Power of Carbs

The glycemic index of a food tells to what extent a food raises the glucose level in the blood relative to other foods.

by Dr. Larry Wilson — 

All living creatures require energy in order to function, and all of our energy comes from the sun. However, human beings cannot directly convert sunlight to energy. We depend upon green plants that both absorb solar energy and store it in compounds called carbohydrates.

We are most familiar with these as starches and sugars. Sugars are ring-shaped structures that are under tension. When we digest them, the rings open and, like opening a jack-in-the-box, energy is released.

Cereal grains

Starches are also known as complex carbohydrates. They include the cereal grains, such as wheat, corn, rice, rye and barley. Others are millet, oats, buckwheat and some lesser known grains such as quinoa, spelt, amaranth and kamut. These are the primary energy foods or staples for most civilizations on earth. For example, rice is the major food eaten in China, while corn is eaten widely in Latin America.

Refined grains

Today, most cereal grains are highly refined, meaning the bran and the germ are removed, leaving just the starchy part. This is a shame because refining whole grains removes most of their vitamins and minerals. In making white flour, 75 percent of the minerals are lost from the whole wheat.

White flour that is deceptively labeled “wheat flour” contains 13 percent of the chromium, 9 percent of the manganese, 19 percent of the iron, 30 percent of the cobalt, 10 to 30 percent of the copper, and only 17 percent of the zinc and magnesium contained in the whole wheat from which it is derived. Brown rice suffers similar losses when it is refined into white rice.

Refining whole grains not only removes most of their trace minerals, but it also removes most of their essential B vitamins. White flour contains only 23 percent of the thiamine, 20 percent of the riboflavin, 19 percent of the niacin, 29 percent of the pyridoxine, 50 percent of the pantothenic acid and 33 percent of the folic acid that whole wheat contains prior to refining. Eighty-six percent of vitamin E also is lost when whole wheat is made into white flour.

Removing the wheat bran does even further damage. Bran helps the body process foods and avoid constipation, and can assist in the production of some vitamins in the intestinal tract. Another part of the refining process includes bleaching the flour. Most flour is bleached with chlorine bleach, similar to that used to whiten clothing. When cooked, it forms toxic chlorinated compounds. Many pesticides, for example, are chlorinated hydrocarbons.

In summary, refining whole grains is an incredible crime against human nutrition. Test animals that were fed white flour developed fatal neurological problems because the vitamins and minerals in the grains are needed to actually digest them. As a result, our government requires that all white flour be enriched with three B vitamins and iron. However, the flour is still deficient in at least 15 other minerals and vitamins, so “enriched” flour is not a healthful product.

Problems with wheat

Wheat is sometimes called the “staff of life.” It is used in bread, pasta, pizza dough and pastries. It also is the main ingredient in cakes and cookies, and is used as a thickener and as breading for fried food.

Yet, wheat is one of the most common food allergies. Many people report more energy, weight loss, fewer allergies, improved digestion and other benefits when they eliminate wheat from their diets. An important reason is that wheat is extremely hybridized. This means it has been altered to produce greater yields, be more bug resistant or have a longer shelf life. However, it has not been bred for improved nutrition.

In fact, the protein content of our wheat has declined significantly over the past century, from about 13 percent to about 5 or 6 percent today. Wheat now contains more starch, less protein and fewer trace minerals. Wheat also is high in glutamine, an amino acid that has an inflammatory effect on the body. In addition, wheat contains gluten, a protein to which an increasing number of people are allergic.

Eliminating wheat from one’s diet is not easy, because it is hidden in so many processed foods. Even after one gets to be an expert at reading labels, there are occasional surprises. Those who are sensitive to gluten must also eliminate rye, oats and barley from their diets as well. The clinical name for gluten sensitivity is celiac disease.

Starchy vegetables

Starchy vegetables are also high in complex carbohydrates. These are mainly root vegetables, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams and carrots. Others are onions, parsnips, turnips, celery root, and daikon or white radish. These are extremely nutritious foods, as they are easily digestible and rich in minerals and vitamins.

Root vegetables are often easier to digest than cereal grains, and much less allergenic for most people than wheat. Roots and tubers usually need cooking to help break down their fiber so they are easier to digest. Some, such as carrots and jicama, a turnip-like root, may be eaten raw in salads.

Starchy vegetables are important to include in your diet. They are tasty and nutritious in soups, as a side dish and in casseroles. They also keep well in the refrigerator and are inexpensive.

Potatoes are from the nightshade family of vegetables, which can cause joint pain in some people. It is generally better to eat fewer potatoes and more sweet potatoes, yams and the other roots.

Legumes or dried beans

Another set of foods high in complex carbohydrates is dried beans or legumes. These include lentils, pinto beans, navy beans, garbanzos and black-eyed peas. Others include red beans, adzuki beans, peanuts, soybeans and black beans.

Dried beans are staple foods in many cultures, as they are inexpensive, nutritious and they keep well. They contain not only starches, but protein and many minerals and vitamins as well. They require cooking or sprouting in order to make them more digestible. Soybeans are best eaten in a fermented state in foods such as tofu and tempeh. Fermenting helps destroy the enzyme inhibitors they contain. For this reason, I recommend avoiding soy protein isolate, soymilk, soy burgers and other soy products that have not been fermented.

An important point to remember is that digestion of all starches begins in the mouth. They will become sweet if you chew each bite at least 10 times, so chew your starches thoroughly.

Fruit

Ripe fruit contains mainly simple carbohydrates or sugars. These are also found in other sweet foods such as honey, maple syrup, corn sweeteners and refined sugar.

Fruits also contain some fiber and vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. However, most fruit is mainly sugar and water. Generally speaking, fruit is nutritionally overrated. Many who are trying to live healthfully eat an excessive amount of fruit because it is quick and easy to eat, satisfies cravings for sugar and is less expensive than protein foods.

Most fruit today is hybridized, which means it has been altered for enhanced sweetness, shelf life and bug resistance, but not for better nutrition. Most hybrid fruit contains more sugar, but almost always fewer vitamins and minerals. If you happen upon an older apple or pear tree, you will often find the fruit is smaller and less sweet.

Lots of pesticides are often used in growing fruit. It is always best, therefore, to seek out organically grown fruit.

Refined sugars

As with starches, the vitamins and minerals naturally contained in unrefined sugars are needed to digest the food. However, most sugars are refined, and the minerals and vitamins removed. Thus, the more sugar one eats, the more nutritionally deficient one tends to become.

For example, sugar cane is processed into molasses and sugar. The sugar contains almost no vitamins or minerals. Molasses, meanwhile, is considered a health food, as it is so rich in micronutrients. Despite some propaganda to the contrary, eating sugar leads to tooth decay, hypoglycemia, hyperactive behavior, mood swings, diabetes and other degenerative illnesses.

Most Americans receive a major portion of their calories from refined sweeteners. The most popular today is high-fructose corn syrup. This is one of the worst sugars, but it is widely used, as it is inexpensive.

Other refined sugars include rice syrup, beet sugar, and most honey and maple syrup. Most honey is boiled, and most maple syrup contains a little real syrup with lots of added sugar. These “foods” contain little or no vitamins, and are correctly called “empty calories.” They contribute to an epidemic today of obesity, hypoglycemia, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other illnesses.

Refined sweeteners often are listed on food labels as glucose, fructose, maltose, corn syrup, sugar, liquid sugar or natural sweeteners. They are added to most processed foods, from soda pop and cereals to dressings, breads, pastries, desserts of all kinds, condiments such as ketchup and mustard, peanut butter — and hundreds of other foods. All of these upset blood sugar and raise insulin levels, slowly causing many health conditions.

Fiber

Some carbohydrates we cannot digest. These serve as fiber or roughage. Two common ones are cellulose and pectin. Cellulose forms the structure of most plants and can be digested by some animals. Fiber helps move food along in the intestines, and may be needed for the synthesis of vitamins in the intestines.

Fiber can also absorb toxins in the intestines and can slow the absorption of sugars in the diet, helping to maintain a more balanced blood sugar level. Examples of common fibers are wheat, oat and rice bran, psyllium husks and apple and citrus pectin.

Non absorbable sugars

Just as we cannot digest some starches, our bodies do not absorb some sugars. These are used as non-caloric sweeteners and include mannitol and xylitol. These are excellent sweeteners if one does not want the calories that the other sugars provide. They upset the blood sugar level much less than other sugars because they are not absorbed. You can find them at health food stores and some supermarkets.

Overall, it is best not to sweeten your food. The best solution is to get out of the sugar habit altogether. It is just a habit and it can be changed. However, if you need a non-caloric sweetener, xylitol or mannitol are far better than the artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, Equal, Splenda or saccharin.

The latter are synthetic chemicals that have been shown to have many adverse effects. Indeed, the term “aspartame disease” describes a range of symptoms, from depression to seizures, that can result from consuming diet soda and hundreds of other products sweetened with NutraSweet or Equal. If you have any unusual symptoms and use artificial sweeteners, try discontinuing them for at least three weeks and notice if you feel better.

Carbohydrates and weight gain

The overeating of carbohydrates is a major cause of excessive weight gain. A common misconception is that eating fat makes one fat. Carbohydrates provide four calories (energy units) per gram, while fats provide nine calories per gram. This leads many doctors and health authorities to think that fats make you fat.

However, plenty of research indicates that overeating carbohydrates makes people overweight, more so than consuming fat itself. Eating carbohydrates raises blood sugar and increases insulin much more than eating fat. Insulin, in turn, causes sugars to be converted to fat in the body.

Breads, pasta, fruit and sweets can also alter neurotransmitter levels and can have a calming effect. This can be addictive for some people. Here are simple tips to avoid the overeating of these tasty foods. Make sure the carbohydrates you eat are unrefined. Eat whole grains such as brown rice and corn tortillas instead of white flour products, white rice or white sugar.

If you must have honey or maple syrup, make sure it is 100 percent pure and is not laced with sugar. Be sure to ask for what you want at restaurants. This way more restaurants will begin to offer the higher quality foods. Also, eat carbohydrates with a low glycemic indices.

The glycemic index

All carbohydrate foods raise the level of glucose in the blood. This is considered an unhealthy quality of carbohydrates. The glycemic index of a food tells to what extent a food raises the glucose level in the blood relative to other foods. The Internet offers long lists of foods and their glycemic index.

Here are some general rules to help you eat low glycemic index foods. These will be healthier, especially for diabetics, heart patients, those who want to lose weight or anyone concerned with their blood sugar level:

  • Eat cereals with oats, barley or bran.
  • If you eat bread, make it whole grain, stone ground and sourdough.
  • Eat fewer potatoes.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables and some fresh fruits.
  • Among the grains, Basmati rice, pasta, noodles and quinoa are excellent.
  • When eating salads, use vinaigrette dressing rather than blue cheese, thousand island or other sweet dressings.

References

1. Cleave, T.L., The Saccharine Disease, The Master Disease of Our Time, Keats Publishing, CT, 1974.

2. Hall, R.H., Food for Naught, The Decline in Nutrition, Vintage Books, NY, 1976.

3. Schroeder, H., The Trace Elements and Man, Devin-Adair Company, Ct., 1973.

4. Glycemicindex.com.

 

Dr. Lawrence Wilson has a medical degree and has been in the health field for over 25 years. His books include Nutritional Balancing and Hair Mineral Analysis, Legal Guidelines for Unlicensed Practitioners, Healing Ourselves and Manual of Sauna Therapy and The Real Self. He also co-authored Toxic Metals in Human Health and Disease and contributed to The Dangers of Socialized Medicine. www.drlwilson.com or 928-445-7690.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 5, October/November 2006.

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