Seeds, Starch and Oil

Seeds, Starch and Oil


A woman came to see me concerned that she was not losing weight. She had several kilos to lose and insisted that she did not eat sugar or junk food. She explained that she had tried to lose weight for several years but had failed miserably.

She said that she was not keen on vegetables, loved meat and bitter flavours such as rocket, horseradish and English mustard. I recommended that she try the ketogenic diet and she replied emphatically, “Oh, I’ve tried that, and it simply doesn’t work!”

So, I asked her what she ate on the ketogenic diet. She said fish, chicken, meat, eggs, green leafy vegetables, cheese, nuts and seeds, all of which were good choices on a ketogenic diet. Then she went on to say that she didn’t eat white rice, only brown and she didn’t eat white bread, only rye.

I explained that in order for the ketogenic diet to work, she would need to cut out all grains. She looked confused and replied, “But rice is a seed and I thought I was allowed seeds!” I felt an explanation was in order.

I explained that there are two types of seeds, oil-bearing and starch-bearing. The oil or the starch is the food that is within the kernel that we call the seed. “How can you tell the difference?” was her perfectly legitimate question. The answer is relatively simple.

If you grind the oil-rich seeds down to a powder and then rub the powder between your fingers you will quickly find that it is very oily and sticks together. If you grind the starch-rich seeds down to a powder and rub the powder between your fingers, you will quickly find that it remains a powder and does not stick together in a single coherent lump.

“Well, then what are grains?” was her next question. Grains are generally considered to be the seeds of a variety of grasses. The list includes wheat, barley, oats, rye, corn, millet, rice, spelt (a type of wheat), triticale (a blend of wheat and rye) and quinoa.  The list does not include buckwheat.  It is true that buckwheat is a starchy seed, but it is the same family as buckwheat and so is not a grain.

Many people think of quinoa as a high protein food, but this too is incorrect. Protein and carbohydrate figures vary according to the individual types of wheat and quinoa, and to the sources of information.  But in general, wheat and quinoa have similar amounts of protein and carbohydrates. Certainly, quinoa cannot be considered a high protein food or a low carbohydrate food.

*Quinoa is approximately 13.28%protein; 6.076 % fat; and 64.16% carbohydrate, of which 7.0% is fibre.

*Wheat (hard) is approximately 15.4% protein; 1.92 % fat; and 68% carbohydrate, of which 12.2% is fibre.

Once Mary excluded rye bread, quinoa and rice from her diet she dramatically reduced her carbohydrate intake and got a lot closer to a ketogenic diet.

This is very useful to know when you are on a very low starch diet.

*Macronutrient figures from US Department of Agriculture Research Service.

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