About Carbohydrates

My cooking revolves around the “healthy trinity” of lean proteins, friendly fats, and good carbohydrates. It may be hard to imagine how these abstractions translate into real food, but I assure you that my refrigerator is full (too full, according to my husband) of tasty incarnations.


As mentioned elsewhere, I have been influenced by the Zone Diet, but I’m no longer a strict adherent. One remnant of my former allegiance, however, is my respect for the concepts of glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL).  These parameters are used to characterize the impact of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels. A calorie may be a calorie, but- in my experience- people tend to feel hungrier and eat more overall when they consume large quantities of high-glycemic carbohydrates. In addition, high-GI carbs may increase “sweet-tooth” type cravings. This may not be true of everyone (and you’re lucky if it’s not true of you), but it does make an enormous difference in some people—and I am one of them. As a result, I focus on low-GI carbohydrates (i.e. most fruits and vegetables). Although I do use some high-GI foods (including conventional sweeteners), I either combine them with low-GI ingredients (e.g. beets with beet greens, corn with black beans) or use them in small quantities. Both strategies lower the glycemic load of a given meal. High-GI ingredients are never the primary component of any dish.

Because so much information is available online, I will not go into detail about the glycemic index and glycemic load, but will merely point you in the right direction.  Wikipedia presents a nice overview of the topic http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycemic_index , as well as a solid discussion of glycemic load http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glycemic_load . On the more practical side, you will find a database at http://www.glycemicindex.com within which you can find the GI of many foods. Armed with this information, you can conduct your own experiments and decide for yourself whether it is worth considering the GI or GL in your meal planning.

Before going on to proteins, I’d like to make one thing clear: I am NOT advocating a “low-carb” regimen.  What I do advocate is informed carbohydrate (and protein and fat) consumption in quantities that suit your genetic makeup and activity level. I don’t measure carbohydrates, but—based on what I know—I’d estimate my daily intake at around 130 g. No one would consider that “low-carb”.