Thursday, October 9, 2014

Resistant Starches

The subject of our Cooking for Wellness class was pasta. This dish, Summer's Last Hurrah, was made from gluten-free corn pasta, cannelloni beans and lots of vegetables. It was delicious especially with shaved Parmesan cheese

This photo has nothing to do with the subject. I've been playing with filters. This is from last Sunday's bike ride with Josh

The basic premise of the Cooking for Wellness at the Cancer Support Center is that high fiber, nutritionally dense in terms of phytochemicals, low fat food is best for good health and for possibly slowing down the recurrence  or progression of cancer. Simple sugars or starches with high glycemic indexes (meaning they quickly are converted to glucose) are especially bad news for certain types of cancer (and diabetes)patients notably those with TNBC. Indeed, survival times have been extended in some studies of patients with distally recurred TNBC with the addition of Metformin, a drug given to diabetics which cuts blood glucose levels.

Who shows up for these classes is a mixed bag. Some can't even identify a vegetable beyond corn, potato, tomato and onion. Few have heard of tofu. One woman in particular monopolizes the discussions by getting bogged down into details (was that one or two teaspoons? how much does that cost? etc). Extra fun, she has a hearing loss that necessitates having the answer repeated three times and many questions concern things that were answered a minute ago.Soy alone evokes many questions as many of the participants are dealing with estrogen driven cancers (breast, uterine and possibly ovarian). Our instructor, very excellent, tries to keep things simple. Last night, however, we were blessed with an intern who recently received a doctorate in nutrition whose thesis was in cancer preventing foods. Aside from her excellent slicing and dicing skills which enabled us for the first time ever to finish early, she was an advanced source of information.

The subject of last night was pasta. The pasta that most Americans eat is made from white wheat flour that yields a product with a high glycemic index and full of gluten that many people feel they can't handle. As far as I am concerned, the jury is still out on gluten. Yep there are true patients with celiac disease and many beyond that have gliadin sensitivity (maybe) but I believe the main reason is that people lose weight on gluten free diets is that they can't go to fast food restaurants any more. Last night, healthier pastas were featured. First up: corn pasta which contains no gluten. Although some say they smelled corn while it cooked, it didn't taste any different. It seemed to fall apart more quickly. It also cooked faster than the gluten white stuff. Most of the nutrition came from the add-ons, lots of veggies and beans. The dish was tasty. Ms. Details asked too many questions about the addition of 'deadly nightshade' vegetables which she heard cause cancer (these are peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, which the instructor uses freely).

Next up: pasta made from quinoa and a few other non-gluten grains. Advantage: more protein, no gluten. This was made into a chilled salad containing tofurky (soy fake turkey), kiwi, dried blueberries (blueberries get put into lots of the recipes here),water chestnuts, sugar peas,carrots with a creamy dressing made from sour cream(maybe she substituted greek yogurt), lime juice and mint. It sounded yucky to me but it ended up tasting good. I eat combinations here that I never would have considered, me who grew up on the three can rotating vegetable menu, peas, corn and green beans, and hating 2 of the cans. Finally, a more traditional dish, fettuccine with herbed goat cheese made from whole wheat pasta. It contained ricotta cheese/too. This was tasty but probably not as healthy as the other two dishes. Whole wheat flour provides a bit more nutrition that white flour.
She brought a variety of pastas for us to inspect that she did not use. One in particular caught my attention. It seemed to be made from the usual wheat flour. However the starch molecules were modified in some secret way such that the body could not digest them so one could eat pasta but not suffer the consequences of high glucose. Is this stuff for real? I asked the experts. Maybe, said our usual instructor. They have studied diabetics eating this pasta who didn't get the usual blood glucose spikes they would have from normal pasta. Then the doctorate weighed in with a discussion about resistant starches. There are naturally resistant starches, which she knows more about (as her thesis in part covered them) and modified resistant starches, which this pasta was made from. One pasta maker makes some stuff called 'white fiber' made from high amylase corn flour. Are the modified, frankenfood things good for you?

As for the natural resistant starches commonly found in beans and raw oats, just because humans lack the enzymes to digest them doesn't mean the bacteria in our guts can't. Aside from varying amounts of gas produced in fermentation, various fatty acids are produced and micronutrients that my source claim are helpful in preventing cancer.

Then there's the very sad side of cancer. One lady said in two months, she will be gone. Not to Italy, not visiting friends somewhere else but ...gone.

Back at the ranch, I've made two more reservations: one for Verona which seems to be an expensive city and was filling up fast and one for Ravenna, which is not expensive but will cause more time on the trains to get there. The latter is at a b&b with an Italian only speaking owner so I wrote in what I thought was good Italian. Later I see that I wrote 'noche' instead of 'notte'. When I first tried to learn Italian, I tried to erase all the Spanish I knew because the similar words were messing me up. Apparently I didn't erase all the words. It didn't matter as she seemed to know what I wanted and everything is all set. I have one open night between Castel Rotto and Florence. Probably will go to Bologna.

Right now I am babysitting the phone due to someone's poor planning. As today is a bicycle ride day and it's cold outside, it's all good.

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