Tuesday, January 29, 2008

insulin, aging, frying and baking

There is an excellent article over at DiabetesHealth.com titled, Insulin, Leptin, Diabetes, and Aging: Not So Strange Bedfellows. It squares up with some things I already knew, and it expands on some things I was curious about.

One sad thing, though, is the precise reason why fried chicken is something you shouldn't eat every day:

In a process called glycation, glucose reacts with protein, resulting in sticky, sugar-damaged proteins called advanced glycated end products (AGEs). When protein is damaged, it cannot function properly or communicate properly with other cells. AGEs also promote inflammation and free radical oxidation throughout the body. AGEs cause skin to wrinkle, and wrinkling and damage to the lining of arteries contributes to plaque and heart attacks. It can promote the formation of cataracts, macular degeneration, and eventual blindness.

The glycation process has also been linked to the destruction of protein and nerve cells that can lead to Alzheimer's disease, memory loss and various neuropathies. Heating of starches (especially frying them, like french fries and chips) can produce a type of glycated protein called acrilamides, which are potent carcinogens.

See? I told you it was the breading, not the oil. Granted, the author says heating starches "can" cause this reaction, but not under what circumstances, i.e. how high a temperature. Oh well. I put out a fryer to thaw this morning, and I'm going to enjoy it.

On an amusing side note, my sister and I finally convinced my mother to switch from Parkay to butter, partly as a result of a little health scare my Dad had in December. He's fine, but I took the opportunity to brow-beat her about all the Crisco and margarine they eat. Finally, at Christmas, my sister added her "yucks!" to the makeup of margarine and Mom caved. Yesterday on the phone, she was asking me how I stored my butter, how fast it would go rancid at room temperature, and so on.

"I tried making a batch of oatmeal cookies with butter," she told me in a hushed voice, as if she were doing something subversive (which in a way, she was; I feel that way myself sometimes).

"Oh? How'd that work out?" I said casually, because I already knew the answer.

"Y'know, I just wasn't really happy with my baking this year," she said. Mom is the champion baker of the family. Her dinner and cinnamon rolls are legend, and I have to admit I prefer her pie crust to mine but I still think I can beat it. "Nothing was really bad, it just wasn't up to my standards."

"You said something about texture," I remembered.

"Right! They were... not as light. Kind of doughy. So I looked at the back of the Parkay box and saw that it was made with soybean oil. I could've sworn it used to be corn oil."

"Yes, that's what I remember, too."

"But these oatmeal cookies turned out really good. They got browner on the tops and they had a nice crispy rim around the bottoms that your dad really liked, but they were still moist on the inside."

"You don't say."

"Of course that was your great-grandma Rella's recipe, so it was originally intended to be made with butter."

"That's true."

"And you know that she used to make all her pie crusts with lard." Sigh. "I guess I'll have to try that next."

She's half-kidding. She's following the same path of logic I went down a few years ago. Even those of us who pride ourselves on being open-minded and open-eyed and logical fall into traps of convenience and the so-called "common knowledge" of our age. I could make a point about how everybody living in single-family homes, isolated from the wisdom and method of our grandparents, is having an effect, but I think it's more sinister than that. My grandparents are the worst of the processed-food consumptors. They eat Lite this and Diet that, and probably haven't seen a non-trans-fat in ten years. Meanwhile my grandmother is having all these nerve problems and chronic back pain. I really want to get some butter and olive oil into the woman, but that's a battle I don't expect to win. Unfortunately she's always been a little too eager to believe what authority figures tell her--authority being doctors and the talking heads on TV.

But, I've about got my mom swung around. Now if I can just get her to use olive oil to fry instead of Crisco. I know she knows I'm doing it; I've mentioned it several times, but she claims Dad likes the taste of Crisco. I'd bet a hundred bucks that if he quit eating it his heartburn would go away.


Shirley said...

Just remind your mom that lard is "manteca" in Spanish. It might be difficult to find something "nasty" like lard in the grocery store! :-)

Holly said...

Good point. I wonder if Mexican-label Manteca is any less tampered with than the American brands.

I HAVE tried lard in a couple of things, including pie crust once, but found it sticky and hard to work with. Maybe also was the recipe I had. I'll probably try it again.

Anonymous said...

When I was a kid, I knew how to make bisquits from scratch- a staple ingredient, Armour lard, which came in pound packages in those high and far off times. The results, fresh from the oven, were slathered with oleo. Tasty!!! I ain't dead yet. But that was fifty years ago, and I have not subsisted on just that diet alone over that half-century. The fact that I have had a few other things to eat over that interval probably explains my survival.

Holly said...

My husband LOVES biscuits. I have not yet managed to make them to his satisfaction, but I keep trying. I found a recipe not long ago in Gourmet magazine, I think it was--called for lard and Lily White flour, or something like that. Also the oven has to be super-hot, like 500 degrees preheated. Guess I'll give it a try.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you have not prepared them in sufficient quantity. Big problem tho; biscuits are carbs.

Holly said...

Technically, biscuits are a combination of carbs and fat--about half and half, calorie-wise. And I do eat carbohydrates in moderation. I'm not one of the die-hard low-carbers who substitute soy flour for all my starches. For me, "in moderation" means I don't drink soda, nor often fruit juices, and I have dessert maybe once a week. We don't bring home potato chips or ice cream or store-bought cookies because it's far too easy to eat a whole package in a day or two.

But you have surely noticed, SG, that a lot of my posts here deal with baking. That always involves carbs. It's a matter of picking and choosing which ones you want to indulge in. If I bake my own goodies, I can use healthy fats in them and a reduced amount of sugar, which puts me at a considerable advantage over someone with a bag of Oreos.

Generally speaking, since I am of a healthy weight and active, about 1/3 of my calories from carbohydrates, always eaten in combination with fats and protein, seems to be appropriate for me.

When I rant about carbs it's because people have been mislead by greed and ignorance to think that eating high-carb diets will make them thin and healthy, when in fact the opposite is true.

Granted, last Sunday my husband started asking in a sweet voice for some biscuits, and given that we'd had pizza the night before and Mexican the night before that, I said NO WAY.