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The Wrong Carbs

by Regina Gibbons

Do you:

· Feel tired and weak after a meal?

· Crave Carbohydrates? Yes, that includes ice cream !

· Snack at night after supper?

· Continue to gain weight – particularly around your midline?

These are the telltale signs of Insulin Abuse. Repeatedly spiking our blood sugar leaves us craving more sugar. Blood sugar, technically called blood glucose, is the amount of glucose in the blood stream at any given time. The normal range for blood glucose levels is between 70 mg/DL and 109 mg/DL and that’s a rather narrow range. Many health and wellness professionals suggest an optimal range of 70-85mg/DL.

Glucose is a simple sugar and an essential biological substance. It provides the fuel needed by every single cell in the body. Our brains, in particular, need glucose to function. Glucose commonly comes directly from dietary carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose by the body. The glucose that is not immediately used to fuel metabolic activity is converted to glycogen and stored in the liver and muscles to be used later by the body.

Insulin is the hormone that unlocks the receptor site on the cell, allowing the glucose to enter the cell. It also performs a vital role in fat storage and use, mineral metabolism (esp. sodium, calcium and magnesium.), endocrine function, inflammatory response and mediation of cell growth and cell death. A rapid rise in blood sugar requires a flood of insulin to manage it. The spike it then followed by a dramatic drop in blood sugar. Repeated abuse of our insulin function for this purpose also has an adverse effect on the other essential functions of insulin.

Other powerful hormones like cortisol and adrenaline signal the cells to release glucose into the blood stream to fuel our fight or flight response, hence, increasing blood glucose levels. Insulin is the only hormone that lowers blood glucose levels. Emotional stress and a hectic lifestyle elevate the fight or flight hormones and further strain our insulin response system.

Dietary carbohydrates and Blood Glucose levels.

Not all carbohydrates are created equal.

Up until recently the commonly held view was that the size of the molecule determined how quickly a carbohydrate effected blood glucose. Simple carbohydrates - those having 1 or 2 molecular bonds - were assumed to enter the blood stream as glucose more rapidly than complex carbohydrates – those having multiple molecular bonds. In 1981 Dr. David Jenkins, a professor of nutrition at the University of Toronto, and his colleagues published the results of their work in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. They studied the effect of “different foods on the blood glucose, 62 commonly eaten foods and sugars were fed individually to groups of 5 to 10 healthy fasting volunteers. Blood glucose levels were measured over 2 hours, and expressed as a percentage of the area under the glucose response curve when the same amount of carbohydrate was taken as glucose.”

The GLYCEMIC INDEX SCALE was created. It is a measure of how quickly and dramatically a particular food effects blood glucose levels in the human body as compared to 100% glucose.

Foods are assigned values from 0 to 100, 100 representing the same effect as pure glucose.

High-glycemic foods, with an index 70 or more, should comprise less than 10 % of you diet, while

Medium-glycemic foods, those having an index between 56 and 69, should represent about 20 %.

Foods with an index of 55 or less should make up the bulk of your diet.

There are great charts available (:http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/factsheet/FN_2004-01.pdf) and a searchable data base at www.glycemicindex.com that will give you the GI of most foods. The Glucose Revolution Books by Professor Jennie Brand-Miller of the University of Sydney are also a valuable resource and are available on line.

Good news is most vegetables have a GI of zero. Potatoes, Broad Beans and Parsnips are high, however. Sweet potatoes, yams, carrots and corn are more that zero but still less than 55. Be careful with rice as Jasmine rice has a GI of 109 and quick-cooking brown rice is 80. Most fruits are in the 56-69 range but Watermelon is 72. Most beans, legumes and grains are under 55 but be sure to check the serving size that was used during testing. Most charts give pasta a GI of between 56 and 69 per one cup of cooked pasta. Larger portions will require you to make calculations of Glycemic Load. Agave nectar has a GI of 19 per TEASPOON while 100% Floral Honey has a GI of 35 per TABLESPOON so the GI value alone does not tell the whole story.

Also note the Glycemic Index values for many of the Gluten-free products. For some reason these seem to be particularly high.

Snack foods to avoid, besides the obvious, are popcorn (GI = 72), pretzels (GI = 83) and rice cakes (GI = 82). Yes, some of them spike your blood sugar faster than an ounce of jelly beans (GI = 78).

Tips for avoiding Glycemic Stress and Insulin Abuse

Limit or eliminate the white carbohydrates: white sugar, rice, flour, pasta and parsnips, white potatoes

Limit or eliminate all highly processed foods – especially breakfast cereals

Keep your blood sugar (and insulin levels) even small amts of low-G foods t/out the day.

Don’t go more than 4 hours without eating low-glycemic foods

Never eat high-glycemic foods on an empty stomach.

Eating low-glycemic foods first will “prime” your insulin

Add Fiber - Fiber slows down the absorption of the carbohydrates

Drink at least 10 glasses (half gallon) of water per day.

As a Practitioner of East Asian Medicine I must suggest warm, tepid water, the temperature of a nice cup team. Ice cold water impedes digestion.

Regina Gibbons is a Licensed Acupuncturist and Nutritional Coach. You can reach her at regina@wellspring-medical.com

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