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Like White On Rice

Debunking the theory that diabetics should avoid all 'white' foods.

by Deedra Abboud in Mindset, Solutions
August 24, 2016 0 comments

It is human nature to desire that which we cannot have. It is equally a slam to our self-esteem to feel constantly denied ‘pleasures’ readily available to others.

My goal was to figure out how to help my husband manage his diabetes but without making him feel constantly deprived. Part of the strategy meant I had to make food that I would eat as well. I knew nothing would make him feel more deprived than me eating a different, more interesting and tasty, meal than him.

Early in my research, I found carbohydrates convert to sugar when digested. I also found the total carbohydrates listed on food labels includes the sugars.

Additionally, the common theory for diabetics is to avoid anything ‘white.’ White bread, white rice, white flour, white sugar.

Therefore, I completely ignored sugar and focused on limiting the total number of carbohydrates and ‘white’ foods my husband consumed.

We bought wheat bread. Wheat bread can be quite tasty now. Not so two decades ago. Eating wheat bread was a chore with very little pleasure.

We bought brown rice. I didn’t know what to do with it. To be honest, I didn’t really know what to do with white rice either. I grew up in the South where potatoes and pasta were much more popular than rice. The only rice I had ever made was sticky rice with butter and sugar for breakfast. Making dishes like rice pilaf was beyond my experience.

But I learned. I researched recipes and experimented. Brown rice took a lot more time and planning than white rice. While white rice takes 15 to 20 minutes, brown rice takes 45 minutes to an hour. Brown rice also has its own flavor and is not as receptive to absorbing other flavors as white rice.

I got very good at cooking brown rice, but it is just never as good as white rice.

We bought brown sugar. Brown sugar is fairly easy to work with, has a slightly different taste, but for most of my uses, it was a fine substitute. When coconut sugar came on the market, I was ecstatic.

We bought non-white flours. Now those took some getting used to. They were not All-Purpose and ready to go. They were not equal substitutions – you had to do a bit of research and planning to make them work for normal recipes. But eventually, I was able to cook just about anything with them.

Thus, this is how it went for about a year. Me struggling to plan meals that were low in carbohydrate and high in creative substitutions, my husband learning to eat new foods.

During one of Ali’s doctor’s visits, his doctor told us about a relatively new theory called the Glycemic Index.

I immediately started researching GI. Your blood glucose rises and falls when you consume something containing carbohydrates. How high it rises and how long it remains high depends on the quality of the carbohydrate. The method of measuring how much a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose is called the glycemic index value or GI. By testing real foods on real people using an internationally standardized method, foods are ranked based on how they compare to a reference food – either glucose or white bread. A food with a high GI raises blood glucose more than a food with a medium or low GI.

Unlike a Harvard research study that combined both quality and quantity and quality of carbohydrates in food, called the glycemic load (GL) and simply results in a low-carb diet, the GI focuses only on the quality of a carbohydrate and had some amazing results.

For example, long-grain rice has a low GI, Basmati rice has a medium GI, and brown rice has a high GI. That alone was revolutionary for my meal planning. It also made my husband’s meals when traveling easier because long-grain and Basmati rice are much easier to find than brown rice.

Another bit of excitement came from finding that 9-grain and sprouted grain breads have a lower GI than some wheat breads. Score! We were no longer relegated to wheat bread that often tasted like sawdust.

Yet another piece of information I gained was that increasing fiber not only makes you feel more full but also increases your body’s ability to process glucose. Plant fiber in whole grains can even help remove fat in the blood and prevent hardening of the arteries.

Today, the options to include low GI foods and plant fiber grains (quinoa, rye, and oats, just to name a few) are plenty. Even local groceries often carry everything from unusual side-dishes to alternative flours that are much easier to use as substitutions. The internet is also full of articles, blogs, and websites full of tasty recipes using these non-traditional grains and other low GI foods.

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