What’s wrong with carbs?

Absolutely nothing when we’re talking about whole food plant based carbs.Potato_starch

The 3 basic types of carbohydrates are sugar, cellulose, and starch.

  • Sugar includes sucrose (granulated sugar), fructose (fruit), lactose (milk), and glucose (component of cellulose and starch).
  • Cellulose is found in plant cell walls and is better known as dietary fiber.  For a summary of the benefits of fiber, check out Fill Up With Fiber to Downsize and Cinco de Mayo.
  • Starch is known as complex carbohydrate, since starches are long branching chains of glucose molecules.  Starch gets broken down into simple sugars that provide sustained energy while keeping you full (McDougall 2012).

Examples of starches include grains (like brown rice, oats, and wild rice), legumes (like beans, peas, and lentils), and veggies (like sweet potatoes, winter squashes, carrots, and potatoes).  Because starches are carbohydrates, each gram of these foods contains only 4 calories, compared with 9 calories for each gram of fat.  As long as you eat the starches without butter, gravy, or meat (all of which are laden with fat), you are getting a lot of nutritious bang for your calorie buck.

Digestion of carbohydrates releases glucose into the bloodstream, which triggers release of insulin from the pancreas.  The insulin enables glucose to be transported into cells and used as energy.  This same process also happens for proteins – insulin is also needed for amino acids to be transported into cells to be used to build new proteins.  Actually, fish, beef, eggs, and cheese trigger as much or more insulin secretion as many high carb foods (Barnard 2014).

A prominent whole food plant based physician, John McDougall, has coined the term “starchivore” to describe those following his prescribed diet comprised of 70% starch, 20% vegetables, and 10% fruit (McDougall 2012).  If interested in more details about this plan, check out The Starch Solution.

Particularly if you exercise regularly and feel that you may not be fueling adequately or recovering quickly, try dramatically increasing the starchy veggies, legumes, and whole grains in your diet.  If you are already whole food plant based, incorporating more starches will be an easy change that may surprise you at what a difference it makes.

If you have not yet fully eliminated meat and dairy, filling those voids with starches will help quell cravings and keep you full longer.



Barnard, Neal.  Vegetarian Times “Doc on Call” January/February 2014.

McDougall JA and McDougall M. The Starch Solution. 2012

Photo Credit

Potato Starch:  http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/91/Potato_starch.jpg


Easy Sweet Potato Casserole

1 large sweet potato per serving

1/4 c fresh pineapple per serving

Bake or microwave the sweet potato.  Once cool enough to handle, remove the skin and mash the sweet potato.  Dice the fresh pineapple and add to the sweet potato.  Enjoy as is or heat in the oven until ready to serve.


Black Eyed Pea Salad

I realized mid-week that we weren’t eating enough legumes, and that I had the ingredients for one of my favorite bean salads except for the black eyed peas and bell peppers.  I used pinto beans instead and substituted celery for the peppers, and it turned out great.

One of the hardest things for me with this blog is writing down ingredients and measurements as I go along, because my cooking style is to make it up as I go along with as few ingredients and little time as possible.  My hope is that my readers take liberty with these recipes to adjust them to what they have on hand and to experiment with them to find out what works for you or your family.


Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Apples

1 lb brussel sprouts, ends removed and quartered

2 Granny Smith apples, cored and diced

fresh lemon juice or lemon pepper seasoning

salt and pepper (only if not using lemon pepper seasoning)

Optional: maple syrup

Combine the brussel sprouts and apples in a cast iron pan and sprinkle with lemon pepper seasoning if using.  Roast at 400′ for 20 min or until tender and lightly browned.  No water or oil is  needed, and after the cast iron pan is removed from the oven and cools for 5 min or so, the sprouts and apples will release from the pan.  If serving a dubious audience, drizzle the sprouts with maple syrup before or after roasting.  If using fresh lemon juice, sprinkle it over the sprouts and apples once they have been removed from the oven.

Schweeeeeet Potatoes!

It’s pollen season here, but until the local farmers market is in full swing, we can rely on root vegetables to get us to the best that spring has to offer.  Sweet potatoes abound here, so it’s not hard to find wonderful local varieties almost year round.

Sweet potatoes may get a bad rap for their carbohydrate content, but they are complex carbohydrates, which means they are broken down in a controlled manner during digestion.  The healthiest foods (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) primarily consist of carbohydrates and are packed with significant amounts of vitamins, minerals, and accessible energy, not to mention the substantial health benefits associated with dietary SweetPotatoesfiber.

The processed, highly refined “simple” carbohydrates have been stripped of all the health benefits of complex carbohydrates and are responsible for the public’s negative perception of carbohydrates.  Highly refined carbohydrates are easily broken down during digestion to the simplest form of carbohydrate, which is absorbed into the body as glucose.  Refined carbohydrates should have a bad reputation, however, this hasn’t translated into action in the right direction.  A 1996 survey showed that the average adult American eats 4 times as many refined carbohydrates on a given day than dark green vegetables.Information Plus  Additionally, only 3 vegetables made up half of the total vegetables served: potatoes (mostly consumed as fries and chips); iceburg lettuce (the least nutrient dense of all the greens); and canned tomatoes (probably a reflection on pizza and pasta consumption).

The benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet are gained from eating the complex carbohydrates found in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.  Regular consumption of refined carbohydrates (even if the original substrate was a complex carbohydrate) could result in achieving a low-fat diet, but doing so is at the expense of your health, both in the short-term and long-term.  So choose to pay now‑ by building your willpower to chose the healthier option and by investing time in your health- to avoid paying much more later in life.

Start now by trying out one of the sweet potato recipes below and know that, in addition to the benefits of complex carbohydrates mentioned above, sweet potatoes have beta-carotene, selenium, and vitamins C and E.  Only ½ cup of cooked sweet potato counts as 1 serving of vegetables, and you need 4 or more servings of vegetables per day.Barnard 2008  Two cups of cooked veggies per day is very doable!!


Baked Sweet Potatoes

1 sweet potato per person, of uniform size for even cooking

Toppings, optional (see below)

Preheat oven to 400’.

Bake sweet potatoes on a baking sheet for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on size.  Line the baking sheet with Aluminum foil for easy clean up as the sweet potatoes will ooze liquid that will caramelize on the baking sheet.  When fully cooked, the inside of the sweet potato will be soft and the outside will have darkened.

Topping ideas:

Cinnamon, honey, maple syrup, or agave nectar

Pineapple, baked apples, raisins, or dried cranberries

Marshmallows (for the sweet potato-averse crowd)

Steamed Broccoli

Sautéed or steamed spinach or mushrooms

Sautéed or roasted onions

Black beans, salsa, or bothhttp://www.ncsweetpotatoes.com/



Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries

1 sweet potato per person

Spray EVOO


Seasonings, optional


Preheat oven to 450’.

Peel sweet potatoes if desired or if they are not organic.

Cut each sweet potato lengthwise into 8 wedges.

Arrange wedges on a lightly sprayed baking sheet, then lightly spray the wedges themselves.

Sprinkle with salt and any desired seasonings.

Bake potatoes for 15 minutes, then flip and bake another 10-15 minutes.


Individual Sweet Potato Pies

Dough for one pie crust to make 4 hand pies (I highly recommend Vegan Pie in the Sky by Moskowitz and Romero if you’re interested in making your own pie crust.  Otherwise it is not difficult to find pre-made pie crust dough that does not contain dairy or egg.)

Filling ingredients:

2 c mashed sweet potato (from 2 baked sweet potatoes)

1 ½ T organic cornstarch

¾ t ground cinnamon

¼ c sucanat or turbinado sugar

1-2 t grated ginger

Pinch of salt


Mix well or blend the filling ingredients in a medium sized bowl.

On a floured surface, roll the dough out into a rectangle that is twice as long as it is wide.   Cut the rectangle in half to form two squares.  Then cut each square in half to form four rectangles.

Place just less than ¼ c sweet potato filling on half of each rectangle.  Fold the pastry over to enclose the pie and moisten the edges to seal the crust.  Use fork tines to crimp the edges.  Then cut 3 small slits in the top of each pie to allow steam to escape while baking.  Transfer the pies to a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Sprinkling a few grains of salt on each pie adds a really nice touch.

Bake at 400 for 20-25 min or until the edges are lightly browned, rotating the baking sheet if necessary to allow for even cooking.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 min before transferring to a cooling rack.  These pies may be eaten warm or at room temperature if you have that much patience.


Sweet Potato Apple Casserole

3 medium sized sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced about 1/8” thick

3 large granny smith (or other cooking) apples, peeled and sliced about 1/8” thick

½ c water

1 t ground cinnamon

1 t ground nutmeg

¼ c agave nectar

Optional: chopped pecans


Peel and slice the sweet potatoes and apples in similar thickness (approximately 1/8” thick).  In a casserole dish lightly sprayed with EVOO, arrange the slices in a visually appealing manner or just toss them in.

Add ½ c water, then sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg.  Top with agave nectar.  Sprinkle pecans if using.

Cover and bake at 350’ for about 30 minutes or until sweet potatoes and apples are tender.

Serves 6.



Information Plus.  Nutrition: a key to good health. Wylie, TX: Information Plus, 1999.

Barnard ND, Reilly JK. The Cancer Survivor’s Guide. 2008

Sweet Potato Picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/iita-media-library/5120663128/sizes/l/