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Ariadne’s guar

July 12, 2010

If the abstract cultural reference in the title is lost on you, Ariadne gave Theseus a ball of string so he could anchor it to the Labyrinth’s entrance, wind his way around and find the Minotaur, a monster that had plagued the neighborhood for a long time; slay said Minotaur, and, following the string, retrace his route to the mouth of the Labyrinth again. My application here is that Ariadne proffered a simple, common, well-known thing, in this case a ball of string, to solve a complex old-time problem. Guar is a simple, common, well-known foodstuff that may be solving a complex nutritional problem I have had for a long time.

I hit bottom on Sunday, weighing in at 98.5. My frustrating axiom of life, “I can’t eat for everything,” had to be reworked. Whatever was good for gluten intolerance and that provided enough protein to be at all filling, either elevated my glucose unacceptably or was indigestible. I was becoming preoccupied with the morbid image of a middle-class wife of an indulgent husband, who was starving to death: “death by metabolic discord.” Glucose intolerance, gluten intolerance, high cholesterol, and GERD make for an uncoordinated metabolic team. Enter guar, the referee.

Anyone who is accustomed to reading the nutritional analysis labels of everything he eats, has seen the word guar gum. I don’t know how many people bother to look it up. I simply knew it as a plant product used as a thickener, like cornstarch. Guar is gluten-free, contains 6 g of carbohydrate per teaspoon, and as it happens, slows down glucose uptake.

My husband found an analytical study of guar and glucose uptake, and my eyes widened as we both read it. The glucose curves leveled with the addition of small amounts of guar to foods. We had been seeking a key to unlock the benefits of amaranth — protein, fat, gluten-free, sense of fullness — while confounded by spiking glucose. I was eager to experiment. My husband had bought some guar from Whole Foods Market, because he suspected it would be useful for replacing gluten. Whole Foods sells half-pound bags of Bob’s Red Mill guar for $2.50. I don’t know what I would do without Whole Foods or Bob, much less my husband.

I had been hopeful that amaranth would replace the low-carb bread I was forced to surrender to gluten intolerance. We calculated that I was losing about 450 calories a day without my three daily slices of buttered low-carb bread.

I added a teaspoon of guar to 4 tablespoons of cooked amaranth, and added a tablespoon of butter for extra calories. The amaranth became very thick, and I was able to make a little grill cake with it. I could also simply have eaten it straight, like cereal. It worked. One hour and two hours later, my blood glucose level tested 96 and 92. I blessed God through tears of relief. I could eat something and feel full for more than an hour.

There are always confounding variables. Every day without gluten means more metabolic healing, which could also mean improved glucose uptake patterns. But it appears that amaranth had elevated my glucose to unacceptable levels, and that I was able to mitigate this effect and enjoy its benefits with the simple addition of guar and butter. And today, one day after adding amaranth to my lunch and dinner menus, my weight reversed its steady decline and reentered the triple-digit zone. Next I will introduce guar to my corn syrup-free ice cream. Oh, and I added it to my diabetic Cat’s food and we’ll see whether it has any effect on his numbers.

The declining trend is reversing. Perhaps guar, common as string, might yet lead me out of this metabolic labyrinth.

  1. Laura permalink
    July 12, 2010 3:07 pm

    Dear Lauren. I’m so sorry for this added health challenge, yet I’m glad it’s come to someone as resourceful and research-savvy as you are. Obviously God has given you grace to take this in stride as much as anyone could. This does cast a new light on the petition for daily bread, which I will pray for you.

    Maybe soon you could experiment with making amaranth bars, which can be made ahead and stored for days like granola bars and customized with bits of nuts or other things; I remember having very tasty storebought ones at R&H’s in Mexico.

  2. July 12, 2010 3:22 pm

    I was going to make some kind of bars or grill cakes and add sesame seeds or macadamia nuts. It’s like the tasty-cereal commercial, “Delicious hot or cold!” :-)

  3. Heidi permalink
    July 12, 2010 7:01 pm

    Lauren I am praying for you this evening, Psalm 20. I’m so glad that you found something that made the amaranth comestible (I find I can’t digest it ground and made into porridge form for some reason very well, and have to eat it popped, but I’ve no idea what mechanism this turns on); and that you are gaining weight. God is so good to have made guar for such a dear friend.

  4. Heidi permalink
    July 12, 2010 7:04 pm

    PS. Lauren, this was the other entry in my reader this evening — it seemed appropriate, in light of what Laura said above. I pray God establishes the work of your hands.

  5. July 12, 2010 7:42 pm

    Heidi, I have so many amaranth styles to explore! Popped sounds wonderful, and a true compensation for being unable to eat popcorn. :-)

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