The Glycemic Index vs. Mom’s Homemade Chicken and Noodles
My mom makes the best homemade chicken and noodles. There is simply no equal. I remember when my nephew was little and grandma was making her famous dish, he insisted his mother get in the kitchen and watch, so my sister would be able to make the scrumptious meal after grandma’s departure. We all laughed in hysterics at my nephew’s belief that the secret to superb cuisine was as simple as watching others cook. I also remember my sister telling her young son that she had been watching grandma for years and could simply not replicate the special dish. Mashed potatoes complimented my mom’s homemade chicken and noodles. My definition of good food is anything that goes with mashed potatoes. I simply love mashed potatoes. You can imagine my dismay over the last few years as the glycemic index grabbed so much media attention and the poor potato received much negative press. I kept telling myself the glycemic index was one important factor of food, but the pure joy I experienced over the years from eating and enjoying mashed potatoes and my mom’s homemade chicken and noodles had to count for something! For this month’s thought bullets, I share with you some recent findings about the glycemic index and potatoes. It seems the glycemic index is far more complex than the media headlines would have us believe.
In 2000, the average American consumed about 140 pounds of potatoes. The yearly per capita consumption of potatoes in the U.S. has more than doubled since 1970. In fact, Americans consume more potatoes than any other vegetable.
Since the structure and digestibility of potato starch is known to be affected by cooking and processing methods, researchers at the University of Toronto set out to determine the effect of cooking methods on glycemic response. The scientists tested the glycemic response in different common varieties of potatoes that were prepared using various cooking methods such as potatoes eaten immediately after being cooked vs. pre-cooked potatoes that were refrigerated and then reheated before eating.
The glycemic index value differed significantly among potatoes of different varieties and cooking methods, with a low value of 56 to a high value of 89. Glycemic index is defined as the measurement of the two-hour glucose response to certain foods, expressed as a percentage of the response to the same amount of carbohydrate from a standard food. (Glycemic index definition from Nutrition and Diet Therapy Reference Dictionary, 4th Edition, Lagua and Claudio, 1996.)
Cooling cooked potatoes forms resistant starch which is not digested in the small intestine and therefore does not increase blood glucose. The researches found the reduction in blood glucose in pre-cooked potatoes was much larger than could be explained by changes in the starch alone. They suggest the lowering of the glycemic index value was mostly due to the slower rate of digestion with pre-cooked potatoes.
The study found french fries had one of the lower glycemic index values (64). Most people believe the low value comes from the high fat content of fries that delays gastric emptying, but the researchers of this study believe the low number is because the fries are precooked, frozen, and then reheated.
In summary, the study found that precooking and reheating potatoes or consuming cold cooked potatoes (such as potato salad) results in a reduced glycemic response. The highest glycemic index values for potatoes were found in potatoes that were freshly cooked and instant mashed potatoes.
This article makes a strong argument for portion control with my mom’s homemade chicken and noodles on mashed potatoes. Let’s plan for those leftovers!
Source: Fernandes G, Velangi A, Wolever T. Glycemic index of potatoes commonly consumed in North America. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2005;105:557-562.
Compiled by Betty Holmes, MS, RD
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