CTF is preparing for the Fall and Winter holidays by discussing how sugar and carbohydrate intake affect immunity and how you can help keep you and your children well through the festivities. We will offer daily recipes at the bottom of each post. We will return to the Bone Broth Marathon at the completion of this series.
These posts are longer than my usual, to-the-point-here’s-the-recipe posts. If you’re just here for the recipes, scroll down. It’s at the end of the post.
How Many Carbs Can I Get Away With?
What’s the bottom line? How many carbs does it take to affect my white blood cell’s abilities to destroy bacteria and viruses?
A study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that 100 grams of any type of sugar consumed by a healthy adult significantly decreased white blood cell activity. Types of sugars tested were glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey and orange juice, with the largest suppression between one and three hours after consumption. There was around a 40% reduction in the ability of the white blood cells to destroy bacteria and viruses around the two-hour mark.
The response was greatly exaggerated in people who show a diabetic-type response to sugar exposure. Their blood cell activity dropped to about half of what a non-diabetic’s activity was, which was approximately a 60% reduction in the white blood cell’s ability to destroy viruses and bacteria. This conclution about diabetics is backed up by a wide body of literature noting the same reaction.
Five hours after consumption, the level of white blood cell activity was still not back to fasting levels. Consumption of 100 grams of starch did have some depressive effects, but not to the extent of any of the sugars. The researchers stated in their conclusions that “…diet may play a key roll in the control of resistance to infection.”
Subsequent studies have shown that this depression can be as much as 50-90% of the normal white blood cell activity and can continue for 2-5 hours, depending on the amount of carbohydrate consumed. Since these first studies came out over 20 years ago, there has been a bevy of research, both pro and con, on the topic. This suppression is believed by some newer research to contribute to chronic inflammation and possibly heart disease.
We can only speculate what the effects on children would be, as I could find no studies on the topic. However, we can assume that they have a similar mechanism in relation to their body weight.
What Does 100 Grams of Carbohydrates Look Like?
A ‘recommended’ breakfast from the food pyramid consisting of one 8-ounce glass of orange juice or a banana, one 8-ounce glass of skim milk, 1 cup of cold cereal and one slice of white toast contains approximately 75-90 grams of carbohydrate. Throw in a little extra cereal or a ‘recommended’ morning snack of a piece of fruit or a bag of pretzels and it is easy for a child to go over 100 grams of carbs before they sit down to lunch, and the study was done on adults!
The average American eats about 100 grams of carbs at dinner. It becomes easy to see that it is possible that many Americans only have their normal immune capacity for a few hours each night, while they are sleeping, but only if they don’t binge on a carby late-night snack. This suppressed immunity allows viruses and bacteria to quickly multiply while only having a few destroyed by the white blood cells. The immune system soon finds itself overwhelmed.
There are 100 grams of carbs in
- 2-3/4 cups of rice
- 3 large bananas
- About 1-2/3 cups cooked spaghetti
- A little over 1/2 cup raisins
- Less than 2 donuts
- 1/2 cup of sugar or fructose
- Less than 1 cups of dates
- Less than 5 ounces of flour
- Less than 1-1/2 large potatoes
- A little over 3 cups of corn
- A little less than 2-3/4 cups of mashed potatoes
- 12 caramels
- Less than 4 ounces of fudge
- 4 cups of orange juice
- 3 ounces of gumballs
- 3 ounces of gummy bears
- 1 cup of gumdrops
As you can see, you wouldn’t likely eat these foods in these amounts by themselves, but when you combine them into recipes, it is easy to see how you could approach 100 grams of carbs without trying. This is especially true for your kids, since most children tend to be carb addicts. Due to their body weight, you can assume that a child doesn’t need 100 grams of carbs to see the same effects.
Dealing With Halloween
Candies were among some of the highest carb foods. Soda, too. Many families choose to have a Candy Fairy, just like the Tooth Fairy. The child chooses two or three pieces of candy to keep, leaves the rest in the sack and the next morning they wake up to see a new toy in place of the candy. The pieces of candy that were kept are doled out one a day until they are gone.
Keeping Well Through Winter
We make an effort during cold and flu season to eat low-to-moderate carb meals before going out in public and saving our high-carb meals for when we are home. If you go out daily, consider consuming a moderate amount of carbs for breakfast and lunch, then being freer with your carb consumption at dinner. We have our once-a-week dessert in the evenings when we’re going to be home. If your children attend school, save the treats for the weekend. When we do a birthday party, we have cake last before the guests leave.
Consider adding immune supports, such as elderberry or Vitamin C, to give additional support to your immune system through the winter.
This is a treat we do once a year that my family loves. Jeff has fond memories of making popcorn balls as a child with his extended family, after a long day of harvesting from the several-acre family garden. We do it one Saturday each year with our own children after harvesting in our own garden. Due to weather, this year’s harvest has been meager, but the tomatoes are finally rolling in so we will enjoy this treat soon. This is a great recipe because it doesn’t use corn syrup as most popcorn ball recipes do.
From the Menu Mailer
2 Tbs coconut oil
¼ cup popcorn kernels (use organic to minimize GMO exposure)
¼ cup ghee or butter
¼ cup honey
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a jelly roll pan with parchment paper or a silpat silicone liner. Set aside.
Place the popcorn in a large stockpot with the coconut oil and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Shake constantly over high heat until all of the kernels are popped. Pour the popcorn into a large roasting pan and set aside.
In a saucepan, combine the ghee, honey and salt. Bring to a gentle boil and boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in the vanilla, then pour over the popcorn and stir to coat. Bake the popcorn for 25 minutes or until deep golden, stirring every 5 minutes. Once the mixture is deep golden, remove from the oven and cool about 5 minutes, then grease your hands and press handfuls of the mixture into small balls. Place onto the jelly roll pan to cool. If mixture becomes too stiff to shape, return briefly to the oven to soften. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.