kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

Counting carbohydrates is something the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommended for years as a way to “manage” blood glucose levels. It entailed setting a limit for the amount of carbohydrates eaten during a meal.

The ADA said carbs are another word for sugars, the main source of energy for the body, and that glucose is one of the simplest forms of sugar to be “digested and broken down into a sugar your body’s cells can use.”

We now know that if you eat the right foods, counting carbs is NOT necessary. Scientists now believe obesity and metabolic disease don’t occur because of the number of carbohydrates we eat, but the types.

The foods most people eat nowadays are shifting their metabolism from fat burning to carb burning. Most Americans burn glucose as their primary fuel, which prevents their body from burning body fat.

Healthy fat is the optimal fuel because it burns much more efficiently compared to carbs, but that is not how we’re feeding our bodies. Consequently, many Americans are experiencing a lot of metabolic problems.

Some carbohydrates rapidly increase blood sugar by a lot. “Fast” carbohydrates are usually refined grains or foods and drinks that contain sugar without any fat or protein. Fast carbs produce sugars and rapidly digestible starches. These carbs are digested in the upper part of the gastrointestinal tract.

Sometimes it is good to increase your blood sugar quickly, such as when you are experiencing low blood sugar (less than 70 mg/dL). However, most of the time we want to avoid sharp spikes in blood sugar because it makes it hard to control your blood sugar overall.

Carbohydrates that are eaten with fiber, protein, or fat cause a slow, steady rise in blood sugar. The fiber, protein, and fat helps slow digestion and absorption of these “slow” carbohydrates. Slow carbs also help you stay full for longer and prevent large spikes or drops in blood sugar. Slow carbs are vegetables, fruit, legumes, and other carbs that resist complete digestion until they move further down the GI tract.

Dr. David Kessler is a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, former dean of the Yale University Medical School and the University of California, San Francisco Medical School and a physician. He recently wrote the book Fast Carbs, Slow Carbs: the Simple Truth about Food, Weight, and Disease.

Dr. Kessler believes that you will have a profound effect on your health if you markedly reduce fast carbs, engage in moderate-intensity exercise, and lower your blood levels of LDL. Low density lipoproteins are found in:

  • fatty cuts of meat
  • full fat dairy products such as milk, cream, cheese and yoghurt
  • deep fried fast foods
  • processed foods such as biscuits and pastries
  • takeaway foods such as hamburgers and pizza

Dr. Kessler wants people to know that it is not only refined flour that is a problem.

Some foods that are made with whole-grain flour can be fast carbs if processors add a second step called extrusion cooking. There is no way to be sure from labels if a food has been extruded. Extruded cooking uses intense heat and mechanical force to pummel and fragment the grain’s starch granules into ultra fine powder. These starch molecules are broken down into dextrin, which are shorter chains of glucose. Examples of extruded food products:

  • Breakfast cereals including filled cereals and flakes
  • Savory snacks including cereals, cereal chips, croutons and crackers
  • Crispy flat breads both filled and unfilled
  • Pre-cooked flours and cereal based baby food
  • Porous powders
  • Textured proteins and novel protein products
  • Functional ingredients such as binding, thickening and texturing agents
  • Encapsulated flavors – rapid preparations for desserts, cakes and biscuits, tea bags, loose tea, coffee, instant drinks and confectionery. They are also used to  incorporate active ingredients in tablets by direct compression or in cosmetic products.

People eat these kind of foods more quickly. These starches behave like predigested starches and the products are usually fatty, sugary and salty. In other words: irresistible and addictive. Food industry designers use this formula to create the most appetizing food, which is also often the most high-calorie food and most lacking in nutrition.

Because fast carbs get absorbed in the upper part of the small intestine, they never get to the lower part of the small intestine, where food stimulates the release of GLP-1, a hormone that leads to the feeling of fullness. Dr. Kessler believes we are eating 1,000 calories a day of these overly digestible carbs.

Fast carbs are detrimental for someone with type 2 diabetes. They elevate blood glucose and blood insulin levels more than slow carbs. Researchers have reported that people who ate higher-quality carbs, those with more fiber and less starch, were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Fast carbs are also dangerous for people with prediabetes. Dr. Kessler points out that that is 90 million of us.

You do not have to limit the amount of slow carbs you eat. Stack your plate with vegetables and legumes. Vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and leafy greens are high in fiber and low in starch. And, the fiber in legumes like beans, lentils, and chickpeas makes their starches more resistant to digestion.

Choose a whole piece of fruit rather than juices and concentrates. Select intact whole grains like rolled to steel-cut oats, quinoa, buckwheat, and brown and wild rice.

Dr. Kessler points out that LDL particles are in the chain of events that cause heart disease. The lower your LDL cholesterol, the lower your risk of atherosclerotic heart disease. By moving to a plant-based diet and replacing saturated fats with unsaturated fates, we can reduce LDL. Next time you are at the doctor, check that your LDL is below 100 and closer to 70.

You start accumulating LDL particles in your artery walls when you are a teenager and young adult. So, it is never too early to start thinking about your diet. And, aim for 30-60 minutes of exercise a day to strengthen your muscles and bones.

It is hard to maintain weight loss without exercise. When you lose weight, the body lowers its resting metabolic rate. Exercise helps burn more calories, and it gives you a safety valve for any excess calories you consume. Exercise also helps to maintain insulin sensitivity. In type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, blood glucose levels stay elevated because our cells aren’t sensitive to the insulin we make. Exercise helps the muscles take up more glucose from the blood.

Radish

The word “radish” comes from the Latin “radix,” meaning “root,” and the Greek word “raphanus,” which translates to “quickly appearing”. This is probably due to the fact that radishes are one of the fastest sprouters in the garden when they’re planted from seed.

A root from the Brassica family and a cousin to cabbage, radishes comes in many shapes, sizes and colors. There are various kinds of radishes with some growing in spring and summer, and some in winter.

Daikon, the white variety, is a spring-summer vegetable. In the U.S., the average large radish is red and round with a glistening white interior and roughly the size of a ping pong or golf ball. The original radish was black, and other varieties come in pink, dark grey, purple, yellow, and two-tone green and white.

The radish was mentioned in historical Egyptian records as early as 2,700 B.C.,  being cultivated even before the pyramids were built. Romans preserved the radish by using a paste made of honey, vinegar and salt. In Greece, the radish was so highly regarded that they made golden replicas of it. Eventually, cultivation of this crop spread throughout Europe, reaching England in 1548. In 1629 by way of sea, radishes were already grown in Massachusetts and slowly spread throughout America.

Radishes are one of the many non-starchy, low-carbohydrate vegetables. 1 cup of sliced radishes will provide 4 grams of carbohydrates, half of which are dietary fiber, and about 19 calories.

Radishes are a very good source of vitamin C. They also contain small amounts of:

  • potassium
  • folate
  • riboflavin
  • niacin
  • vitamin B-6
  • vitamin K
  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • zinc
  • phosphorous
  • copper
  • manganese
  • sodium

Radishes are full of fiber and are a natural diuretic, purifying the kidney and urinary systems and relieving inflammation. Eating radishes can help in the removal of bilirubin, a condition evidenced by a yellow tinge in the skin, mucous membranes, or eyes, often present in newborns. This type of jaundice occurs when bilirubin builds up in bile faster than the liver can break it down and excrete from your body.

Radishes are not an acidic food and they’re actually considered a heartburn-relieving food in many cultures. Radishes are a member of the Brassicaceae family along with mustard, cabbage and broccoli and they contain mustard oil, which helps to soothe the stomach and lower the production of stomach acid.

Some other positive elements found in radishes include detoxifying agents called indoles, a substance that may potentially fight cancer and work with sulforaphane, another beneficial compound that may help inhibit prostate, colon, breast, ovarian and possibly other cancers.

According to the  Linus Pauling Institute, cruciferous vegetables contain compounds that are broken down into isothiocyanates when combined with water. Isothiocyanates help purge the body of cancer-causing substances and prevent tumor development.

How to Buy

Radishes come in hundreds of varieties. The types of radishes are usually subcategorized into Garden Radishes, Winter Radishes, and Daikon Radishes. Some break these down even further into French Breakfast-Type Radishes, Black or Spanish Radishes, and Watermelon-Type Radishes. Generally speaking, garden radishes are small and round (about 1” in diameter) and come in a variety of colors (red, pink, purple, white).

French Breakfast radishes are a type of garden radish that grows slightly elongated, reaching about 2” long and ¾ inch across; they are usually red with a white tip. Winter radishes are larger and heartier than garden radishes, best for harvesting in the fall and storing through winter; Black/Spanish radishes and Watermelon radishes both are types of winter radishes. Daikon radishes are long instead of round, often reaching 6” or more in length. They are eaten raw less frequently than garden or winter varieties, usually being pickled or dried.

Radishes are planted and harvested early and seemingly impervious to light frost. When harvesting red radishes, pull them straight from the ground so you don’t disturb the nearby plants. The greens and the roots are used in cooking, especially with additions like spinach. Just wash them well and make sure they’re not limp or yellow. When radishes become overly mature, the root can become pithy or woody and be unpleasant to eat. Pithiness can also be due to extreme heat conditions.

Before refrigerating radishes, you should first wash them, remove greens from the top, and place them in water or with a tea towel wrapped around them. This optimizes moisture content from the rest of the radish and helps keep them fresh for about a week.

How to Store

Radishes store well in the refrigerator if they are kept in a resealable container or a glass container filled with water.  Freshly picked radishes can be stored for up to a month. Change the water daily.

How to Cook

Here are some ways to incorporate radishes into your diet:

  • Add thin radish slices to sandwiches.
  • Make a radish dip by pulsing 1/2 cup of non-dairy yogurt, 1/4 cup chopped radishes, one minced garlic clove, and a splash of red wine vinegar in a food processor until smooth.
  • Add a few grated radishes to your favorite slaw.
  • Use radishes as a healthy crudité for dips.
  • Pickle them like you would cucumbers.

When preparing radishes, don’t toss the green parts. Radish greens are delicious and healthy. They are flavorful in salads or sautéed in a bit of olive oil and garlic. You can also mix them with other greens such as mustard greens, turnip greens, kale, and spinach.

Vegetable Pajeon (Korean Scallion Pancakes)

Adapted from Sohui Kim, Insa and The Good Fork, Brooklyn, NY/ Photo credit Linda Xiao NY Times/ Food Stylist Barrett Washburne

3-4 Servings

Ingredients

FOR THE PANCAKES:

  • ½ cup all-purpose Gluten Free flour
  • ½ cup potato starch (or 1/4 cup each white rice flour and cornstarch)
  • ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¾ cup ice water
  • 1 tablespoon aquafaba – the juice from chickpeas or Egg Replacer from Bob’s Red Mill
  • ¼ cup finely chopped kimchi
  • 4 cups finely chopped or grated mixed vegetables (radishes, carrots, zucchini, bell peppers, kale, whatever you’ve got)
  • 4 scallions, cut into 2-inch-long sections and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons avocado, olive or peanut oil, plus more as needed

FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE:

  • 3 tablespoons tamari sauce
  • 2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger or garlic (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil, plus more to taste
  • Pinch of granulated sugar

Instructions

  1. Prepare the pancakes: In a large bowl, whisk together all-purpose gf flour, potato starch, salt and baking powder.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine water, egg replacer and kimchi. Whisk kimchi mixture into flour mixture, and whisk until smooth. Fold in vegetables and about three-quarters of the scallions. (Save the rest for garnish.)
  3. In a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Scoop 1/4 cup portions of batter into the skillet, as many as will fit while not touching, flatten, and fry until dark golden on the bottom, about 2 to 3 minutes. Flip and continue to fry until other side is browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and sprinkle with a little more salt. Continue with remaining batter.
  4. Before serving, make the dipping sauce: In a small bowl, stir together tamari sauce, vinegar, ginger or garlic (if using), sesame oil and sugar. Sprinkle sliced scallion over pancakes, and serve with dipping sauce on the side.

Resources

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https://www.clextral.com/food-feed-2/food/
Nutrition Action, May 2020, pages 6-7, interview with Dr. David Kessler
https://www.clextral.com/food-feed-2/food/functional-ingredients/
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http://www.freshvegetables.co.nz/assets/Members-pdfs/F001435797-2005-Nutritional-attributes-of-salad-vegetables-Copy.pdf
https://heinonline.org/hol-cgi-bin/get_pdf.cgi?handle=hein.journals/qhlj22§ion=7
https://foodfacts.mercola.com/radish.html
https://www.express.co.uk/life-style/top10facts/746523/Top-10-facts-about-radishes
https://cals.arizona.edu/fps/sites/cals.arizona.edu.fps/files/cotw/Radish.pdf
https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/vegetables/radish/harvest-radishes.htm
https://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlehtml/2015/ra/c4ra13315c
http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2606/2
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983
https://www.actahort.org/books/841/841_21.htm
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25968598
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20652750
http://powo.science.kew.org/taxon/urn:lsid:ipni.org:names:77159305-1
https://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/10-incredible-radish-benefits-the-power-source-of-potassium-vitamin-c-and-fiber-1397076
https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/the-benefits-of-radishes#6
https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/isothiocyanates#table-2
https://www.healthyseasonalrecipes.com/ultimate-guide-to-radishes/

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