Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

This was once thought of as the first line of therapy for health and wellness. With the advent of medications in the early 1900s, a whole new world of treatment protocols came into being. But with the trends in healthcare changing, so too are the treatment plans. The new generation of medical doctors is practicing more preventative medicine. Studies now are supporting the beliefs that lifestyle and dietary changes are just as effective at decreasing the incidences of chronic diseases as medication alone.

The types and amounts of carbohydrates in the American diet are now being researched for their health implications. The low-fat diet craze of the 1990s set weight gain and obesity rates spiraling out of control because people began filling up on simple carbohydrates and processed starches instead of fat. The high-protein, low-carbohydrate way of eating isn’t the answer to a healthful diet, either. A diet rich in vegetables and fruits, lean proteins and fish, healthy fats, and whole grains seems to be the key to disease prevention.

A tool I have used for many years in treating patients with hypercholesterolemia and diabetes is the glycemic index/glycemic load (GI/GL). This is a list of carbohydrate foods that are rated low, medium, or high in their overall glycemic effect. In general, foods with higher fiber content, usually the less processed grains, digest at a slower rate and therefore have a lower glycemic effect. These low GI carbohydrates break down to glucose slower causing a slower release of sugar into the bloodstream and a more steady release of insulin from the pancreas. Conversely, foods higher on the GI have been known to raise triglycerides and LDL cholesterol, both markers for heart disease. In addition, the more fiber a carbohydrate, the fuller you feel for a longer period of time making weight control and weight loss easier.

Low GI/GL foods include high-fiber fruits and vegetables (not including potatoes); bran cereals (1 oz.); and many beans and legumes (5 oz. cooked).

Medium GI/GL foods include pearled barley (1 cup cooked); brown rice (3/4 cup cooked); oatmeal (1 cup cooked); bulgur (3/4 cup cooked); rice cakes (3 cakes); whole grain breads (1 slice); whole-grain pasta (1 1/4 cup cooked); and no-sugar added fruit juices (8 oz.).

High GI/GL foods include baked potato (russet); French fries; refined breakfast cereal (1 oz.); sugar-sweetened beverages (12 oz.); jelly beans (10 large or 30 small); candy bars (1 2-oz bar or 3 mini bars); white basmati rice (1 cup cooked); and white-flour pasta (11/4 cup cooked).


The Better Option low GI/GL farro and beans with greens


Assorted bitter greens (chicory, frisee, borage) well washed: 1/2 lb.

Olive oil: 3 Tbsp.

Onion, chopped: 1 each

Garlic cloves, minced: 2 each

Farro: 3 cups (1 lb.)

Dry white wine: 1/2 cup

Cooked white beans: 1 cup

Parsley, chopped: 1/2 cup

Sun-dried Tomatoes, coarsely chopped: 3-4 each

Pecorino cheese, grated: garnish


Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the well-washed greens until tender. Remove the greens with a slotted spoon and set aside. Save the cooking liquid to cook the farro (about 10 cups). Chop the cooked greens coarsely. Warm the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat and cook the onion and garlic until pale gold. Add farro and mix well with the onion. Add the white wine, let it bubble. Gradually start adding the cooking liquids, about a cup at a time. Each time the liquid is absorbed, add more. When the farro is almost cooked (15 to 20 minutes), stir in the cooked greens, cooked beans, parsley, and sun-dried tomatoes. Cook a few minutes to heat through, adding liquid for desired creaminess. Season to taste and top with pecorino cheese if desired. Yields 8 servings.

Calories: 371; protein: 14 g; carbohydrates: 61 g; fiber: 12 g; saturated fat: 1.5 g; cholesterol: 4 mg; sodium: 219 mg

*Note: Copied with permission from Chef Joyce Goldstein, as presented at the 2013 Healthy Kitchens, Healthy Lives conference at the Culinary Institute of America.


Lori Salerno, M.S., R.D., C.P.T. is a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer who provides medical nutrition therapy to groups and individuals in Santa Monica and recipe and menu analysis for restaurants nationwide. www.eatwelldailynutrition.com.

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