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Digiteeritud eesti ajalehed


For starters, let me give you a quick summary of the first part of this article published in January’s paper, which was subtitled Simple Carbohydrates. The summery is followed by the second part of this article, called Complex Carbohydrates.

A simple carbohydrate or sugar consists of one or two sugar molecules.

White table sugar, corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup are simple sugars.


We call them empty foods, as they do not provide any real nutrients: no vitamins, antioxidants, minerals or fiber. In order to process the sugars, our body has to dip into its own mineral reserves. In addition, sugar triggers the excretion of B vitamins and most minerals and can set the stage for many devastating diseases.

Biologically, we do not need to ingest sugar in its isolated form. Our bodies can make all the blood sugar they need from the breakdown of complex carbohydrates.



Complex Carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates behave quite differently. Unlike simple carbohydrates, they break down slowly.


It takes the body a while to transform complex carbohydrates into simple carbohydrates or sugars.


When we eat complex carbohydrates, our blood sugar levels do not increase suddenly and cause a sugar high followed shortly by a sugar low.


Instead, the blood sugar curve is a gentle one, staying within the comfortable middle ground.


Blood sugar levels remain balanced because sugars from the breakdown of complex carbohydrates are released into the blood gradually over an extended period of time, providing vital energy and stable moods that last for many hours.


That is the beauty of complex carbohydrates: no extreme blood sugar or mood swings, but sustained energy and steady moods throughout the day.


Foods that provide us with complex carbohydrates are whole grains, vegetables and legumes.

Exceptions to the rule are potatoes and fresh corn.


The starches in these particular vegetables break down quickly into simple carbohydrates, so if you eat them without any other foods, your blood sugar level may peak.


To prevent this, combine potatoes or fresh corn with protein- or fat containing foods to slow down carbohydrate digestion.


It is no coincidence that pairings such as potatoes with sour cream and corn with butter are traditional favorites.

Then, there is a group of carbohydrates that I like to call the “fake” complex carbohydrates.


What I mean by that is white flour and all of its products: white bread, bagels, cakes, pastries, crackers, cookies, and white-flour pasta.


In these products, the wheat kernel has been stripped of its outer layer, leaving plain starch and few nutrients.


The starchy part of the grain is then ground into flour.


Each tiny flour particle has a relatively large surface area and is easily broken down by the digestive juices into simple carbohydrates, acting in the body very much like sugar.


Again you experience sudden blood sugar spikes and dips.


Again you have to tap into your body’s mineral reserves in order to process the food, because the food itself does not provide any.

Ironically, whole-grain bread has a similar effect on blood sugar and weight gain as does white bread – because it is also a flour product.


It is, however, preferable because at least it has all the nutrients that whole grains provide.

Look for breads that contain some intact grains or seeds.


There is a traditional German rye bread composed mostly of intact whole rye kernels and very little rye flour, which makes it an excellent choice of bread.


The same goes for whole-grain pasta – it causes unstable blood sugar levels but it does contain nutrients.


Just having some butter on your whole-grain bread or some cheese on your wholegrain pasta should slow down the blood sugar swing.

Many boxed breakfast cereals are touted as “whole grain,” but there is a catch.


Their ingredients were processed by high heat and pressure to produce puffed wheat, oats or rice. Some were extruded at high temperatures into little shapes or flakes, and some are flour products.


Because the whole grain is no longer intact in these highly processed preparations, they can have the same adverse effect on blood sugar as refined sugar does.

Fiber is also a complex carbohydrate, albeit one that does not get digested.


It therefore has no effect whatsoever on blood sugar.


Digestible complex carbohydrates are tangled up and often enclosed by the fiber of the food.


Fiber-rich foods such as grains, vegetables and legumes help to balance blood sugar levels by further slowing down the breakdown of complex carbohydrates.


For diabetics who really need to limit their carbohydrates, naturally fiber-rich foods are saviors.

Since the 1980s, a measure called the glycemic index has been used in an attempt to show, on a scale of zero to a hundred, how quickly certain digestible carbohydrates in particular foods are transformed into glucose.


Foods containing carbohydrates that quickly become glucose rank high on the glycemic index scale.


The higher a food’s glycemic index value, the faster the carbohydrate in that food is said to raise blood glucose.

Unfortunately, the glycemic index is misleading.


For the purpose of creating the index, scientists isolated the carbohydrates in the foods they were measuring.


But we never eat carbohydrates in their isolated form (except if we ingest a spoonful of white sugar) – we eat them as part of a package that includes all the other nutrients contained in a food. Any fiber, protein and fat in the food itself will slow down the transformation of carbohydrates into glucose.

For example, the glycemic index has unjustly given carrots a bad reputation.


Carrots may rank high on the glycemic index scale, but their naturally occurring fiber and carotene have a balancing effect on blood sugar.


The glycemic index does not take this into account.

More recently, the term glycemic load has come into use. It considers the entire nutritional content of a food, and it is therefore more accurate in predicting how quickly blood sugar levels will rise after the food is eaten.


Fortunately, proponents of the glycemic load concept have reinstated carrots as our friends.



Quinoa Beet Salad



Photo by Jaan Heinmaa


A lovely grain salad featuring the super grain quinoa. The beets give this dish a most amazing magenta coloring. Bring this to your table and everybody will gasp with delight – guaranteed!


Serving size: 6
Cooking time: 40 - 60 minutes
Prepare time: 30 minutes
Cooking level: easy


Food Recipe Keywords

Quinoa salad, beet salad, grain salad, vegetable salad, vegan, whole foods, clean foods


Food Recipe Ingredients

2 medium beets, tops removed, whole
2 cups (480 ml) water
1 cup (240 ml) quinoa, rinsed
2 pinches salt
1 bulb fennel, cut into small cubes
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 handful chopped basil plus a few leaves


juice of 1 to 2 lemons
4 to 6 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper


Food Recipe Instructions


1. Place the whole, unpeeled beets into a pot, add water to cover and boil until soft, about 40 to 60 minutes.
2. In a separate pot, bring the 2 cups (480 ml) of water to a boil and add the quinoa and salt. Bring to a second boil, then reduce the heat to its lowest setting and simmer, covered and untouched, for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Spread the cooked quinoa on a large plate to cool.
3. When the beets are soft, douse them in cold water until cool, then peel and cut them into small cubes.
4. Combine the cooked quinoa and beets in a bowl and add the fennel, scallions and chopped basil.
5. Combine the dressing ingredients in a glass jar. There should be about twice as much lemon juice as oil. Close the lid and shake to mix.
6. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well. Let the salad marinate for at least ½ hour.
7. Just before serving, toss gently and adjust lemon juice and seasoning if necessary.

Garnish with basil leaves.

Marika Blossfeldt


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