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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Carb Info

I've been eating whole wheat bread for most of my life. This week, while reading Dr. Andrew Weil's Eating Well for Optimum Health, I came across some information that surprised me: if it doesn't say whole grain, "whole wheat" versions of everything from regular sandwich bread, buns, rolls, etc. aren't really any better than their bleached white versions in regard to how our bodies digest and process them! "Simple carbs" like processed flour of any color, digest quickly and are easily made into glucose by the body. Unfortunately, this causes a spike in blood sugar followed by a crash - leaving most people feeling at the least hungry quicker, and sometimes ill. Worse, this may be a contributing factor to diseases like diabetes, and insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes). In the past, I've advised people, like most dietitians do, to get more of their carbohydrates from complex rather than simple sources. Dr. Weil makes some recommendations that make it easier to wade through the information and make smarter choices about the carbohydrates we eat: (paraphrased from the book, which I highly recommend reading)

-Get as many of your carbs as possible from unprocessed foods. Crackers, cookies, cakes, chips, etc. - anything with a long shelf life that doesn't need to be refrigerated - generally are low in fiber and nutrients, high in sodium and "bad" fats, and full of simple carbohydrates.
-Try to get some low glycemic index foods with most meals, like whole grains, veggies, beans or temperate fruits like apples, berries and cherries (not tropical fruit like pineapple and mango).
-Reduce the blood-sugar impact of simpler carbs by eating them with other food, especially those which include fiber and acid (like lemon juice), which slow digestion.
-Replace white and whole wheat bread with "dense, chewy, grain" breads.
-Eat pasta al dente, (cooked for less time and firmer). Longer cooking breaks down the carbohydrates for quicker digestion and more of an effect on blood sugar.
-Eat smaller, younger waxy potatoes instead of big "floury" ones.
-Basmati and brown rice are better choices than white or sticky rice.

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