White Foods also belong in your Diet
White Foods also belong in your Diet
Conventional wisdom in nutrition is that we should choose our foods by their colour. The darker and brighter the colour, the more nutrients and phytochemicals are packed inside.
Raspberries and blueberries owe their deep blue and red hues to anthocyanins, powerful compounds that help to guard against cardiovascular disease and cancer and boost cognitive function.
Orange and green vegetables such as carrots and spinach are exceptional sources of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that protects cells from free-radical damage.
Brown rice has considerably more fibre, magnesium and potassium than white rice because it has not been stripped of its nutrient-rich bran and germ layers.
A multitude of books and articles have us conditioned to avoid the white stuff, sugar, white flour, white rice and many others. Compared with their unprocessed counterparts, colourless foods are missing fibre and protective phytochemicals and are a very poor source of many nutrients.
Most white foods score very high on the glycemic index scale, meaning that their carbohydrates are broken down and absorbed quickly, causing blood sugar and insulin to rise rapidly. And of course a diet based on high-glycemic foods will contribute to insulin resistance which is a precursor to Type 2 diabetes.
But in spite of all this gloomy news about white foods, there are still some that you should include as part of a balanced diet.
Although mushrooms lack colour, they are very nutritious. One cup of raw whole mushrooms (about 10 small or 5 medium) provides 20 per cent of a day’s worth of niacin, a B vitamin that is used to make stress hormones, improve circulation and reduce inflammation. All this for 21 calories and you even get 3 grams of protein.
Mushrooms are also an excellent source of selenium, a mineral that acts as an antioxidant, helps make DNA and plays an important role in thyroid function and eye health. They also supply your body with potassium, copper and iron.
Add mushrooms to salads, soups, pasta sauces, whole grain pilafs, stir-fries and even your eggs. Or enjoy them as a side-dish sautéed with a splash of balsamic vinegar.
We think of potatoes as a starchy food with little nutritional value and yet it is surprisingly nutritious. One medium baked potato serves up to 22 milligrams of Vitamin C along with plenty of B6, folic acid and magnesium.
Its claim to fame, however, is its immense potassium content. A medium potato delivers 941 mg of the blood-pressure-regulating mineral, 20 per cent of a day’s worth.
Potatoes also can keep you full and ward of hunger. According to researchers from the University of Sidney, boiled white potatoes scored highest on the satiety index, a tool that ranks food by their ability to satisfy hunger. Researchers tested 38 different foods, including breads, breakfast cereals, grains, fruits, protein-rich foods and snack foods.
Some varieties of white potato do have a high glycemic index (GI). Russet potatoes do, but red and new potatoes have moderate GI scores.
The glycemic index of potatoes also depends on how you cook them. Eaten cold (precooked) or reheated potatoes have low to moderate GI value. Cooling cooked potato starch changes its structure, making it resistant to digestion in the small intestine.
Leave the skin on when you cook potatoes. It contains fibre and nutrients, and it helps retain the vitamin C.
A root vegetable with very little pigment and yet it contains disease-fighting phytochemicals and nutrients. Parsnips are packed with falcarinol, a phytochemical with anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Research shows that falcarinol may reduce the growth of colon cancer cells and parsnips contain five times more falcarinol than brightly coloured carrots.
One cup of cooked parsnips serves up 5.5gm of fibre, 572 mg of potassium, 20 mg of vitamin C, and almost one quarter of a day’s worth of folate.
Enjoy parsnips roasted with herbs or cooked and mashed with other root vegetables such as carrot, turnip or sweet potato. And since we are roasting all these veggies in the oven, why not add some cauliflower, another white vegetable.
The skin may be yellow but this is another white food. Although we always think of bananas as rich in potassium (approximately 422mg in a medium banana), they are also an exceptional source of B6, a vitamin that is needed for protein metabolism and to maintain healthy nerve and brain function. One medium banana supplies one third of a day’s worth of the nutrient for adults aged 19 to 50 and 25 per cent of a day’s worth for older adults. Bananas also provide fibre, vitamin C, folate, niacin and magnesium. And contrary to popular belief, bananas have a low glycemic index value of 51 (GI values less than 55 are considered low). And thanks to their resistant starch, bananas are considered a prebiotic, a food that feeds beneficial gut bacteria.
Onions do more than just add flavour to meals. They also provide a little vitamin C, folate, calcium and potassium.
Onions are high in flavanols, phytochemicals that neutralize harmful free radicals and suppress inflammation. One particular flavanol, called quercetin, has been linked to protection from lung cancer, asthma and diabetes.
Recent research suggests that a moderate intake of onions may reduce the risk of colorectal, laryngeal and ovarian cancers.
Organosulfur compounds in onions, the same chemicals that give onions their distinctive flavour, have also been shown to have anti-bacterial, anti-cancer and cholesterol-and blood-pressure lowering properties. Although all this research has been verified over the last few years, so far scientists cannot confirm my grandfather’s opinion that onions would put hair on my chest.
I have said it over and over again. Always eat a balanced diet. Do not get yourself into a narrow area with just coloured foods, or fruits only or the grapefruit diet. A balanced diet will include as many of the nutrients as possible to provide you with a healthy disease-free life.