch. One study found that Bob’s Red Mill raw potato starch contained around 60% resistant starch (9Trusted Source).
Resistant starch passes through your upper digestive tract and travels to the large intestine, where it’s fermented by bacteria. This is beneficial for digestive health, because this fermentation process produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) (9Trusted Source).
SCFAs, like butyrate, acetate, and propionate, act as fuel for the cells lining your large intestine and help produce glucose and fats (10Trusted Source).
Additionally, SCFAs support gut health by maintaining the integrity of the intestinal barrier, regulating inflammation, and producing mucus. SCFAs may also affect appetite, cellular function, and immune response (10Trusted Source).
Therefore, adding sources of resistant starch to your diet may aid several aspects of health.
One study with 20 participants found that supplementing with raw potato starch increased fecal concentrations of the SCFA butyrate, though individual responses varied widely (11Trusted Source).
A 2-week study with 174 people demonstrated that supplementing daily with potato starch was more effective for increasing fecal SCFA concentrations than other types of starch. However, as in the prior study, the increase in SCFAs was highly variable (12Trusted Source).
This means that supplementing with resistant starches affects people’s gut health differently due to individual differences in the gut microbiome.
To improve the efficacy of resistant starch supplements, personalization based on a person’s gut microbiome may be necessary. More research is needed.
Other potential benefits
Potato starch products may also benefit blood sugar control and insulin response.
In a study with 28 people, supplementing with a cookie containing 25 grams of a resistant starch produced from potato starch led to a 46% reduction in post-meal insulin levels and a 23% reduction in post-meal blood sugar levels, compared with a control group (13Trusted Source).
Another study with 38 people found that supplementing with a nutrition bar containing 21 or 30 grams of the same type of resistant starch produced similar results (14Trusted Source).
But results are mixed, and further research is necessary (15Trusted Source).
In addition to its possible benefit for blood sugar and insulin regulation, animal studies suggest potato starch supplements may help reduce inflammation, improve gut bacteria
diversity, and boost immune function.
Does potato starch have any downsides?
If you’re eating small amounts of potato starch in dishes, like breads and sauces, you’re unlikely to experience any side effects.
However, eating large amounts of indigestible starch, like raw potato starch, may cause digestive symptoms, like bloating and gas. This is because potato starch is fermented by bacteria in your large intestine, which can produce gas.
Adding large amounts of any foods high in resistant starch may lead to digestive issues, but this depends on the type of resistant starch and the amount taken.
Resistant starches from sources like potato, corn, and tapioca are less likely to cause digestive side effects than other types of fiber, as they are considered low in certain types of carbs called FODMAPs (14Trusted Source).
Foods and supplements high in FODMAPs may cause digestive symptoms like bloating, gas, and diarrhea, especially if you eat them in large amounts (17Trusted Source).
Nonetheless, there’s always a chance that potato starch may cause digestive side effects in some people, which is why gradually increasing dosing over time is usually recommended when taking potato starch as a supplement.
If you’re interested in using potato starch as a supplement, it’s best to consult your doctor first.
The bottom line
Potato starch is a versatile ingredient that’s typically used to thicken and improve the texture of foods, like puddings, sauces, and baked goods.
It may also boost certain aspects of health, such as digestion, immune health, and blood sugar control, when used as a supplement. All the same, more studies are necessary.
While eating small amounts of potato starch in prepared foods is unlikely to result in side effects, large supplemental doses may cause digestive effects.
Potato starch is safe when used in cooking, but you’re encouraged to talk with your doctor if you’re interested in taking it as a supplement.
Reposted from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/potato-starch#bottom-line
Photo by Markus Spiske