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Crazy Healthy

October 16, 2013

Marathons kill people. That’s not for me. But even Mick Jagger can strut around on a stage for a couple of hours longer than I can these days. So I have a stupid plan.

I don’t want to have washboard abs, or be able to bench twice my weight. It would, however, be nice to go to a wedding and dance to a few songs in a row without devolving into a sweaty and heaving shell of a man.

Luckily, there’s a video game for that, and it’s on the way.

But exercise works hand in hand with diet. In the past, I’ve proven that I can eat more than my fair share of healthful foods. Still, the last time I did this I saw my triglycerides spike because I had mistaken popcorn for a wholesome whole grain snack. Oops.

This time, I’m going to do even better. I’m still optimizing for lower cholesterol, and my goal is to do that while still keeping the triglycerides in check. These aren’t things that I care about especially, but I know they would make my doctor happy. So, thanks to the popcorn incident, I’ve learned that I’ll need to be smart about eating foods with a lower glycemic index.

It sounds crazy. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Let’s be real clear about something here up front. I’m just doing this for shits and giggles. There are people who have to eat these kinds of diets as a matter of life or death. Surely, if that were me, I’d take this project a whole lot more seriously. So please don’t misconstrue any of this as actual dietary advice.

My preconceptions were really pretty straightforward. Refined grains like white rice and refined sugars I thought were evil. Whole grains like oats and unrefined sugars I believed to be sanctified.

The simple logic in this was that if the body has to work to break it down, these carbohydrates are the best choices for those of us who refuse to give them up come Hell or high water.

So here’s the first eye opening experience.

Somewhere deep in my memory, I recalled that agave nectar has a low glycemic index. So instead of pouring expensive Grade B maple syrup on my yogurt every morning, I bought a cheaper bottle of raw agave syrup from Trader Joe’s. And it does the job just fine. It helps to get all of those generic Grape Nuts, flax seeds and organic lowfat yogurt down my pie hole.

But I was curious. Just how much lower is agave than honey or maple syrup, anyway? So I looked them up. You know what? It doesn’t even matter, because I apparently fell for a bait and switch that was revealed almost four years ago! I mean seriously, even this guy knows about it.

Well, looks like I’m back to real maple syrup. It’s okay. I liked it better anyhow.

Now that my world had turned upside down, I wanted to check the glycemic loads of a bunch of different foods. So I found a chart. I figured one from Harvard couldn’t be too far off. But now I’m more confused than ever.

All oatmeal is apparently not created equal. On average, the Harvard chart says oatmeal carries a glycemic load of 13. However instant oatmeal carries a glycemic load over twice that at 30.

Okay. Okay, so it’s not just about the food but in how it’s treated and processed. It’s a good thing to keep in mind. It shouldn’t be too hard to remember that more heavily processed foods should be avoided.

Except…

Well, there was this thing about the rice. Rice is complicated. It was complicated before this glycemic load game, and it’s even harder now. Rice used to be a much greater staple in our diet. We ate a lot of brown rice because I’ve been told that was healthier. Then I heard all rice had a lot of arsenic in it, and brown rice had the most of all. Awesome.

Fortunately, rinsing and boiling the rice reduces the arsenic load, and that’s how I’ve been preparing brown rice for years anyhow.

As expected, brown rice is better from a glycemic load perspective than its paler cousin (with a glycemic load of 16 vs. 43 per serving). The shocking thing when it came to rice was to see that the more processed converted white rice had a glycemic load of only 14. This I don’t understand at all. Maybe someone can explain it to me. But Young Master Fussy will be ecstatic if white rice starts to enter our lives at home. He loves that stuff.

Now oddly, the Harvard chart places microwave popcorn relatively low on the glycemic levels chart with a glycemic index of just 55 (this is different than the glycemic load which also accounts for the average serving sizes). Diabetes.org has a different chart that shows popcorn as one of the high glycemic index foods suggesting a score of 70 or above.

This is just maddening. Honestly, I don’t know how people with diabetes make heads or tails of this stuff. I guess it’s a lot more visceral for them. But one thing is clear: these things are not nearly as simple as I had suspected.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 16, 2013 9:56 am

    “Surely, if that were me, I’d take this project a whole lot more seriously. ”

    I don’t know… I’ve seen you around certain food temptations ;p

    That said, food is crazy in the ways we can categorize its merits. I just try to generally follow the “Eat Less Crap” diet when I’m not gorging on pizza or candy.

    BTW – my cholesterol is still perfect.

  2. October 16, 2013 12:28 pm

    A lot of an individual’s cholesterol readings will be down to genetics too. Which is why my overweight self who eats mostly meat, legumes and veg, with no hesitation to use white sugar in my coffee, has really low numbers, yet my friend who eats way less meat and dairy, jogs miles per day, etc. has numbers in the redline area, no matter what. Trigylceride ratios can also be lowered if you exercise more, especially the aerobic variety, so maybe some dance lessons would fill the bill for you. And more Omega-3’s from diet help too, and salmon makes that way pretty painless.

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