Monthly Archives: June 2018

bad carbs

Are Your Carbs Slowly Killing You?

Let’s go have a burger, but make the bun whole grain please! Ok, so fat is now in and carbs are out. It seems like there’s research to support any diet you choose to follow. Are we getting smarter or just making things so confusing people just throw their arms up in the air, say “screw that” and just eat whatever their heart desires.

But, if you desire your heart, you might want to read this to get some clarity on the controversy.

PURE research

The Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study, reported in ScienceDaily.com, asked dietary questions to over 135,000 low, middle and high income people over a 10-year period from Africa, North America, South America, Asia and Europe.

There were three parts to the PURE study. One looked at the impact of dietary fats on clinical outcomes while another focused on the consumption of fruits, vegetables and legumes in relation to death, heart disease and strokes. The third component, reported in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, looked at the impact of dietary fats and carbohydrates on blood lipids and blood pressure.

A summary of the data released in August, revealed that a diet consisting of a moderate amount of fat, fruits, vegetables and legumes and avoidance of a high proportion of carbohydrate was associated with a lower risk of death.

The results were surprising and not in accordance with the current dietary guidelines of dietary fats making up 30% or less of total calories, carbohydrates making up 50% and fats making up the rest while keeping saturated fats to less than 10% of daily calories.

Making sense of the PURE data

Actually, the results do make sense. The lead researcher, Mahshid Dehghan, in an interview with Science Daily said:

“A decrease in fat intake automatically led to an increase in carbohydrate consumption and our findings may explain why certain populations such as South Asians, who do not consume much fat but consume a lot of carbohydrates, have higher mortality rates.”

Many of the participants were low income and ate a diet consisting heavily of white rice and lower on animal products and produce. White rice is a high glycemic food – making blood sugars skyrocket with each additional serving. Animal products are high in protein and produce is high in fiber which slows down digestion and the rise in blood sugar.

If you look at the graph of macronutrients below, you’ll notice that carbohydrates make the blood sugar spike with a steeper parabola than protein and fat. The larger the portion of a simple carbohydrate like white rice, and not combined with much protein or fat, the quicker and larger the blood sugar rise which puts stress on the pancreas to make more insulin to take care of the extra glucose in the blood stream. Eventually, this leads to damage of the arteries and an impaired pancreas, and an earlier death.

macronutrients and impact on blood sugar

Blood sugar and lipid connection

metabolic syndromeHow can high blood sugar affect the fats in your blood stream?

When you eat a lot of processed, white carbs – like white pasta, rice, bread, and crackers – your body quickly digests them and converts them to glucose. Your body can use some of this glucose for fuel, but any extra gets stored in the form of triglycerides.

Findings from the third study also found that a high carbohydrate diet, particularly one with refined grains, was associated with a lower good cholesterol – HDL – which is heart-protective.

A low HDL and high triglycerides are two of the five components of metabolic syndrome – one more of the 5 components and you’ve got heart disease and diabetes in your future.

Glycemic Index and your blood sugar

Glycemic IndexThere are “good” and “bad” carbs. Well, maybe there are some “bad” or unhealthy carbs that really taste good, darn it. I love you Holy Donut. But there are also some “good” carbs that also taste good.

Carbs that are lower in glycemic index are much healthier for you as explained below. Low glycemic foods include legumes like lentils, steel-cut oats, whole grain pasta, fruits and non-starchy veggies. Do you think donuts could taste as good if they were made with whole oat flour and baked instead of fried?

High glycemic foods are all your “white” foods including russet potatoes, pretzels, popcorn, rice cakes and melons and pineapple.

So, a plate of white pasta, which can be as much as four times the recommended serving, with tomato sauce (and most have added sugars), will shoot your blood sugar way up. A large bowl of Rice Chex with milk will do the same thing. Both meals are high in low glycemic carbohydrates and low in protein, fiber and fat.

The rise in blood sugar will cause your body to release extra insulin that will cause your blood sugar to plummet, as you can tell by the graph on the right. In fact, your blood sugar can drop down lower than normal, triggering an adaptive response by your body to get your blood sugar back up to normal. This adaptive response releases epinephrine leading to shakiness, irritability and even a headache. So, you go from food coma to nervous Nellie – that’s an emotional roller-coaster I wouldn’t want to be on.

What you can do

The findings from the PURE study are logical. The important message here is to:

  1. Pay attention to portion sizes of your carbohydrates – use the food label to become aware of a serving size.
  2. Make at least half of your carbs low-glycemic, moving away from the “whites”.
  3. Include a source of protein – low-fat Greek yogurt, low-fat cheese, poultry, fish or lean meat with your meals and snacks.

 

Rhubarb

Rhubarb cake to die for

Nothing in the garden shouts out “spring” like rhubarb.  Rhubarb is a perennial that’s hardy in most climates as long as it receives a yearly dose of compost and is kept watered regularly. Just do these two things and your rhubarb will produce for years with an occasionally splitting of the roots when the plant gets too dense. Then you can divide them and plant them elsewhere in your garden or give some to your neighbors.

Rhubarb is really a vegetable but in a dessert it’s disguised as a fruit. It’s high in potassium and fiber and low in carbs. One cup provides 10% of the recommended daily allowance of potassium and fiber for a healthy adult and contains only 5 gs of carbs.  Potassium supports heart health, while Rhubarb nutritionfiber supports your gut health, lowers cholesterol and promotes weight loss.

I’ve always made strawberry rhubarb crisp with my rhubarb, but this year I came across a wonderful rhubarb cake recipe that I modified (of course) to boost protein, increase fiber and therefore lower that natural blood sugar rise that can lead to diabetes, weight gain, and of course, that after dinner nap.

This recipe will take you only 20 minutes to make and is moist and delicious. I reduced the flour by half a cup and substituted a half cup of potato starch, a resistant starch that can help lower the post-meal blood sugars  as well as make cakes even moister – especially if you follow a gluten-free diet and use gluten-free flour in your recipes. I also use oat flour instead of white or whole wheat mainly because it’s higher in cholesterol lowering soluble fiber and because it’s close to white, unlike whole wheat. Moreover, it concerns me how much wheat has been modified to yield a hardier grain, but one that I think isn’t as tolerated by our bodies as well.

Rhubarb Cake

1 cup white sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups oat flour (I reduce to 1 1/2 cups and add 1/2 cup potato starch by Bob’s Red Mill)
2 eggs
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup plain fat-free Greek yogurt
1 tsp almond extract
3 cups diced (1/4″ size pieces if you can)

1/4 cup water, to thin batter if you are using a whole grain flour

Crumb Topping

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 stick cold butter
1/4 cup oat flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Directions

Grease and flour a 9 X 13 glass pan. Preheat oven to 350. Cut up rhubarb into 1/4″ pieces.
In large mixing bowl, put in all the top 8 ingredients and mix well with a blender, for about 3 minutes. With a spoon, mix in rhubarb until evenly dispersed and pour in casserole dish. Mix the crumb ingredients until pea sized and sprinkle over the cake mixture. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean.

al dente spaghetti

Improve your blood sugar by eating more of this

Resistant starch. What the heck is that? It sounds like something you might spray on your shirt to prevent staining.

Actually, it’s something you want to eat more of because it’s probably one of the most health-promoting food discoveries of the past couple of decades. Resistant starch is truly a miracle food compound that will help you lose weight and have better blood sugar control. In fact it has revolutionized the food industry around the world. Food manufacturers are adding it to foods like pasta, crackers, breads and baked goods to promote weight loss and prevent diabetes. Consuming resistant starch helps reduce the risk of colon cancer, heart disease and obesity. And to think that all this wonderful health promotion takes place in the gut.

What is resistant starch?

Resistant starch is a non-digestible part of fiber that bypasses absorption in the stomach and the small intestine and is fermented by microbes in the large intestine.  This process favorably alters the absorption of calories and certain nutrients. Most Americans don’t eat enough resistant starch, only getting about 5 gms a day, while in countries where the diet consists largely of cooked and cooled porridge and beans, the average daily intake of resistant starch is between 30-40 gms.

Health Benefits

There are no dietary guideline recommendations for resistant starch but evidence indicates eating more of it can reduce both digestible calories and blood insulin levels. Research also supports:

  • Improved insulin sensitivity – this means less work for your pancreas and less circulating insulin. High blood insulin levels are associated to weight gain, diabetes and cancer.
  • Improved bowel health – protective against colorectal cancer, diverticulitis, constipation, inflammatory bowel disease, and ulcerative colitis
  • Improved blood lipid profile – protective against cardiovascular disease
  • Increased feeling of fullness and less calorie intake – helps with weight loss
  • Increased micro-nutrient absorption – improves the absorption of minerals, including calcium for bone health

There are discrepancies among countries in how resistant starch is measured; consequently in 2002 the Association of Official Analytical Chemists started recommending a specific in vitro method for consistency of measurement. Not every country follows this recommendation which is why you still see disparities in values.

Four types of resistant starches:

Resistant starch is both a dietary fiber and functional fiber, depending if it is from food or added to food. Its discovery has led the Institute of medicine to define fiber as viscous and fermentable and phase out the former definition of soluble and insoluble. There are four different types of resistant fiber found in foods.

  • RS1 – these types cannot be broken down by digestive enzymes. Examples are whole and partly milled grains, seeds and legumes. Milling and chewing increases digestibility but also reduces the amount of resistant starch.
  • RS2 – these resist digestion due to their physical nature. Sources include raw potatoes, green bananas, some legumes and high-amylose corn (Hi-maize cornstarch). Cooking and processing reduces them.
  • RS3 – these are formed in the process of cooling after cooking. They include bread and tortillas and cooled pasta, rice and potatoes. Processing reduces them.
  • RS4 – these are chemical modified starches made to resist digestion.

Structural changes occur in resistant starches with processing, cooking, ripening and temperature, making them more digestible and less beneficial. The advantages of the commercially manufactured resistant starch like Hi-maize, are that they are not affected by processing and storage.

Resistant starch in food

Resistant starch changes with cooking time and food temperature. A roasted potato that has cooled has over 19 gs of resistant starch while a hot baked potato has less than 1 gm. Foods like grains, beans and pasta that are served al dente have much more resistant starch than foods that are cooked longer and are softer.

Unripe fruits and vegetables have more resistant starch than riper ones.

Below is a table of common foods with their respective grams of resistant starch. The higher the number of grams, the better the source of resistant starch. You can look up other foods here, from freetheanimal.com.

resistant starch table

Commercial sources of resistant starch

resistant starchBob’s Red Mill makes potato starch that you can add to your smoothies or use in baking. And King Arthur makes Hi-maize that you can substitute for part of your flour. They also suggest adding it to soups and sauces to make them creamier.

Increase your dietary resistant starch this way

Good sources of high resistant starch include cooked then cooled potatoes, green bananas, legumes and raw oats. If you plan on increasing your intake begin gradually so your gut can adjust. Below are some ways you could increase your daily intake of resistant starch:

  • Serve your pasta and rice al dente
  • Instead of a hot baked potato, make cold potato salad
  • Make cold grain salads to take for lunch; mix quinoa, tuna and raw veggies with balsamic vinaigrette
  • Refrigerate your fruit and veggies to slow ripening
  • Instead of canned, prepare your own beans using dry and cook them leaving them a little crunchy.
  • Eat bananas that still have a partially green peel
  • Prepare your oatmeal or other grain al dente and let it cool before eating.
  • Make no-bake chocolate refrigerator cookies! Remember these? They call for uncooked rolled oats.
  • Look for pasta, crackers, and breads made with resistant corn starch. They will have fewer carbs and more fiber. That’s a win-win.

It is so refreshing to learn that simple changes in how we prepare and eat food, not another pill, can significantly impact weight and health. And these suggestions won’t interfere with your usual routine. If anything it will save time on cooking, allow you to cook enough for several meals if you choose (like making a pot of oatmeal), and it will save you time.

I have already made some changes in my diet since learning about resistant starch. I had stopped buying bananas years ago thinking they were really high in carbs, but now I will buy and eat them green. In fact, I will top my oatmeal with them. This morning I cooked steel-cut oats, leaving them quite chewy. I added some chia seeds, some dates and ground flax seed and then let in cool before I ate it. Interestingly, I noticed four hours later, my usual stomach growling time, I was still reasonably satiated.

I’m having company tonight and for dessert I’m making rhubarb cake replacing a portion of the flour with potato starch. I’ll share my recipe next time.