When you eat there is no detail that is unimportant. Your food is a combination of whatever your food consumed to reach the point where it was harvested, it’s genetic lineage, the state of it’s decay or the microbes that are on it when eaten, the processing it underwent to get it ready for the stove or table, the changes that take place to it during cooking, and the decay or microbes that inhabit it during storage before it is eaten. We think a lot about spoilage before and after cooking and what that does to food, but very seldom do we think about what our processing does to the foods we eat.
A while back I wrote that a carrot is one kind of food if eaten whole, another kind of food if eaten pureed, and yet a third kind of food if juiced and drank without any of it’s solid components. It’s obvious that drinking carrot juice is not going to be the same as eating a carrot. It is not so obvious that eating a puree of carrot is also not the same as eating a whole carrot. When you eat whole roasted nuts have you ever noticed that the next day there are some chunks of roasted nuts coming out in your waste? When you chew something you generally swallow the mouthful of food in different states of mastication. Your teeth don’t uniformly pulverize your foods. Your blender does uniformly pulverize your food.
When you eat highly processed real foods you change the amount of calories that are available to your body. You will get closer to all of them. Those nuts in your stool are energy that was not processed in the time available in your bowels. Eating peanut butter yields higher amounts of easily accessible energy than eating an identical weight of peanuts. Eating an orange will not give you the same insulin response that eating only the juice of that orange does.
There are ways to prepare some things, like starches, that delay the absorption of the energy into your body.
That is a dramatic headline from the Washington Post yesterday and the gist of the article is that if you toast rice in butter or coconut oil before you cook it, or if you put butter in it after cooking it, the fats in the starches keep your body from processing the starches immediately. One of the problems with eating rice is that the immediate introduction of glucose from simple starch causes a high insulin reaction, which puts most of that glucose into fat, so as to keep your blood sugar within normal limits. Finding out a way to eat rice and not cause the wild oscillations in blood sugar and insulin reactions is actually very good news.
An undergraduate student at the College of Chemical Sciences in Sri Lanka and his mentor have been tinkering with a new way to cook rice that can reduce its calories by as much as 50 percent and even offer a few other added health benefits. The ingenious method, which at its core is just a simple manipulation of chemistry, involves only a couple easy steps in practice.
By easy, they mean that you only have to cook it like you do sometimes anyway. Here in the US, sometimes, a recipe calls for you to melt a tablespoon of butter, sauté your rice in butter, then cook it normally. That’s the discovery. When you do that, you have processed this starchy food in such a way as to limit the starch hit that your system will take eating rice.
If this works this way, then it also undoubtedly works for other starchy foods. When I boil pasta I put oil in the water. After I drain the pasta I put oil on it to keep the noodles from fusing together. This oil should moderate the uptake of the starches just like it would for rice.
There is one distinction, though…you let the starch cool with the oil:
by adding a lipid (coconut oil in this case, because it’s widely used in Sri Lanka) ahead of cooking the rice, and then cooling the rice immediately after it was done, they were able to drastically change its composition—and for the better.
“The oil interacts with the starch in rice and changes its architecture,” said James. “Chilling the rice then helps foster the conversion of starches. The result is a healthier serving, even when you heat it back up.”
I love this news. I want to be able to eat starchy foods and knowing that there is a way to limit its effects on my body chemistry. I will cook my rice in my rice cooker with butter, or with coconut oil, or with bacon grease…as long as there is a fat in there to help it out, I will let it cool and reheat it at mealtime. It’s a small change, it makes a big difference.
Also note that this change only occurs in the presence of fats. This is yet another implication of the negative effects of lowering the amount of fats in your diet. Not only do you force yourself to eat more carbs so that you get the energy that your body needs, but without the moderating effects of fats your body uptakes those carbs quicker, to a negative degree!