Do You Know Nutrition: Sunchokes are good substitute for potatoes

May 17, 2010 at 12:17 a.m.
Updated May 18, 2010 at 12:18 a.m.

By Phylis Canion

Q: I am a diabetic and was told how I should avoid potatoes since they are a high glycemic index food. Someone told me I should try sunchokes. Can you please tell me about sunchokes?

A: Sunchoke is also known as Jerusalem artichoke, although it is not an artichoke and it is not from Jerusalem. Sunchoke is actually a tuber that looks like ginger root, has a potato like texture and is highly recommended as a potato substitute for diabetics. Because of the high inulin content, sunchoke has a very low glycemic index.

The glycemic index, simply stated, is the rate at which your body converts food to sugar. Lower glycemic index foods are usually more nutritious and healthier for your system. Sunchoke can be eaten raw, roasted, boiled, baked, and my least favorite - fried or cooked. Like many root vegetables, it is a good source of potassium, fiber, niacin and some of the B vitamins.

Q: I am a tea drinker and enjoy a cup of hot tea daily. Can you please tell me the difference between green tea, oolong tea and black tea and is one better than the other?

A: All black, green and oolong teas come from one plant, thea sinensis, an incredibly productive shrub that grows from the Mediterranean to the tropics. The tea leaves can be continuously harvested every six to 14 days for up to 50 years.

All teas are defined by the way the leaves are actually processed.

With green tea, the tender leaves are picked, rolled, steamed, crushed, and dried with hot air, but never fermented. Oolong teas are semi-fermented and black tea is fermented for three hours and needs to be scented to reduce bitterness.

While both the green and black teas contain enzymes that promote digestion, green tea, by far, contains the most health benefits. Green tea contains twice as much vitamin C, twice the amount of bioflavonoids, and six times the antioxidant properties of black tea. Green tea contains over 200 different catechin polyphenols that comprise up to 35 percent of green tea. In addition, green tea is a vasodilator and smooth muscle relaxer for bronchial dilation against asthma.

Dr. John Weisburger, researcher at the Institute for Cancer Prevention, said laboratory test show that green tea may help boost metabolism to aid weight loss, block allergic response, slow the growth of tumors, protect bones, fight bad breath, is a heart health protector, improves skin, protect against Parkinson's disease and can even delay the onset of diabetes.

If you are a tea drinker, do not add milk to green tea. Milk inhibits the absorption of the protective polyphenols. Removing the caffeine naturally through a water process, does not affect the benefits of the polyphenols and bioflavonoids.

Now you know that black, oolong or green tea refers to the tea leaf process. Did you know that Darjeeling, Earl Gray or Ceylon refer to the country or region where the tea is grown and names like pekoe, orange pekoe refer to the leaf size?

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, e-mail her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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