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 fiber 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.
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
1 cup brown sugar 1/2 stick cold butter 1/4 cup oat flour 1/2 tsp nutmeg
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.
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.
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.
Commercial sources of resistant starch
Bob’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.
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.
What would you say if there was a cheap, easily available kitchen item right in your closet that could improve your blood sugars and unhealthy cholesterol, and promote weight loss? It sounds too good to be true, but it’s probably the best kept secret that’s really worth sharing. The magical liquid is apple cider vinegar – made from fermented crushed apples.
What’s The Good Stuff in Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar’s health benefit is mostly from the fermentation that yields 5-20% acetic acid, water and some B vitamins, vitamin C and minerals. There are fast or slow methods of fermentation but both are healthy. It’s the bacteria, either naturally grown over time or added for the quick method, that ferments the cider or apple must. The vinegar is pasteurized prior to bottling to kill any harmful bacteria.
Apple Cider Vinegar and Antiglycemic Benefits
An NIH review of studies on the health benefits of apple cider vinegar are very promising. One study looked at the effects of consuming vinegar on two groups, one with insulin resistance (prediabetes) and one with type 2 diabetes. Each group drank 20 g of vinegar (4 tsp) in 40 g of water with 1 tsp of saccharin prior to consuming a meal consisting of 87 g of carbohydrates. The insulin resistant group’s blood sugars after eating were reduced by as much as 60%. There was less antiglycemic response in the group with type 2 diabetes, but insulin sensitivity after the meal was improved. Based on this study, it’s possible that people with prediabetes could really benefit from regular consumption of apple cider vinegar. Even the Diabetes Self Management magazine supports the regular use of apple cider vinegar and you can read reviews on the use of vinegar from readers of WebMD.
Apple Cider Vinegar and Cholesterol
There is a some evidence that apple cider vinegar can improve cholesterol. A Life Science Journal study showed that vinegar lowered the unhealthy LDL cholesterol and raised the heart healthy HDL cholesterol. And the BBC conducted their own study on 30 volunteers. They divided them into 3 groups: one drinking a malt vinegar drink, one an apple cider vinegar drink and the last a placebo before eating a large bagel. they did see a big difference in post-meal blood sugars in the apple cider vinegar group and were pleasantly surprised to see a drop in cholesterol as well:
“those consuming cider vinegar saw an average 13% reduction in total cholesterol, with a strikingly large reduction in triglycerides (a form of fat). And this was a particularly impressive finding because our volunteers were all healthy at the start, with normal cholesterol levels.”
Apple Cider Vinegar and Weight Loss
In a study that WebMD cites, 175 obese people consumed either vinegar or water and ate a similar diet for 3 months. The vinegar group lost about 2 pounds, while the water group lost none. Obviously, that’s not an outstanding weight loss, but I do wonder if it might be more effective in those with prediabetes since they are insulin resistant. Vinegar can interfere with starch absorption. If fewer carbohydrates are absorbed, than less insulin would be released from the pancreas. Insulin is a fat storage hormone; if less is circulating in the blood stream, then fewer excess calories will be stored in fat cells. I’m just curious about that possibility.
Warnings About Apple Cider Vinegar
Regular use of apple cider vinegar is not recommended for those with kidney disease because it may affect calcium absorption and could possibly have a detrimental effect on blood pressure. Due to its acidic pH, it is also not recommended for anyone with gastrointestinal ulcers. Personally, I would use caution if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or a history of gastritis too. It can also damage teeth enamel, so it should be diluted in a cup of water and consumed fairly quickly to decrease dental exposure.
How To Consume Vinegar
There are at least 10 other benefits to making vinegar part of your life – from using it topically to help with fungal infections to even helping with foot odor. But finding enjoyment out of downing that glass of sour liquid can be challenging. Here are some suggestions:
Switch to a lower calorie and healthier salad dressing by mixing 1 part vinegar to one part olive oil and add garlic and onion powder and a bit of salt.
Mix 1 cup of water with 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar and 1 tsp honey.
Mix 1/2 cup grapefruit juice with 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar.
There certainly is a lot of evidence on the benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar. It’s cheap, it’s tolerable in the recommended dose and there are few downsides. It’s surprising that more research hasn’t been done on the benefits, but I bet big pharma would not be too happy if their sales of Metformin and Lipitor declined. After all, we wouldn’t want nature’s medicine to “sour” big pharma’s profits would we?