([tag]Bhutanese[/tag] [tag]red rice[/tag] [tag]onigiri[/tag] with [tag]tofu[/tag] and [tag]split pea[/tag] puree, [tag]recipe[/tag] towards the end of this post)
Today’s post is going to have multiple personalities. I am going to cover three main topics:
- [tag]Low Glycemic Cooking[/tag] and why I care
- A recipe for the Bhutanese red rice onigiri you see above
- A how-to on making onigiri with my new [tag]gadget[/tag] – an onigiri form
Low Glycemic cooking and why I care
As a general rule, I respect everyone’s right to their own eating styles. I care that people eat the way they need to and I am no one to nit-pick others for that. My story that follows is like many of you. I can not say I have any answers and I am not an expert. I am sharing this story so that you can understand how I got into my current predicament – I am [tag]pre-diabetic[/tag], according to my [tag]doctor[/tag].
Like most of the over-developed world, I have had to [tag]diet[/tag] from an early age. Even though I swam 4 miles a day for two different swim teams, I still had to watch what I ate. When I decided that the swimming was more than I could bear anymore I decided to quit at the end of freshman year (4:30 am every day for the State National team and after school every day for the high school team, I never stopped smelling of chlorine and my hair was blond at it’s tips – I have blue black hair mind you).
Then, the weight FLEW on my body. At the tender age of 16 I was on [tag]Nutri/System[/tag]. I lost 50 lbs and was down to 117 lbs (was 5’5″, have shrunk since then). I was sort of happy but my body wasn’t. When I went back to school that fall, I went back to regular food and the [tag]weight[/tag] came back. Over the many years since, I have done Nutri/System many times, [tag]Weight Watchers[/tag] many times, all the while, killing my [tag]metabolism[/tag]. The only times when I maintained a loss after these diets was when I was working out excessively, running 3 miles a day and barely eating. In more recent times, I have tried the [tag]Atkins[/tag] diet (I saw my grandma try it back in the early 80s with some success) and it worked but it was [tag]unsustainable[/tag]. After a while, you can honestly get sick and tired of butter, bacon, steak, eggs, essentially any high protein food. The worst thing about the [tag]low carb[/tag] high protein diet is the imbalance in something about one’s hydration (must be the ketosis) such that when one goes off of this diet, the weight (both water and fat) comes back quickly and with a depressing vengeance.
This has always seemed unfair to me because my dad and my little sister literally eat what ever they wish (or wished, my dad has passed away) and never get or got fat. So within my own family, there is the object lesson that if one’s body is [tag]genetically predisposed[/tag] to accumulate fat, IT WILL.
In recent times, I have had to make peace with my body and not let the fat twist my entire self-worth. That is a very hard process and I would not say I had complete success. Doing this food blog and also, especially, doing the [tag]food photography[/tag] has helped me in ways that may not be intuitive. When I do food photography (and the cooking for it), I am not eating the food and I am not craving it. (I have never been obsessive about eating food nor binged on it so I do not have that dynamic) When I am cooking, styling, and shooting, I appreciate the food as an art form, as shapes, composition, as artistic statement, as cultural statement, as a sharing of my identity or my process of discovery. Same thing with the writing. I can not help writing about food the way I do because my curiosity leads me to ask questions and learn, just for the sake of learning. This is a bit of overflow from the fact that we homeschool and life is about learning.
([tag]Insulin[/tag] hexamer: Wikipedia source – public domain)
All of this is fine and dandy but my doctor recently witnessed one of my [tag]hypoglycemic[/tag] episodes (have had them all my life, thin or fat), tested my [tag]blood sugar[/tag] which was fine, and so he sent out blood tests for something called the [tag]HbA1c test[/tag] ([tag]hemoglobin[/tag] [tag]A1c[/tag] [tag]test[/tag] or hemoglobin [tag]glycosylation[/tag] – an [tag]assay[/tag] that determines the amount of [tag]sugar[/tag]s that have been stuck on the hemoglobin molecules.. this is indicative of the levels of sugar in one’s [tag]blood[/tag] over a few months). The following is a down to earth description of this assay.
“Sugar in the bloodstream can become attached to the hemoglobin (the part of the cell that carries oxygen) in [tag]red blood cell[/tag]s. This process is called glycosylation (pronounced gli-kos-a-lay’-shen). Once the sugar is attached, it stays there for the life of the red blood cell, which is about 120 days. The higher the level of blood sugar, the more sugar attaches to red blood cells. The hemoglobin A1c test measures the amount of sugar sticking to the hemoglobin in the red blood cells. Results are given in percentages.” Diabetes Tool Box
For those of you who are more scientifically oriented, try this abstract:
“Glucose reacts nonenzymatically with the NH2-terminal amino acid of the beta chain of human hemoglobin by way of a ketoamine linkage, resulting in the formation of hemoglobin AIc. Other minor components appear to be adducts of glucose 6-phosphate and fructose 1,6-diphosphate. These hemoglobin s are formed slowly and continuously throughout the 120-day life-span of the red cell. There is a two- to threefold increase in hemoglobin AIc in the red cells of patients with diabetes mellitus. By providing an integrated measurement of blood glucose, hemoglobin AIc is useful in assessing the degree of diabetic control. Furthermore, this hemoglobin is a useful model of nonenzymatic glycosylation of other proteins that may be involved in the long-term complications of the disease.” The glycosylation of hemoglobin: relevance to diabetes mellitus. HF Bunn, KH Gabbay, and PM Gallop. Science 1978: 200(4337):21 – 27.
Mine came back 6.2, which seems to indicate pre-diabetes and a cause of concern for my doc. I can tell you that I have figured I was [tag]pre-diabetic[/tag] for a long time but every time I asked for tests, they came back negative (they never gave me the glycosylation test before). My doc has told me that I have three months to control the blood sugars and if I do not, I will have to go on meds. I have a natural dislike for meds so it was not good news!
I know that [tag]diabetes[/tag] is absolutely nothing to mess around with and I want to reverse this pre-diabetic thing with whole foods and moderate exercise. Let me tell you though, when you start looking at what is recommended for the diabetic diet you find one commonality: there is NO [tag]consensus[/tag]. I also found that diet recommendations for diabetes and pre-diabetes seems to be a dumping ground for ALL of the vague advice, all that stuff you have heard over the years and found didn’t work for you. Things like: Eat food X because so and so study says to! Yikes. Things like: eat only low fat foods, eat only fish, eat TONS of [tag]omega-3[/tag]s, eat no fish, eat no carbs, eat only a few carbs, eat .. yadda yadda yadda.
Excuse me, but I am getting flash backs and they are not fun ones. I despair at the mediocrity and vagueness of the diet recommendations one finds for this condition. Its all a recipe for unsustainablity. Food is inherently associated with the desire to become satiated, even if it is through food porn.
If my life is on the line, I want something more than the flavor-of-the day [tag]diet recommendation[/tag]s.
I want some metrics.
This is where the low glycemic cooking comes in. I am going to explain this quickly because I have already yammered on WAY too long.
(Glucose: Wikipedia source – public domain)
The word “[tag]glycemic[/tag]” in “[tag]glycemic index[/tag]” comes from the word glucose, which you may know is sugar. A glycemic index is a measure of sugar. In this case, its the measure of sugars released into the bloodstream after the ingestion of a certain food. To determine a glycemic index, they have people drink a solution of 50 gm of glucose in water and then, after a certain period of time, they pull blood and test the sugar content of the blood. They set this value to an arbitrary 100. It is the index against which other foods are compared. To determine the GI of a food, like white bread, they gather a group of test subjects (people) who eat a slice of bread and then get the blood tested. They average the results (each person has their own unique food processing profile but we tend to have similar ones, within some sort of predictable range of variability) and then set the GI for white bread according to the results (its 70 for [tag]white bread[/tag] produced in the US). They have tested 500 foods so far (its very expensive), tho you may come across foods in the store that claims to have a GI, it is likely not tested in humans but calculated predicated on the types of ingredients it has. Thats the rub, foods may be predicted to have a certain GI but the body may do something completely different with it.
Case in point would be white rice, sticky jasmine especially, which has a GI higher than glucose. This is because this rice is almost pure starch and starch, when it hits our bodies, is almost instantly broken down and dumped into our blood as sugars (there are enzymes in your saliva, namely amyloses, which start the process the moment you put the rice in your mouth). The sugars in the glucose solution are somewhat slower to pass into the bloodstream.
When you eat something with a high GI, like that rice in [tag]sushi[/tag] or similar starchy foods, almost the entirety of that mass of starch goes into your blood like a race car, as a bolus in medical speak. You might as well inject several milliliters of sugar straight into your veins. Why is this a problem? Your body as not evolved to handle huge boluses of sugar. It “scrambles” to pull the sugar out (insulin is the messenger to the cells to let the sugar inside) because high sugar in the blood is “toxic” to the vessel walls, causing damage over time. When this happens and the body has put out insulin enough to deal with this sugar overload, it overshoots and then blood sugars drop. Low blood sugar is bad news too because the one organ in your body that is a sugar-freak is your brain. Low blood sugar equals stress to the brain and even [tag]coma[/tag] and [tag]death[/tag].
The key to a healthy body and a healthy life lies in one huge word – BALANCE.
Eating [tag]high GI[/tag] foods pushes your system out of balance. Over time, with a diet consistent in sugar [tag]bolus[/tag]es, your insulin response becomes impaired and you develop pre-diabetes and then diabetes and then your systems begin to fail.
I am going to begin to integrate low GI cooking into my family’s diet. We all need to lose weight too so the diet will also tend towards less fat but I do not want to be a fat nazi. I also do not want to be the food nazi either. I want the family to enjoy the food while also, hopefully, appreciate trying new foods and in the end, lose some weight.
If you are interested in doing this there are several things to do: learn about GI, learn about the GI rankings of your favorite foods, access your diet, find a way to do some [tag]exercise[/tag] every day (walking lowers your blood sugar, another tool in your management of sugar-rich living).
I went to Amazon and got these two books below, there are MANY others. You will have to decide whats right for you. In the future, I am going to try to give lists of relevant blogs, for your educational pleasure.
There is A LOT more to learn, especially about glycemic loads and how protein rich foods have high GIs. Read and read some more.
The authors of the GI book above also have a fantastic website that will help you understand GI but also to find your favorite foods (if tested) in their GI database.
If you are so inclined, you can track your food intake and calorie expenditure over time at various websites. The only one I have experience with is Fit Day.
I wish you all the luck if you too are having to deal with this. Its a process, it can be depressing, it can be overwhelming but it can not be ignored.
Recipe: Bhutanese red rice onigiri with tofu and split pea puree
In our family, we eat potatoes (high GI) only rarely. We tend to eat rice as our starch. The problem with that is that white rice (sticky is my all time favorite) is very bad when it comes to GI. To keep rice in our diet, an easy peasy starch, I am going to introduce rices that are lower GI. This would include brown rice, red rice, and wild rice. It also means introducing rice-like alternatives like pearl barley and bulgar wheat.
(The Rice Plant: Wikipedia source – public domain)
The GI rankings for several types of rices (and alternatives) are:
- Jasmine rice, made in rice cooker 109
- White rice, boiled 45
- Brown rice, steamed 50
- Red rice 59
- Wild rice 54
- Pearl barley, boiled 35
- Bulgar wheat 47
I picked up some Bhutanese red rice (produced by Lotus Foods) recently and wanted to test it in a recipe where I would have normally used sticky jasmine rice.
Bhutanese red rice is:
“An ancient colored-bran short-grain rice grown 8,000 feet in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan. Irrigated with 1,000 year old glacier water rich in trace minerals, this exotic rice has a nutty/earthy flavor, soft texture and beautiful red russet color.” SOURCE
Lotus Foods has lots of very interesting wholesome products as well.
Visit the Lotus Foods site for more information.
I decided to make onigiri, a Japanese food that is essentially a ball of rice with one’s favorite bits added to it. Often, it is wrapped with nori but I didn’t have any on hand so I used, as a substitute, the Vietnamese rice paper used to make spring rolls (spring roll wrappers).
I also served tofu (essentially zero GI) and a split pea puree (25 GI) to increase the green and protein.
- 1 C Lotus Foods Bhutanese red rice
- 3 C cold water
- sea salt, pinch
- 1 spring roll wrapper
- basil leaf, sliced into ribbons
- black and white sesame seeds
- Roasted chicken slices, about an ounce
- extra firm tofu, cubed
- olive oil to saute
- minced ginger
- minced garlic
- sea salt, pinch
- 1 C green split peas
- 4 C cold chicken stock
- sea salt, pinch
In a heavy stock pot put 1 C red rice and 3 C cold water, bring to a boil. Cover rice and put on low for about 1 hour. This will cook it longer than the package directions so that the grains pop a bit and the rice is easier to form later. When done, uncover, fluff, and allow to cool.
At the same time, put 1 C dried split peas in 4 C cold chicken stock, bring to a boil, and then simmer on low (loose cover) for about an hour. You may need to remove some of the liquid toward the end to make the puree your desired thickness. Keep warm but covered.
Once rice is cooked, spoon some into an onigiri form, leaving some room for the chicken slices in the middle. I have some pictures of the onigiri form below.
This type comes in two halves and this one makes two onigiri at the same time.
The top is pushed down over the rice, compressing it into the cake like shape desired.
The bottom half of this form has some little openings that you can use to push the onigiri out.
Using this mold transforms onigiri construction into a dream. To see how you make onigiri by hand visit this site – How to make onigiri.
Because I did not have the nori to wrap the onigiri, I improvised and added a strip of hydrated spring roll wrapper around it. This isn’t necessary but I wanted to approximate it. I trapped some basil leaf ribbons and black sesame seeds between the wrapper strips and the rice.
Wrap your tofu block in some paper towels and press with something heavy to remove some of the water it comes packed in. Cube the tofu and cook as you like. The way I like is with some oil (sesame or olive oil or both), some garlic, ginger, and some onions. I saute to get some tan color and then add some soy sauce. I simmer the tofu a bit longer and then serve warm.
Serve as desired and enjoy!
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