A journal of my experiences with breast cancer to inform those who are interested and to help any one else who might have just been diagnosed.

“[She] will have no fear of bad news; [her] heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” Psalm 112:7

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Wibbly Wobbly Weight Loss -Living The Healthy Life: All Carbohydrates Are Not The Same

Whole wheat pasta cooked al dente, prepared with olive oil and beans or vegetables with a side of side of greens is a healthy choice that doesn't raise blood sugar too quickly. 
I have been enjoying joining up in the discussions, Wibbly Wobbly Weight Loss – Living The Healthy Life! at Angelicscaliwags. She has started this discussion group at just the perfect time for me. I have been exploring a healthier lifestyle ever since I was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2012. My goal is not to lose weight, but to be healthier, however I think that a healthier lifestyle will probably result in weight loss, however slowly. I began my research with foods that help prevent (or prevent the re-occurrence) cancer and recipes that feature these foods. Then I began to realize the many reasons why we eat what we do. 
I grew up in a very dysfunctional family, and I didn't always get adequate nutrition. For years whenever the refrigerator became empty or my food supply low, I began to panic. Due to my husband's loving care, I have gotten over this, but I still get the same panic whenever I get really hungry. And yet, as my brother wisely put to me once, in order to lose weight, you have to leave the table before you are totally full. Thus, my struggle with portion control. 
I have also been reading a lot about the typical American diet and blood sugar. I have learned that the American diet is full of foods that send us for a wild ride on the blood sugar roller coaster in which we eat fast-acting carbohydrates in order to feel better fast, but they run out quickly, leaving us feel like we are starving. All of this roller-coaster eating can lead to all sorts of medical problems, including diabetes and cancer. 
To find out which carbohydrates are the best and worst took a lot of research on the part of scientists. Back in 1981, Dr Jenkins came up with something called the glycemic index. He had volunteers eat 50 grams of different foods and measured the volunteer's blood sugar over a two-hour period to see how high it went. As a control, he used pure glucose and assigned it the number 100. Using the information from this study, we found out that some foods such as potatoes and cornflakes ranked almost as high as pure glucose in terms of its ability to raise blood sugar.
The only problem with this study was that he measured the same amount, 50 grams, for each food tested. This means that 50 grams of carbohydrate in bread is about one slice and on the other hand, 50 grams of carrots is about seven or eight large ones. The 50 gram measurement did not coincide with how we ate the foods.
To solve this problem, scientists came up with a different measurement, called glycemic load, which took in account not only the type of carbohydrate in the food but also the amount of carbohydrate you would eat in a standard serving. By this method, carrots, strawberries and other low-calorie foods that are good to eat all have low GL values since the amount of carbohydrates they contain is low.
All of this means that some starchy foods like white rice are easy for the body to convert to sugars, therefore raising the blood sugar levels in the body quickly, while those in beans, for example,  take a lot more work for the body to break down, and so  blood sugar levels are more level.
There are four factors that determines which carbs are better than others.
  1. The type of starch. Starches are made of sugar molecules chained together. Some chains have straight edges, while others are branched. The straight-edged type, called amylose, are harder for your body to break down and turn into blood sugar. The branched type, called amylopectin, are much easier to break down because there are so many places for the enzymes that break down starches to get at it. For example, the firmer the rice, the higher the amylose and the harder it is for your body to turn it into blood sugar, making brown rice a better choice than white rice.
  2. The type of sugar.  The sugar in milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose) tend to be absorbed more slowly than other sugars since they need to be turned into glucose by the liver first.
  3. Heat...avoid overcooking starches. All starches are composed of crystals, which are broken down by heat, making them easier to digest. The more cooked the pasta is, for example, the faster it makes your blood sugar rise. One interesting thing, however, is that once the starch is cooled, it returns, in part to its crystal form, which is why hot potatoes have a high glycemic index, but potato salad's is slightly lower.
  4. Processing. Minimally processed whole wheat takes longer for the body to break down than white flour, making whole wheat pasta a much better choice than regular pasta, and wheatberries an even better choice.
I have been using these principals to change my diet and it has helped a lot to lower my cravings, made it easier to practice portion control and has given me more energy.


  1. This is such a great post! I feel like I have had a very useful science lesson. I have learned a lot.

  2. Oh, I am so glad you have done this! It is an excellent post and full of nutritional goodness. Would you mind if I linked to it tomorrow, or would you rather link to it in the comments section this week and I'll link to it next week? Either or neither is fine!

  3. I'm trying to think through portion control and different foods, but it's so hard because I know all the foods I really like are just not that good for you.

  4. Even with my healthier foods I find I need to think over my portion control. This is such an interesting post. Thanks for sharing what you find and learn with the rest of us!