Let’s talk a little about the Glycemic Index. It was invented in 1981 by two researchers at the University of Toronto. It measures carbohydrates, a nutrient in foods, and how different carbs raise blood glucose levels over a specified period of time. So what! Glucose is the building block of carbohydrates and the primary source of energy for your body. NOTE: PRIMARY source of energy for the body….worth repeating! We need carbs to fuel our body, provide energy and keep us going. There are basically three types of carbs: sugars, starches and fiber. We need all of these for optimum health.
There is a lot of talk (& confusion) surrounding the eating of carbohydrates. The low carb/high protein bandwagon blares loud and strong. I am not in that camp. There are certainly special circumstances that dictate monitoring your blood glucose levels, but knowing carbs are our primary energy sources dictates a need to engage in them! Embrace them! ENJOY them! There are certainly better ways to prepare carbs for optimum nutrition. I’ll help you with that a bit later. I would urge readers to explore research on this misunderstood topic. I am not a nutritionist or doctor; simply a woman who is invested in my health and an avid reader of those professionals who DO have cogent insight and answers.
When I was younger and engaging in endless dieting, I was under the impression that if I stayed away from potatoes, bread and too much fruit, I would lose weight. I lost weight, for a bit, struggled and then always put the weight back on. When I went plant based 8+ years ago and started eating more whole grains (including whole wheat breads/rolls), potatoes (all types, now normally steamed NOT fried) and tons of fruits and veggies, I have lost over 40 pounds…..and kept it off. I eat more food now than I ever did when I was dieting. Being older, people think you should eat less; of course that is based on your activity level and mobility. The point is, the food I’m eating is natural and contains sugars, starches and fiber; all carbohydrates! Of course I eat protein too, but I’m focusing on carbohydrates for this blog.
Let’s list the actual carbohydrate containing foods you could/should be enjoying:
Non -starchy Veggies:
Leafy greens (bok choy, cabbage) tomatoes, eggplant, broccoli, zucchini, cauliflower, artichoke, celery, cucumber, beans (green, wax….not legumes), leeks, mushrooms, onions, turnips, swiss chard,snow peas, asparagus….a BIG list! (there’s still more)
White potatoes, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, legumes, corn, peas, squash (acorn & butternut), parsnips, pumpkin, plantain, yams, plantain, taro
Considerations in Purchasing Carbs:
My personal advice is to purchase produce that is local. Consider a CSA (community supported agriculture) in your area. Check out this site for CSA information and a site near you. The less time your food ‘travels’ the better it will taste. Organic is also a good choice. There is cogent research on pesticides and the effects of uptake in both the crop and the metabolic abnormalities it may induce upon eating. More in later blogs on organics. If fresh isn’t available or you don’t like the ‘look’ of a certain fruit or vegge or you find yourself wasting a lot of produce…… go frozen! Nutritionally they are on par with fresh as they are normally frozen at the peak of their freshness.
Optimal Preparation for Nutrient Quality of Carbs:
Steam, sauté roast, blanche, grill……keep it simple! Add herbs. Keep the salt content low; try Mrs. Dash no-salt spices. Buy a bamboo steamer with 2 levels and steam large amounts of those wonderful cruciferous veggies (broccoli & cauliflower) for the week. Invest in a great non-stick sauté pan (I use Scanpan brand) Check it out here! When I sauté I don’t use any oil and only a bit of water or veggie stock should I need a liquid for sticking.
The key is to keep the vegetable/fruit as natural as possible. Cutting a potato and immersing it in a vat of highly saturated fat is NOT optimum and the potato has now been depleted of it’s nutritional beauty. Likewise for ANY deep fat frying or even pan frying. IF you are in transition with frying, try to be good……move to better (less oil in the pan) and head toward BEST (NO oil in the pan and add water/stock instead!)
Remember: This is a process, a journey, it’s not always easy and you will slip sideways, crossways and even backwards. Be kind to yourself and keep going. Build your life on a foundation of reality, and don’t waste your time on regret.