Stripped Carbs: The Emperor’s New Clothes

I promised a friend that I would write another post about stripped carbs and processed edibles. Sometimes stripped carbs are called simple carbs, but there’s nothing simple about them. Stripped carbs include white flour, white rice, corn starch, corn syrup, sugar, fruit juice, and beer. It’s not that you can’t eat them at all; it’s that Americans are drowning in them.

In nature, carbohydrates virtually always come with an intact fiber matrix. Whether fruit, legume, vegetable, whole grain, or even sugar, the quintessential stripped carb, stripped carbs start as an intact carb, such as dates, beets, sugar cane, or fruit. The fiber and germ are removed, or stripped, and all that’s left is white powder. It’s not a coincidence that white flour looks exactly like corn starch and powdered sugar. The processed edibles industry has removed most of the essential elements from the original foodstuff, and all that’s left is a pile of powder.

Here are some examples. White flour starts out as whole grains of wheat, with bran and germ intact. White rice is “polished,” meaning that it is stripped of its husk. Corn starch and corn syrup are derived from corn. Most sugar is extracted from sugar cane, less often from dates or beets. Fruit juice starts as fruit. I like to think of beer as “liquid bread.”

Perhaps you’ve seen the term “enriched” flour in an ingredient list. What does that mean? “Enriched” flour is stripped flour to which minerals and vitamins (mainly iron and B vitamins) have been added so as to prevent anemia and other nutritional deficiencies. How did we figure out that stripped carbs did not nourish the way intact grains do? The hard way — after a great many sick patients presented themselves for medical care. “Enriched” is the industry’s term, not mine. It would also be accurate to call it “stripped flour with B vitamins and iron, but still without the fiber or the oil-rich germ.”

You may have heard of “fortified” flour. “Fortified” flour is stripped flour to which folate has been added. Folate is one of the B vitamins. A deficiency of folate is the cause of a particular class of birth defects called neural tube defects, of which spina bifida is the best known. Beginning in the 1990’s, approximately 20 years after a causal link was first suspected between spina bifida and a folate deficiency, the U.S. Congress finally mandated that folate be added to flour. The word chosen to describe flour to which folate was added was “fortified.” And, yes, the prevalence of neural tube deficiencies fell after that. But fortified flour still contains no fiber or germ.

Shortly after rice stripped of its husk was first introduced into the food supply in Southeast Asia, a processed called “polishing,” a significant rise was noted in the numbers of deaths from a disease called beri-beri. Tens of thousands of people died. Beri-beri is caused by a deficiency of thiamine, which was, not surprisingly, present in the husks that had been removed. This is why white rice is now “enriched” with thiamine, among other micronutrients.

Corn starch and corn syrup are used extensively in the processed edibles industry. Actually, that’s an understatement. It would be more accurate to say that the processed edibles industry is virtually dependent on the presence of corn starch and syrup. Americans began to eat large amounts of corn starch and corn syrup in the 1970s, soon after the industry identified corn syrup as a significantly less costly alternative to sugar.

Everything is relative, however. What is less costly in one way turns out to be extremely expensive in another. Beginning in the 1970s, obesity rates in the U.S. began to soar. Whenever I travel overseas, I obsessively check ingredient lists on product packages on the grocery shelves. I have noticed that whereas virtually all American candy and baked items are made with corn syrup, the candy, cakes, and bread sold overseas are made not with corn syrup but rather with sugar. There is less obesity. The obesity epidemic is multifactorial, and not due simply to corn syrup. But it is a contributing factor.  

The American diet is packed with stripped carbs: Mini-frosto-hoho-choco’s for breakfast. Coffee-cake muffins. Single-serving yogurt with 4-5 teaspoons of corn syrup. Doughnuts, crackers, and brownies for snacks. Sandwiches for lunch, with corn chips. And then pasta for dinner. You’re eating stripped carbs all day. Am I saying you should never again eat anything sweet? No, absolutely not. Everyone should enjoy a treat now and then. Maybe it’s a cookie and milk every afternoon, or a slice of pie once a week. But that’s not what’s happening.

I don’t know exactly how much stripped carb you can tolerate. That depends entirely on you, and you’re going to have to figure it out. It depends on your metabolism, your genetics, your activity level, your stress levels. Which is better for you — leftovers or oatmeal? Which is better for your oatmeal — maple syrup, raisins, or peanut butter? You can figure this out.

Remember that it’s not carbohydrate per se that’s the problem. It’s stripped carb, and that’s something entirely different.



Laurel Gallucci’s Insanely Wonderful Chocolate Cake That Changed Everything

From time to time I post a dessert recipe, but it’s usually something tame, like apple slices. Just kidding. But seriously, I don’t post a lot of dessert recipes.

This recipe, on the other hand, breaks the mold. It is, by far, the most decadent thing I’ve ever posted on YHIOYP. Even if you never make it yourself, you have to appreciate the talent and passion of a woman who figured out how to make a cake like this. I thought it would be the perfect thing for anyone who is inspired to make something spectacular for the holidays. Continue reading


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Chocolate-Pecan Bars (df, gf, vegan, no bake)

My friend Lia brought these to book club a couple weeks ago. OMG. You should make them. Technically they are meant to be dessert, but they would be great for breakfast, too. I would bring them to folks young and old. A reunion of friends. A picnic. A gathering of neighbors. A special meal. An ordinary one.

Food like this creates all kinds of moments, like moments in time and moments of gratitude. It’s a personal reminder that food is meant to nourish not just the body, but the heart and soul as well. And the best is when our food does all three at the same time. Thank you, Lia.

Date-Pecan Layer

  • ½ cup unsalted, natural almond butter
  • 1 ½ cups unsalted pecan halves, divided
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 5-7 pitted Medjool dates (1/2 cup packed)

Chocolate Layer

  • ½ cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup PLUS 1 Tbsp. natural almond butter, unsalted

Topping

  • ¼ cup pecans, chopped

Directions

  1. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, greased foil, or wax paper. Set aside.
  2. To prepare the date-pecan layer, add dates and almond butter to a food processor. Blend approx. one minute until sticky and crumbly, like chunks of wet sand or dough. Scrape down the sides of the processor intermittently, as needed, between processing.
  3. Add 1 cup pecans, vanilla, and salt to food processor. Blend continuously until pecans are fully incorporated and mixture is soft and crumbly. When the mixture holds together when pinched, it’s ready. Add remaining pecans, and pulse only a few times until pecans are just barely incorporated, with medium-small pieces still visible.
  4. Pour the contents into the prepared baking pan. Press gently with a spatula, and smooth into an even, tightly-packed layer.
  5. To prepare the chocolate mixture, add chocolate chips and (¼ cup plus 1 Tbsp.) of almond butter to the top of a double boiler, or heat in a microwave (in a microwave-safe bowl) in 20-second increments until soft and melted. Stir until smooth.
  6. Pour chocolate mixture over date-pecan layer. Smooth into an even layer using a rubber spatula. Sprinkle evenly with chopped pecans, and press gently into the chocolate.
  7. Freeze for 20-30 minutes. Remove from freezer and slice into 16 generous bars or 20 bite-size pieces.

Thank you to Beaming Baker for a prior version of this recipe.


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Peach Pie

A few years ago, a friend of mine got interested in the raw food movement. When she said it changed her life, I thought to myself, “Okay, lots of people say stuff like that.” But I saw the difference. She became more relaxed, energetic, vibrant. She felt better, and I could see it. Continue reading


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Sweet Potato Brownies

I’ve heard of black bean brownies before, and I have even made them on occasion, but I had never heard of sweet potato brownies until a couple of weeks ago. This recipe comes from Katherine, a newly arrived co-worker who is committed to good health, running in the sunshine, and preparing delicious, nutritious food. Lucky for us! The amount of sweetness in this recipe makes it perfect for a special dessert, though I wouldn’t hesitate to eat it for breakfast, either.  Continue reading



YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Cookies!

I hope that everyone is having a wonderful holiday, and that you find yourself surrounded by at least a few simple things to nourish body and soul, like kind people, blankets, hummable music and, of course, good food. Just in case you’re looking for one more cookie recipe, I recommend this one. Enjoy to your heart’s content. Continue reading


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Thanksgiving Brownies Times Two!

It’s holiday season! And you’re probably trying to figure out how you’re going to get through them with more success than in years past… Here’s one way. Make these recipes, bring these recipes, serve these recipes. I’m not a fan of self-deprivation. Enjoy everything on the table, and know that these brownies are not only entertaining (like all good desserts), but also nourishing. I LOVE beautiful orange sweet potatoes, rich creamy tahini, thick delicious almond butter, and CHOCOLATE! I’m sure you will find something that you love, too, in the recipes below. Enjoy, and have a happy Thanksgiving! Continue reading


When My Friend Bob Turned His Health Around

A while ago, I ran into my old friend Bob, and I was delighted to see a much slimmer, trimmer, happier-looking guy than I had seen the previous time. He and I had had a conversation about six months earlier, and I had suggested increasing the protein in his breakfast, and switching out the soda for unsweetened iced tea. That’s all. We hadn’t talked since. Continue reading