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Cooled Carbohydrates May Actually be Healthy, Study Shows

— October 5, 2023

Carbs might be healthy if they are cooled down rather than consumed right after heating.

In recent years, it wasn’t hard to find bad news about eating carbs. For many, carbs became the enemy, blamed in large part for weight gain and a long list of other issues. In response to that trend, some people have leaned even further into carbs, heated or cooled, and something of a debate has developed between the two camps.

For those who love foods that are high in carbs, any good news on the health front related to these foods has been reason to rejoice. Now, thanks to a new study into certain types of carbs, it might be easier to justify eating some of these tasty foods thanks to a possibly surprising health benefit they could deliver.

Many of the common carb-laden foods that people eat are traditionally consumed shortly after they are cooked, and while they are still warm. This includes things like pasta, potatoes, and rice. When eaten in this way, most of these foods pretty much live up to their reputation as being poor for human health.

Cooled Carbohydrates May Actually be Healthy, Study Shows
Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels

But what happens when they are cooled down? Surprisingly, their profile changes, and they might wind up being healthier to consume. This is according to Leena Hilakivi-Clarke of the University of Minnesota. Once cooled down, these foods become more difficult for the human body to digest, and as a result, they can be considered healthier options.

MACs, in the dietary world, are microbiota-accessible carbohydrates. These influence the gut biome in a positive way and aren’t traditionally found in some of the high-carb foods listed above when they are just cooked and eaten. When the carbs are cooled down before they are eaten, however, the story changes.

As the starches in these foods cool, they go through retrogradation, and the starches are restructured to take on a new shape. That means they are harder to digest and can get into the large intestine to do important work. And yes, this quality remains even if the food is heated up once again, so it doesn’t have to be consumed cold.

One group of people who might be particularly interested in this approach to eating carbs is those who have been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes. Traditionally, that means cutting out many or most carbs, as these foods can spike blood sugar significantly. However, if they take longer to digest after having been cooled, it may be possible for these foods to be consumed in moderation without such an effect. Of course, every person is different, so working closely with a doctor to figure out an eating plan that works for the individual remains the best way to approach dietary choices.

Eating a diet that is high in carbs and low in everything else still isn’t likely to lead to good health outcomes. However, thanks to what has been uncovered in this study, it seems possible that more people will be able to loosen up their self-imposed carb restriction while still looking out for their overall health in the long run.


Good news carb lovers: Pasta, rice, and potatoes could be great for your health. They just have to be cooled down first.

Health beneficial effects of resistant starch on diabetes and obesity via regulation of gut microbiota: a review

Harvard School of Public Health, The Nutrition Sources: Carbohydrates

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