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Q: I’m new to eating a plant based diet, and I want to cut down on simple carbohydrates (white breads, potato chips, white rice). Are there other vegetables that are considered carbohydrates? Elizabeth, Texas

Q: Ifamily. want to create balanced vegetarian and vegan meals for my I know there’s a traditional food pyramid, is there one

with Jill Hillhouse BPHE, CNP

for a plant based diet? Lee, New Mexico

have grouped these two questions together because the A: Imacronutrients in our diet (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) exist in relationship to one another, not in a vacuum. Given the current reductionist state of much of our nutrition information it is easy to think of just protein (last issue) or just fats or just a certain vitamin as beneficial but the truth is that nutrients work synergistically in our bodies. With that in mind, let’s look at carbohydrates by themselves first and then see where they fit into the whole food pyramid concept. The idea of simple and complex carbohydrates has been around for a long time but the actual biochemistry of these two is much different than the popular definition. For example, the white bread, potato chips and white rice mentioned as simple carbohydrates in the first question are actually all complex carbohydrates because they are composed of starch (polysaccharides) while table sugar (sucrose) and the sugar in fruit (fructose) are both simple carbohydrates. Regardless of the type, the digestive system tries to break all carbohydrates down into individual glucose molecules which then become our blood sugar from which the body can get its energy. Fiber is the exception because the body can’t break it down so it passes through undigested but does offer its own health benefits in the intestine. As with the protein information in my last column, I really try to avoid one-size-fits-all recommendations because they don’t work. The Institute of Medicine recommends between 45-65% of an adult’s calories come from carbohydrates while the World Health Organization sets a goal of 55-75% of total energy from carbohydrates. A more healthful way of looking at carbohydrate consumption is to consider the glycemic index of the food. This helps us classify carbohydrates based on how quickly they raise our blood sugar compared to glucose. So the white rice, chips and white bread are all high glycemic and act like sugar in the body, even though they are complex carbohydrates. Ideally we want to eat the lower glycemic carbohydrates (less than 55 on the GI scale) because quick and strong increases in blood sugar brought on by high glycemic foods are irrefutably linked to diabetes, heart disease and cancer. What we often forget is that all our vegetables are also carbohydrates and this is really where we should be concentrating our efforts. When it comes to food pyramids, there is a vegetarian one but the inherent problem of one-size-fits-all still exists within that structure. Optimal percentages of carbo-

14 - Aug/Sept | 2013 |

hydrates in the diet will vary based on a number of things including age, activity level, health status and insulin sensitivity. Have a look at the chart and try to get most of your carbohydrates from the low glycemic end of the spectrum and let’s load up on non-starchy vegetables! For a more complete glycemic index list please visit {B}

Source Qty Carbs

Glycemic Index

Vegetables broccoli (cooked) carrots (cooked) potato (boiled)

1 cup 11 grams 1 cup 13 grams 1 cup

10 39 78

Fruit apple bananas orange juice

1 med 1 med 1 cup

25 grams 27 grams 25 grams

36 51 52

Legumes red lentils chick peas kidney beans

1 cup 1 cup 1 cup

40 grams 32 grams 37 grams

32 28 24

Dairy skim milk soy milk ice cream

1 cup 1 cup 1 cup

17 grams 8 grams 46 grams

37 34 51

Grains Corn Flakes whole wheat bread rolled oats (cooked) brown rice (cooked) white rice (cooked)

1 cup 1 slice 1 cup 1 cup 1 cup

25 grams 22 grams 64 grams 46 grams 53 grams

81 74 55 68 73

Nuts and Seeds Nuts and seeds don’t contain enough carbohydrates to be measured for their glycemic index and in fact will lower the glycemic index of foods eaten with them.

Do you have a nutrition question? Send your questions to:

Blikki Magazine ~ August / September 2013 No. 5  

The Magazine for Compassionate Living

Blikki Magazine ~ August / September 2013 No. 5  

The Magazine for Compassionate Living