Chareva’s birthday was Sunday, so her parents came down for the weekend to celebrate with us and get their first look at the farm.  Her dad is one of those “Tim the Toolman” types who can build pretty much anything he puts his mind to, so he had some good suggestions on ways to fix up the house without spending a fortune.  (He even built a riding train around his property near Chicago — the girls love it.  You can read about his train here. )

Sunday evening we all went to P.F. Chang’s for the big birthday dinner.  I tend to let my hair down (so to speak) when we go to ethnic restaurants, so I had two egg rolls, one fried crab wonton, and about half of the little cup of white rice the waitress brought with my sesame chicken.  It didn’t appear to be a major carb load, but an hour after dinner, I felt that buzz that I’ve come to recognize as the result of high blood sugar.

So I got out my meter and tested … 219 mg/dl.  Yikes.  I waited an hour and then tested again to get a two-hour postprandial reading … still pretty high at 169.

I know some people would see those results and immediately declare that my blood sugar went high and stayed high because my low-carb diet has made me intolerant to carbs, but I’m not so sure.  When I tested my one-hour reaction, both girls decided they wanted to know what their blood sugars were as well.  So after they successfully talked themselves out of the fear of having their fingers pricked, I tested their blood-sugar levels.  Sara’s was 189 mg/dl.  Alana’s was 176.

We don’t feed them sugar or flour at home, but their diets are nowhere near as low-carb as mine.  They like berries and full-fat yogurt for breakfast.  They usually take an apple or a banana in their lunches.  Chareva often serves sweet potatoes or squash with dinner, which they eat even when I don’t.  I don’t think it’s likely we’ve induced an intolerance to carbohydrates in them.  I think it’s more likely some people just don’t handle refined carbohydrates very well, period.

I also suspect intolerance to carbohydrates is largely genetic. When I first started testing my blood sugar a couple of years ago, Chareva’s sister Susan happened to be visiting.  When I grumbled about a small serving of pasta pushing my glucose up to 174 mg/dl an hour after eating it, Susan wanted to see what her glucose level was.  She’d eaten a bigger serving of pasta than I had plus a potato, but her one-hour glucose reading was only 112 mg/dl.  No wonder she (like Chareva) is naturally lean.  Those foods don’t spike her blood sugar.

But they definitely spike mine … and that’s why I rarely eat them anymore.

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63 Responses to “My Own China Study”
  1. Phyllis Mueller says:

    Firebird, you also may be deficient in magnesium. Magnesium deficiency can cause constipation. Do you have muscle cramps? That’s another sign.

    Because the body doesn’t retain fluid on a low-carb food plan, you can lose magnesium through urination. Taking a diuretic or sweating a lot (from exercise) can also deplete magnesium. I think I remember another commenter on this site mentioning she has taken a magnesium supplement since becoming a low-carb eater.

    Drs. Phinney and Volek discuss this in “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living.” They caution against magnesium supplementation for people who have kidney problems. Dr. Mildred’s Seelig’s book on magnesium is also an excellent resource.

  2. C says:

    Nutrition “Scare” #1: Fat Will Make You Fat!

    Eating fat does not make you fat. In fact, not eating enough fat can make you fat. A 2008 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a diet high in healthy fats proved to be superior to a low-fat diet, both in terms of weight loss and overall health benefits. Saturated and trans fats have given fat a bad name, but the truth is that the unsaturated fats found in foods like nuts, salmon, and olive oil are a key component in a healthy diet.

    YEAH!!!!!!! (ish)

    Nutrition “Scare” #2: Bread Will Make You Fat!

    The low-carb craze of the early 2000s had people terrified of breaking bread, but eating the right kinds of breads and other grains can actually help you lose weight. An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that overweight people who obtained all of their grain servings from whole grains lost more belly fat than those who skipped the whole grains. The reason: The fiber found in whole grain foods helps slow digestion, keeping you fuller longer. You should still avoid refined grains like “enriched” flour, but a moderate amount of whole grain bread can be a great addition to a balanced diet.

    DANG IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Did the second study compare whole grains to no grains or whole grains to white flour? Big difference.

  3. Yep- Had the same experience a couple of weeks ago. A middle eastern restaurant in San Antonio makes the most amazing tandoori naan bread! It bakes in about 45 seconds on the side of the 700 degree oven, and is crisp, puffed and fabulous. One of the few carbs I have really missed, in a grain free 2 years. So a few bites couldn’t hurt, especially with a good load of the olive oil-sumac-oregano on it. Of course the first two or three bites triggered my insulin, and I lost control, eating much more than I had intended. Driving home, I nearly went to sleep more than once and developed a rash on my collarbone and wrist.
    I need to get an instrument to check my blood sugar; I know it spiked and dropped precipitously. Genetics, I am sure are part of it, but a new book ‘Wheat Belly’ by William Davis, MDiety, also has a lot to say about how we inbred grains for greater yields without any research about their digestibility. Another piece of the puzzle.
    I suspect with a carb intolerance, that being a breast or bottle baby has a great effect. This bottle baby was fed half evaporated milk and half Karo syrup 60 years ago. If you look at the ingredients in commercial formula now, I find it unimaginable that it can be assimilated with an infant’s system, other than the straight sugar. Of course brains and neurology are formed from cholesterol, and it is an easy guess how many commercial formulas also have cholesterol….

  4. Kathryn says:

    I’m curious, I read your linked article from 2007 on your father-in-law’s backyard train and was surprised to see mentioned that his motivation to build came after a diagnosis of diabetes.

    The obvious question – is he now by chance eating more low-carb? Did he make the switch on his own or did your wife help him to reconsider his diet?

    I’m sure many of us readers also have friends and family members we’d like to help, yet we all know how that usually turns out.

    He’s trying, but he still eats more of them than I would in his position.

  5. dlm says:

    Allison K., Canada: Costco and other pharmacies in Canada offer a free glucose meter with the purchase of 100 testing strips at about $75. If you test high, your physician may test your insulin and test your three month glucose levels with the HbAiC test. Your glucose level should be under 6. Also, naturopaths can do other tests and can draw blood for testing at other labs than the LifeLabs covered by provincial health insurance. The more you know about your own individual reactions to various foods (and exercise), the better you can handle the results. Dr. Richard K. Bernstein’s Diabetic Doctor Solution (at public library) has the best explanation I’ve found for diabetes/insulin/glucose/etc and how to handle it all.

  6. Jenna L says:

    I believe I am qualified to offer a few answers here. You see, I worked at P.F. Chang’s for 5 years, up until a year ago. Although I believe the company itself isn’t too horrid, and the level of quality food they offer demolishes that of other chain restaurants, they are still serving the agribusiness version of American style fusion Asian cuisine. Here’s where I throw them under the bus:

    You got whammed about half a dozen times in your meal, depending on what you ate.

    Let’s start with the egg rolls. They aren’t too bad. the egg paper is small enough in quantity and the vegetables and pork aren’t themselves terrible. But the pork is cooked in a sugar sweetened marinade. You didn’t say whether you used the sauce on the side? Sweet and sour sauce is what it was served with, and it’s made with sugar, water and cornstarch slurry, and is made red by catsup (with sugar and HFCS in it), with some other spices thrown in. Sugar, cornstarch, sugar, and fructose on a bite of sugar-sweetened pork wrapped in wheat and egg paper. (then fried in GMO soy/canola blend, but that’s another issue)

    Crab wonton? The crab filling with veggies again is not too horrible, and the wonton wrap is pure wheat. But the dipping sauce? Sweet chili sauce. Ingredients? Sugar, water and cornstarch slurry, and chili paste (of which sugar is an ingredient), along with some other spices. So, in other words, a bite of crab and wheat covered in sugar, cornstarch, and more sugar. Again, fried in GMO trash.

    The rice is its own judge and jury, but at least it’s just steamed. We know it for what it is.

    Here comes the Sesame chicken… Oh, it’s so tasty, isn’t it? Well, they start with pure white sugar. Then, they add… wait for it… cornstarch and water slurry, chili sauce (in which sugar is an ingredient), and other spices.

    But how much sugar is in that Sesame chicken? Well, to explain how much sugar is in these dishes, you need to know a bit more about the kitchen setup.

    Each chef has a side table of his own. On that side table are a number of deep metal bins that hold a quart or so each. Each of these bins is filled with mixtures, and the different combinations of these mixtures will form the dish in question. One bin is filled with soy sauce, and one with chicken broth. One with gluten-free soy, one with each of the different chili pastes. One with vinegar. One with potsicker sauce (a mix of soy, sugar, spices – it’s on the table when you sit down and is served with all dumplings). One with sugar. Just sugar. And one with water and cornstarch slurry. (A slurry is a mixture of a liquid and a solid in which the solid does NOT dissolve at its current temperature. The cooks must stir this prior to adding the liquid to the wok. There is sufficient cornstarch in this particular slurry to make the end product the approximate color and opacity of skim milk. In other words, a LOT of cornstarch.) There may have also been a vinegar/cornstarch slurry. There are also some pre-made sauce blends for one-off recipes which are kept in squeeze bottles or larger metal bins on the line for all chefs to share. Each chef also has some dry and wet spices, such as white pepper.

    They make this food in woks, and they scoop, stir, and dish out the food with large ladles on very long handles. The bowls on these ladles are about the size of my two-cup metal measuring cup, but with a domed bottom. I best estimate that these can hold from 1.5 to 2 cups at a time. In other words, nearly a pint.

    When the sesame chicken is made, they first prepare the meat. Sesame chicken is oil velveted (translation: boiled in GMO oil). Then, they take one of these ladles and scoop some sugar, a scoop of cornstarch slurry, a small scoop of the appropriate chili paste, and any other spices needed, and throw it in the wok. The sauce reduces and thickens due to the cornstarch and sugar combining as the water boils off. They toss the meat in, stir to coat, and toss it on a plate. The server is supposed to get it to you while it still is steaming.

    But that’s not all. Before the chef gets it, the lovely ladies of line prep put together the necessary ingredients for each dish on a plate. The meat, garlic, veggies, and whatever else composes the dish is assembled for the chef to prepare it. BUT, almost every type of meat is treated prior to cooking. Let’s examine how it’s treated.

    I mentioned oil velveting before, but there is also stock velveting (translation: boiling in broth instead of oil – broth reconstituted from bouillon made with sugars, starches, and HFCS).

    There is also deep-frying. There are only a few deep-fried items at Chang’s, the most notable of which is anything Sweet & Sour. The other item is what is mostly served to kids, which is Crispy Honey chicken or shrimp. Those are battered and fried. The crispy green beans are battered and fried, too. Of course, the batter contains flours and starches. The “honey” label of Crispy Honey chicken is a misnomer – there is no honey in the dish, as sugar is the sweetener, but it got the honey descriptor due to the golden color of the final sauce. These dishes are served over fried rice sticks, I might add.

    Most other menu items are stock or oil velveted. Stock veleveted items containing meat (Shrimp with Lobster sauce, Cantonese anything, Moo Goo Gai Pan, or anything you request to be stock veleveted) are not made with treated meat. All oil veleveted items are made with treated meat. So, still curious about that treatment? A very thorough coating of potato starch, which crisps the meat and provides a better surface on the meat to which sauce can adhere. You will notice on these types of dishes that the sauce doesn’t pool on the plate as much as it sticks to the food, which is why the treatment is used.

    So, that sesame chicken? At least 1/3 cup of sugar, cornstarch, chili sauce (with sugar in it), all tossed onto potato starch coated meat. With a side of all the pure carb rice you care to eat, I might add.

    Yeah, your meat had a little starch on it, among other things.

    A guide to eating at PF Chang’s if you’re watching carbs?

    Skip the rice. Avoid anything labeled sweet, sour, or honey, or with that in the description. Skip the mongolian beef, because it’s made with a LOT of sugar. Avoid the rice and noodle dishes – even though the sauces are ok, the sauces are served on, well, noodles. The Singapore Street Noodles are the best compromise if you must noodle. The Cantonese and Moo Goo Gai Pan dishes have cornstarch in the sauce, but not a lot in the way of sugars. The Oolong Sea Bass is to DIE for, and is served on a bed of spinach – don’t eat the sweet sauce that pools in the bottom of the plate, and try your best to ignore the $20+ price tag, because it’s worth every penny. The garlic spinach is excellent. I used to order garlic green beans with chicken and mushrooms added, and it was always very tasty – just veggies, chicken, a touch of oil, and a dash of white pepper. I think the Dali Chicken doesn’t have too much added sugar, but there is some sugar in the chili paste that is an ingredient, and it is way too spicy for most folks to handle it. The Ma Po Tofu is tasty, with not a huge amount of sugar in the sauce and no potato starch, and served on a massive pile of steamed broccoli, but it is most likely GMO soy in the tofu. Avoid most of the appetizers. The Chicken Lettuce Wraps or Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps aren’t too bad, provided you don’t pile on the sauce table-side and you order them without the fried rice sticks they are served on. I always just used the chili paste on mine, but I’m a spicy gal. The best salads are long gone, but even the worst one isn’t as bad as the hot dishes. Don’t bother getting your dressing on the side, though, since they’ll actually give you more than they would have put on the salad initially. The Wok Seared Lamb And Chengdu Lamb are marinated in sauces which I think have added sugar, but they are also not as bad as the rest of the hot dishes. Get them to swap out the lettuce for spinach or green beans on the seared lamb, as it’s worth the 1$ up charge.

    As for the sauces on the table, the soy, vinegar, and chili oil in the bottles are ok. The mustard is ok. The chili sauce has some added sugar, but it is the least of your worries at this restaurant. The potsticker sauce (dark ramekin in the middle, possibly with scallions floating in it) is sweetened with white sugar, just so you know, but it’s probably only a couple of teaspoons in a portion that small. A little won’t kill you, hopefully.

    I think I’ve done all the damage I can do here, so I’ll shut up now. But I do want to close with one note: these are common practices at almost all Chinese restaurants. Expect the same if you order sweet dishes at Japanese restaurants (teriyaki, anyone? That’s sugar, rice wine, soy, and vinegar.) or Thai places, although much of those cuisines are less culpable. Unless you are making your food, you don’t know what’s in it. Don’t assume that these places have your health in mind. P.F. Chang’s is great for people with gluten allergies, and they really do go the extra mile to modify your dishes if you have a dietary requirement. They are much better than many other companies out there, and the staff is pretty good with answering questions. But you have to remember to ask.

    I’ll pop back by to answer questions, if anyone has them.

    No surprise I ended up with such high glucose, then.

  7. Firebird says:

    Thanks Phyllis. I am fine now. I think there was a bug of some sort going around. I also have a mucous drip that I can not seem to get rid of. This time of the year some of it gets into the stomach and causes all kinds of problems. I knock it out with ginger, echinacea and sambucol.

  8. Nicole says:

    I’ve gone through hundreds of test strips, and I’ve never found my blood sugar higher than 155, but I feel like complete garbage if my BG is below 82. A lot of low carbers seem to be able to operate well down as low as 70.

    Big shock – I guess there’s not a one size fits all solution. ;)

  9. Underground says:

    I just started tracking my blood sugar last night. 1 hour after supper it was 96, but that was just grilled meats and vegetables.

    Today I had some fries with lunch and some very small samples of several sauces, and my 1 hour BG was 136. But another hour later it was already down to 94. I’m curious to see how the different things I’m eating actually affect it.

    It’s good to check.

  10. Galina L. says:

    @ Firebird
    When I feel like I may get sick, I use the remedy Dr.Bernstein recommends – Elderberry capsules, and I also add Astragalus to it. It is the perfect time to exclude all things that contain carbs and even practice IF. If you are under flue already, strong bone + shitaki broth works well if you have some mucus. It is wise to add ginger and garlic to your broth before drinking.

  11. Firebird says:

    Thank you Galina. Not sure if you know this, but elderberry is what is in the sambucol. Ginger is a daily regimen. I was taking astragalus but it interacts with the lithia water I use to purify the kidneys, so I had to back off. Almost done with the lithia water. Will return to the astragalus soon.

  12. Michael Cohen says:

    This kind of Chinese cooking can be mercifully called “Banquet style”. Lots of breaded deep fried meat in often sweet sauces with few veggies. This type of cooking is far removed from Chinese home cooking.(I grew up on the outskirts of Manhattans’ Chinatown and often ate at friends houses.)( I know, I know lots, of regional variations)What’s worse is that most Chinese restaurants and take-out places catering to non Chinese will routinely deep fry most stir fried dishes. When I asked about this I was told that this is because it cooks the food faster. This is also often done in reused vegetable oils that have been overheated into a toxic carcinogenic brew. I have a Chinese cookbook in English, from the 1930’s and the fat called for in all of the stir fried dishes is Lard. I once asked at my local take out place if they could stir fry my order in lard and was told “Oh no ! that is so unhealthy, we only use vegetable oil!”

    I figured the Chinese food we eat here isn’t quite what they eat in China.

  13. Hortense Povey says:

    Strong bones can be easily achieved if you focus on a diet that has high calcium and magnesium content like Dairy products. ;**:’

    Thanks again
    http://www.healthmedicinelab.com“>

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