DEAR DR. BLONZ: As part of a long-term effort to lose weight, we are making small changes in the foods we eat at our house. One change is to lower -- but not eliminate -- our carbohydrate intake: mainly cutting out sweets, added sugar and extra bread. My question is about the combination of grains and legumes. I've been told that when you eat beans and rice at the same time, the amino acids combine to make a complete protein. I'm confused how the body digests this combination. Does it handle these foods as a protein or as carbohydrates? Do I need to give up my favorite brown rice and black bean recipe? -- K.W., San Francisco
DEAR K.W.: Making gradual changes that can be maintained will usually win over a dietary "radical shift." The reasoning is that once you are done with your radical diet, you go right back to the way of eating that got you in trouble in the first place. Given this, you have my respect for your approach.
Beans and rice both contain complex carbohydrates, a modicum of fat, and protein in the form of amino acids. These nutrients will be digested in the same manner whether they are eaten separately or at the same time. These complex carbohydrates will not be as impactful as sweets on your blood sugar levels. (For more on this, consult glycemicindex.com.) Both beans and rice contain amino acids, but neither has the complement needed to make protein. When eaten together or during the same day, their amino acid profiles complement each other. By this I mean that the essential amino acid missing from beans (legumes) is in plentiful supply in rice (grains), and vice versa. I am uncertain why you might think it necessary to forgo brown rice and black beans. All you need to do is to keep an eye on your total caloric intake and stick to healthful foods such as these, and you will continue to progress.
DEAR DR. BLONZ: We had a wonderful meal at my parents' house, and there was enough for leftovers. They made individual leftover packets for the freezer, but accidentally left them on the counter overnight. When it was discovered the next morning, my mom put the packets in the freezer and insisted that freezing would kill any bacteria that might have grown during the night. She won't believe me that this is dangerous or that anyone who ate the leftovers could get sick. She said she can defrost and cook them in the microwave. Is this a safe practice? Does freezing kill bacteria? -- T.D., Casa Grande, Ariz.
DEAR T.D., Freezing does not make foods fresher than they were before they were frozen. Whenever a food is defrosted, bacterial growth picks up right where it left off. Eating foods that have been left out on the counter in the way you describe would be a dangerous roll of the dice. There would be no guarantee of safety even if you were to pay special attention to cooking the food thoroughly the next day. In my considered opinion, the best course is to toss the stuff.
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