RFF#113 – Acid decreases postprandial glycemia

Or in laymen’s terms, consuming an acidic food/ingredient alongside carbohydrates will decrease the size of the resulting blood sugar spike in your bloodstream.

This is part of the reason why sourdough bread (which contains lactic acid, produced by the lactobacillus bacteria that are involved in the fermentation of sourdough bread) has a lower glycemic index, compared to regular bread.

The mechanism for how acid decreases blood sugar is uncertain. Some research has suggested that acid delays gastric emptying (the release of food from your stomach), while other studies have postulated that it may inactivate the amylase enzyme that breaks down carbohydrate.

Either way, this random food fact gives insight into the unique power that foods have when consumed in combination. So don’t hesitate to squeeze some lemon on those potatoes, it could do you some good!

I learned about this fact from:

Liljeberg HG and Björck IM. Delayed gastric emptying rate as a potential mechanism for lowered glycemia after eating sourdough bread: studies in humans and rats using test products with added organic acids or an organic salt. Am J Clin Nutr. 1996 Dec;64(6):886-93.


RFF#109 – Pulcinella takes every opportunity to gorge on macaroni, spaghetti and gnocchi

This is a truly random food fact I was delighted to learn when I came across the following statue at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto:

Pulcinella with Gnocchi - Austira, Vienna, State Factory, c. 1744-1750, Hard-paste porcelain, Modeller: unknown

Pulcinella with Gnocchi – Austria, Vienna, State Factory, c. 1744-1750, Hard-paste porcelain, Modeller: unknown

Pulcinella is from the Commedia dell’arte and is a stock character in Neapolitan puppetry. While stock characters are known for having defining characteristics, I’ve never come across one who is defined by the fact that he carries around macaroni and a wooden spoon…at least until now that is.

I have to admit, gnocchi is one of my all-time favourite foods, it’s my go-to Italian restaurant favourite, I guess you could say I felt a special connection to Pulcinella, hence today’s post.

Gnocchi from "Como" one of my favourite Italian Restaurants in Niagara Falls, New York

Gnocchi from “Como” one of my favourite Italian Restaurants in Niagara Falls, New York

I learned about this fact from the Gardiner Museum in Toronto.

RFF#97 – There’s one time when you can guiltlessly add salt to your food…

…after you’ve exercised excessively and have consequently sweated excessively.

The story behind today’s post began two weeks ago when I played tennis for three hours…drank a lot of water…went to sleep…and woke up at 4:00am with one of the worst headaches of my life!!!!

You see, normally your blood has a balance of sodium [Na] and water [H2O] (in addition to many other things, but for the sake of today’s post we’ll just focus on the sodium)…


Balance of Sodium and Water

Note: Ratios are not to scale


But when you sweat, you lose both water and sodium…


Balance of sodium and water - after sweating


And if, like me, you exclusively drink water post-exercise, your blood steam will look like this…


Balance of sodium and water - after drinking water


This condition is called hyponatremia (hypo=low, natremia=blood sodium). The consequences of hyponatremia include dizziness, headache, nausea, and oh…did I mention death! For years I suffered from hyponatremia after playing sports. No one could tell me why, and I never figured out the problem until I took Physiology 302.

Sports drinks are the obvious solution. Me of course, having made a personal pledge to never drink caloric beverages, fell victim to my own good intentions.

However, while replacing electrolytes (such as sodium) is part of the solution, electrolytes alone won’t completely solve the problem. That’s part of the reason why sports drinks don’t exclusively contain electrolytes. And while they probably contain more sugar than you really need, sugar is nevertheless an essential ingredient.

That’s because on its own, sodium can’t pass through the cells of your intestine and enter your bloodstream. It needs to be transported. And one of the transporters that accomplishes this task is a sodium-glucose transporter, which means it needs both glucose and sodium to operate. Therefore, post-exercise, carbohydrate is needed to assist in the absorption of sodium.

Note: This diagram is highly simplified

Note: This diagram is highly simplified


While consuming a sports drink will get the job done, sports drinks are not your only option, anything that contains carbohydrate and sodium should do the trick (ex. crackers, juice, a pickle, etc.).

In conclusion, it’s kind of funny how so much of my work is dedicated to preventing people from suffering from having too much sodium, meanwhile I somehow manage to let myself suffer from having too little!! So as I sit here typing this story, after having just played tennis for three hours…rest assured, I’m snacking on a tiny bit of pasta and vegetables, to which I added a dash of salt!

Here’s some photos to lend cred to my story…

Since it's difficult to take a picture of yourself playing tennis, I opted for a shadow selfie.

Since it’s difficult to take a picture of yourself playing tennis, I opted for a shadow selfie.


I love those pink laces!

I love my pink laces!


–I learned about this fact from: Years of unpleasant experiences and my third year physiology professor Dr. French!

RFF#31 – The glycemic index of pasta varies depending on the shape

First, for anyone doesn’t already know, glycemic index (GI) is a measure of how quickly a food is digested and absorbed.

Ideally you want a food to be:

1) slowly digested (so it stays in your stomach longer, keeping you full for longer), and

2) slowly absorbed (so all of its energy doesn’t rush into your bloodstream which causes a hormonal imbalance [too much insulin] and increases the likelihood that the energy will be stored as fat)

Therefore, foods with a low GI (think low=slow) are better than foods with a high GI.

So, which shape is best? Well, it all has to do with the density and surface area of the pasta. Meaning thick and dense pastas, like rotini and gemelli will have a lower GI compared to pastas with a large surface area, like orzo and fettuccine.

But, in addition to the shape, the way in which the pasta was cooked will also influence the GI. More on that in tomorrow’s post…

A selection of pasta at "Campo di Fiori" in Rome

A selection of pasta at “Campo di Fiori” in Rome

RFF#25 – The first ever Olympic champion was a baker

His name was Koroibos,  and apparently he won the “stadion”, a 192 meter race, which was the only event at the 776BC Olympics.

If you consider the importance of carbohydrates for athletic performance, this makes a lot of sense, as he probably had more access to carbohydrates compared to anyone else at that time. So, I guess you could say it’s evidence of carbohydrate loading in ancient times.

—I learned about this fact from: http://www.topendsports.com/nutrition/olympic-ancient.htm and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coroebus_of_Elis

RFF#10 – Carbohydrates promote the release of serotonin in your brain, which makes you feel happy

It’s no wonder carbs are a classic comfort food. The effect of carbohydrates on our mood has been known for centuries. Apparently, when Marco Polo brought pasta back from China, Emperor Fredrick III described pasta using the Greek word “makarios”, which means “happy”.

—I learned about this fact from: Toussain-Samat, M. A History of Food. Wiley-Blackwell: UK, 2009. Fernstron JD and Wurtman RJ. 1971. Brain serotonin content: increase following ingestion of carbohydrate diet. Science, 174:1023-1024.