Friday, September 7, 2012

Corn is for Cows and other secrets from Italy

   I stopped eating canned corn and corn on the cob along with peas and potatoes sometime early in the 2000s.  I made this decision because they are starchy vegetables.  Starchy vegetables are higher in calories than non starchy ones (e.g. green beans, summer squash, kale) and have a higher active sugar content (carbohydrates). This starch content makes them have a higher glycemic index and glycemic load.  The glycemic issue regards how the body responds to the food.  These vegetables break down very quickly, spiking the body's blood sugar.  This does not happen with other complex carbs like whole grains and non-starchy vegetables.  Foods that turn to sugar quickly  require an insulin response - the body needs to get the sugar out of the blood.  Foods that turn to sugar and are digested quickly are the ones that we should avoid, according to the HSPH Nutritionsource, as they have been linked to diabetes and other diseases.  This includes ALL of the refined carbs (e.g. sugar, pastries, etc) and some complex carbs (peas, corn and potatoes).  The MayoClinic offers a nice list of non starchy vegetables.
Read more from nutritionists and Harvard scientists Here.
   You may recall from the posts about the revisions to the National School Lunch Program that the IOM suggested that children also limit starchy vegetables.  
   Because corn has been in the news a lot lately, I recalled something that happened back in 1983 that looking back,  I should have paid more attention too.  First, in case you missed it, the price of corn is much higher this year because of severe drought conditions leading to crop loss.  In the US, corn is used to feed cattle, make sugary syrups and to create ethanol.  I believe it was intended for only one of those uses and I certainly blame the second one for the influx of super calorically dense foods and drinks.  Now let me tell you what happened in 1983....
   I was in high school and my parents participated in the foreign exchange student program.  The young lady who came to stay with us, and who is my dear friend to this very day, is from Italy.  On one of her first nights in our home, before she came to know us, we served corn as part of our dinner.  Our guest sat aghast, painfully stricken and at a loss for what to do.  It was many weeks later before she admitted to us that she could not understand why we would serve her corn. "Corn is what we feed cows."
    Now it is time to consider her wisdom.  The diabetes rates in Italy are half that of the US and the heart disease rates are about a third less.  Add that to the longevity and the healthy cholesterol levels of Italians and I think we can start to make some connections.

(Ah the days of mashed potatoes, peas, corn and gravy.  We would make a place in the middle of the potatoes and fill it with another starchy vegetable and cover it in gravy. All role modeled by dear old dad.  Perhaps this explains all the heart disease and diabetes in my  family.)  PS - I do enjoy Asian baby corn.

1 comment:

Brad Lekin said...

Toss a half cup of chickpeas into your next pot of winter soup. You'll tack 6 more grams of flab-fighting fiber onto your bottom line.thanks
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