Your diet, however varied it may be, only has three possible foods associated with it. Those three categories are the following:
To help you understand the role carbohydrates should play as a component of your healthy diet, it will serve us well to divide carbohydrates into two distinct groups:
1. Nutrient-sparse carbohydrates
2. Nutrient-dense carbohydrates
Over the last fifty years, a major shift in our diet has occurred that could not be compensated for in such a short time span. It was the double whammy of the dawning of the fast-food industry and the exponential elevation of our carbohydrate consumption that has created the epidemic of type 2 diabetes. The baby boomer generation was the first to feel its effects. It continues to increase in the millennial generation to such a degree that, for the first time in human history, the generation that follows is expected to die sooner than the generation that preceded it.
The first hint that something new was brewing happened during the Vietnam and Korean War era when young men, eighteen to twenty years of age, were brought home in body bags to Dover, Delaware. When soldiers’ remains are returned, many undergo a full autopsy no matter what the obvious cause of death was. It was during the autopsies on those soldiers that the first evidence of what was to come was detected.
Two studies that are frequently cited (70 percent in one and 48 percent in another) revealed the presence of advanced cardiovascular disease to such an extent not ever seen before even in an elderly population, let alone in a group of late adolescents. The arterial lesions and atherosclerotic plaque accumulation was the hallmark evidence of the damage to the vasculature in any diabetic. It just had never been seen before in a group of males that young.
The Vietnam veterans are now in their sixties and seventies. They now are the full-blown diabetics that the autopsies were able to forecast that many years in advance. They are the spearhead of the diabetic epidemic that is now in full display.
It is the constant barrage of elevated carbohydrate levels and the rapid and sustained blood-sugar levels that result that bring us to this point. A new disease has been born that is now out of control. It is carbohydrates in the diet that are to blame.
The form of diabetes we were most familiar with was a form known as type 1 diabetes. It usually begins in childhood and is the result of an autoimmune disorder. In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas cannot produce insulin in response to elevation in blood sugar. It is insulin that allows glucose to enter the cell. In type 2 diabetes, so much insulin is secreted that the tissues develop an insulin resistance. In both cases, blood sugars rise. The constant elevation of blood sugar referred to as glycemia damages all tissue it comes into contact with, and the heart and blood vessels become ground zero.
To protect you from sustained glycemia, the construction of your healthy diet should attempt to eliminate the nutritionally sparse carbohydrates while encouraging the nutritionally dense ones.
Nutritionally Sparse Carbs
The nutritionally sparse carbohydrates are more accurately described as nutritionally absent. They contain little to no nutritional value. They break down during digestion and are converted into glucose in large quantities, which rapidly enter the bloodstream. This sudden elevation in blood sugar triggers the pancreas to produce and secrete large amounts of insulin that the cells eventually no longer respond to, leading to sustained blood-sugar elevations.
If you are a diabetic already, you must severely limit the carbohydrate content of your diet as part of your treatment. If you are not a diabetic yet, you can protect yourself from ever becoming a diabetic by doing the same.
The following foods are represented in the nutritionally absent group:
– fruit juices
You can easily recognize a group of foods referred to as “the starches.” The starches always pose a potential problem and should be eaten cautiously. They cannot be modified to reduce their blood-sugar elevation risk.
As an example, what I frequently hear from patients is something like, “I eat Ezekiel bread, not white bread,” or “I eat wild rice or brown rice, not white rice.” The fact of the matter is that a slice of Ezekiel bread, although it does have nutritional value, has the same number of carbohydrates as a slice of white bread. The color or other components do not matter. It is the carbohydrate content that matters. Even though some healthier versions of some of these representatives could be considered a healthier version, the carbohydrate content is what matters.
Nutritionally Dense Carbs
As emphatic as I have been with respect to consuming the starches—the nutritionally absent foods—I cannot encourage you enough to eat unlimited amounts of the nutritionally dense form of carbohydrates. Collectively, you know them as the vegetables. They are loaded with vitamins and minerals where the starches are not.
The biggest reason they can be recommended so enthusiastically is that the elevation in blood-sugar levels is, at best, only minimal. The pancreas is not overly stimulated. Consequently, insulin levels rise slowly. With that rise, the cells of the body can adjust to accommodate the influx of sugar into the cells.
You should strive to eliminate nutritionally sparse carbs from your diet, and focus on eating more nutritionally dense carbs.