kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

Myths about Carbohydrates

  • All carbohydrates are the same
  • Since carbs convert to sugar, eating sugar is ok
  • If it tastes good, it must be good for me
  • The food industry and the FDA have my best interest in mind
  • Enriched foods have the same nutrients as the original food
  • Processing makes food last longer, taste better, and digest more easily

All carbohydrates are obtained from the plant kingdom.

Carbs are an essential and quick source of energy. They are easily converted to the body’s main energy source, glucose. There are 4 calories in every gram of carbohydrate. Carbs are important for the smooth functioning of the brain, muscles, and internal organs. Carbs regulate fat and protein metabolism.

There are three main types of carbohydrates:

* Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrate and occurs naturally in some foods, including fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products. Types of sugar include fruit sugar (fructose), table sugar (sucrose), and milk sugar (lactose).

* Starch is a complex carbohydrate, meaning it is made of many sugar units bonded together. Starch occurs naturally in vegetables, grains, and cooked dry beans and peas.

* Fiber also is a complex carbohydrate. It occurs naturally in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and cooked dry beans and peas.

When we get carbs from whole food, they are unrefined. Nothing is removed from them so their nutrients remain intact. These whole foods with their fiber still intact will slow the release of glucose into the blood stream maintaining the levels for longer periods of time and preventing surges of insulin. The best sources of unrefined carbs are whole fruit, dairy, some sweeteners like honey, non-starchy plant foods like broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, celery, raw carrots, leafy greens and, of course, sea vegetables, and, don’t forget, the pharmacy of the kitchen, herbs and spices. Include in your diet starches from vegetables like yams, potatoes, winter squash, cooked carrots, beets, and from legumes like lentils and beans.

Grains are a great source of starchy unrefined carbohydrates and provide vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other phytonutrients. They are for the most part the dried seed heads of cereal grasses and include familiar staples like wheat, rye, barley, oats, millet, and corn.

  • The bran is the outer protective shell of the grain. It contains B vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. 
  • The endosperm is the germ’s carbohydrate energy supply and the largest part of the grain. It contains starch, some protein, and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.
  • Remember that packaged cereal –  even those that claim they are organic and “whole grain” – are highly refined.

Refined carbohydrates are foods whose important nutrients have been removed.

This means that usually 79% of the fiber, 70% of the minerals, 66% of the B vitamins, and 19% of the protein has been removed. Examples of refined foods are commercial fruits and vegetable juices, jams and jellies, canned fruit in sweetened syrups, ketchup, and barbecue sauces. White flour products and white rice. Food manufacturers add carbohydrates to processed foods in the form of starch or added sugar.

Refined carbs surge into your system without the benefit of fiber to slow down their absorption. You will get a burst of energy, quickly followed by a low.

Signs of excessive refined carbohydrate consumption include insulin resistance, diabetes, high cholesterol, weight management problems, protein deficiency, fatigue after meals, adrenal stress, and aging. Gum disease and sugar addiction are common side effects of eating too many refined carbs. There is also an increase in dysbiosis, an imbalance of gut bacteria because there is too little fiber to feed the good bacteria in our guts.   

All plant-based foods contain both soluble and insoluble fiber. Fiber is the indigestible portion of plant food that moves food though the digestive system, absorbing water helping with elimination. 

Soluble fiber is found in fruits and vegetables. It bonds with cholesterol in the gut and eliminates it. Fiber delays stomach emptying, slowing digestion and allowing for nutrients to be assimilated.

Fiber is the principle food of beneficial gut flora, the healthy bacteria that populate our intestines. 

Insoluble fiber is found in grains, vegetable and fruit skins, and the woody parts of plants. Insoluble fiber cleans the intestines. It is not digested, but it improves bowel muscle tone. Insoluble fiber increases calcium absorption for bones and teeth.


Beets are low in calories and are a great source of nutrients, including fiber, folate, and vitamin C. Beets are packed with anti-inflammatory phytonutrients. Beets are also high in betaine – a key nutrient formed from choline. Choline regulates inflammation in your cardiovascular system.

The part of beets that gives it its dark red color is beta-cyanine. Beta-cyanine is a powerful antioxidant that’s important in fighting disease. This includes cancer prevention, especially colon cancers.

Today, sugar beets (unfortunately often genetically modified) are a common raw material used for the production of sugar, but many people are missing out on including them in whole form in their regular diet.

Drinking beet juice can help lower blood pressure. One study found that drinking one glass of beet juice lowered systolic blood pressure by an average of 4-5 points. The benefit likely comes from the naturally occurring nitrates in beets, which are converted into nitric oxide in your body. Nitric oxide, in turn, helps to relax and dilate your blood vessels, improving blood flow and lowering blood pressure.

If you need a boost, beet juice may prove valuable. Those who drank beet juice prior to exercise were able to exercise for up to 16 percent longer. The benefit is thought to also be related to nitrates turning into nitric oxide, which may reduce the oxygen cost of low-intensity exercise as well as enhance tolerance to high-intensity exercise.

The betaine in beets helps protect cells, proteins, and enzymes from environmental stress. As reported by the World’s Healthiest Foods, eating beets can help fight inflammation, protect internal organs, improve vascular risk factors, enhance performance, and likely help prevent chronic diseases.

The powerful phytonutrients that give beets their deep crimson color may help to ward off cancer. Research has shown that beetroot extract reduced multi-organ tumor formations in various animal models when administered in drinking water, for instance, while beetroot extract is also being studied for use in treating human pancreatic, breast, and prostate cancers.

Beets are high in immune-boosting vitamin C, fiber, and essential minerals like potassium (essential for healthy nerve and muscle function) and manganese (which is good for your bones, liver, kidneys, and pancreas). Beets also contain the B vitamin folate, which helps reduce the risk of birth defects.

The betalin pigments in beets support your body’s Phase 2 detoxification process, which is when broken down toxins are bound to other molecules so they can be excreted from your body. Traditionally, beets are valued for their support in detoxification and helping to purify your blood and your liver.

The green tops of the beets are loaded with important nutrients like protein, phosphorus, zinc, fiber, vitamin B6, magnesium, potassium, copper, and manganese. Beet greens also supply significant amounts of vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Beet greens have more iron than spinach.

How to Buy

You will often see the beets with the greens still attached during the summer and early fall. Or, you will find them loose in a bin. Pick small to medium-sized beets similar in size to ensure even cooking.

There are a couple of color variations. The red are the most common. These are the beets used in borscht. They have a sweet and earthy flavor. The golden colored beets are milder but still sweet. These are good choice when you don’t want red color to spread. There is a striped beet called the Chioggia or Bull’s Eye. This Italian hybrid is the mildest beet. The stripes fade when cooking, so to get the full effect, thinly shave them and add to salads.

How to Store

Store beets and their greens separately. Gently twist the greens at the base, near the root, to break them off. This will leave behind an inch or two of stem. Unwashed vegetables stay fresher in the fridge longer. The greens can be wrapped in a damp paper towel to stay fresh.

How to Cook

Wash and dice beets, place them on a lined cookie sheet and bake until just tender – 30 minutes, this will depend on the size.
Add beets to roasted vegetables.
Cooked beets and goat cheese are a great combination.
Thinly slice beets into salads.

Vegetarian Red Borscht

David Tanis, New York Times

6-8 Servings


2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 cup diced celery
1 large leek, diced (about 1 cup)
salt and pepper
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 T tomato paste
1 t paprika
1/2 t caraway seeds
1 bay leaf
1 thyme sprig
1 pound Yukon Gold or other starchy potato (about 6 potatoes), peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
1 pound medium beets (about 6 beets) peeled and cut in 1-inch chunks
1/2 pound medium carrots (about 4 carrots), cut in 1-inch chunks
3 cups chopped kale
1 T apple cider vinegar, or to taste

For the horseradish cream:
2 T grated fresh horseradish
1 T lemon juice
1/2 t salt
pick of granulated sugar
1 cup crème fraîche or thick sour cream
Dill, sparsely, tarragon, and chives for garnish


1. Put olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat
2. When oil is hot, add onion, celery and leek, stir to coat, and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring, until the onion has softened and just begun to brown. Add garlic, tomato paste, paprika, caraway, bay leaf and thyme. Cook for another minute, stirring.
3. Add potatoes, beets and carrots, 6 cups water and 1 t salt. Bring to boil, then reduce to a brisk simmer. Simmer with lid ajar for 20 minutes, or until potatoes, beets and carrots are fork tender.
4. Add kale and vinegar, and stir to distribute. Taste the broth and adjust seasoning. Simmer until kale is done, about 8 minutes
5. Meanwhile, make the horseradish cream: Put horseradish, lemon juice, salt and sugar in a small bowl. Let macerate, then stir in the crème fraîche.
6. To serve, ladle into soup bowls, and garnish with chopped dill, parsley, tarragon and chives. Pass the horseradish cream at the table.

Bauman, Edward. Therapeutic Nutrition Textbook, Part 1and 2; Penngrove, CA: Bauman College, 2012


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