Cristi DeMarco’s Wellness Weblog

Health Info You Should Know.

Go Grain!

No white flour, no white sugar, avoid the “white death”!  I was told that by a practitioner several years ago and while I agree with the concept, I prefer to try to get my point across while sounding slightly less crazy.  First, let’s understand why we should toss the pasta and cookies, and then maybe we’ll be more motivated to actually do it.

The problem with consuming too much white flour and white sugar is the resulting spike in blood sugar and the body having to deal with that spike by signaling your pancreas to secrete insulin to regulate your blood sugar.  Hyperglycemia is too much sugar and not enough insulin.    Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar because of too much insulin.  Insulin resistance is basically a bad combination of these two states.  If you eat lots of white flour and sugar for your whole life there is always a lot of glucose floating around and your pancreas constantly needs to pump out a lot of insulin.  The worst case scenario is that eventually the pancreas just can’t keep up with insulin production and you have so much sugar in your blood that you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes is associated with circulation issues and heart disease.  None of these are good things so let’s get off that train right now.  Insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes can be managed with diet but it is much easier to make changes in your diet and lifestyle before it gets to that point.

The most obvious sign of insulin resistance is extra weight around the middle that is very difficult to lose, even if you feel like you are watching what you eat and exercising some.    A particular group that is prone to insulin resistance and all the resulting health issues are women who are diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome.  Symptoms you might experience that are less clear are the transient symptoms of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.

Having too much sugar and too much insulin floating around is a combination of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.  Big words aside, what we actually experience is very familiar to most people.  It’s getting suddenly very hungry, and irritable, shaky, needing food “right now!”, and a strong craving for sugar.  If you are really imbalanced you may feel fatigued and like you crave sugar all of the time.  So you grab the first thing you see, a donut, a cookie, or maybe you make what you think is a healthier choice.  A bowl of cereal, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread, a fat free yogurt, a cereal bar, and you feel much better…for about 1-2 hours and it starts again.

This is where whole grains come in, real complex carbohydrate whole grains.  Complex carbohydrates take longer to digest so they don’t spike your blood sugar, and they also tend to be fibrous so they help you on the other end by also cleaning out your intestines.  Good going in, good going out, Go Grain!

Now Go Grain is not the same as the whole grain marketing craze that seems to be occurring, reminiscent of the fat free mania of the 90’s.  And incidentally, what did we get from fat free mania?  That’s right, more products loaded with sugar.  Now regarding whole grain, lots of things say whole grain but what are we really getting from those products? Should we be eating more Fruit Loops because it says whole grain on the box?  Yeah, that’s it, definitely eat more of a high sugar cereal to regulate blood sugar.  Say that out loud and see if it makes sense.

Less obvious are the foods mentioned before.  Non-sugar cereals like Cheerios, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread, a fat free yogurt, “whole grain cereal bar”.  These are better choices than Fruit Loops, donuts, cookies, and straight up white bread but they don’t act all that differently in the body.   All of the above have a high content of simple carbohydrates.

OK, so what can we eat?  Changing your diet is hard.  You can’t just get a list of can’ts  and suddenly know what to do.   So what do I try to advise people when they come into my office with a sad face and a sigh of desperation about their can’ts.  I try to give them a list of things they can.   I usually start with encouraging them to start cooking 3 very versatile grains-brown rice, quinoa, and millet.

Brown rice cannot be instant, in it’s whole form, brown rice is nutritionally complete, full of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and even lipids, the building blocks for fats.  Quinoa technically isn’t even a grain so especially good to have if you suspect or know of a gluten allergy.  Millet cooks  up nice and soft and is great for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or sweetened up with agave and cinnamon for a healthier dessert.

If you focus on adding healthy things to your diet, rather than just taking things away, you tend to, over time, be more able to make healthy choices.   There is no room for Fruit Loops when you fill up on slowly digesting grains, and then you don’t need to make the tough decision between a donut and fat-free cheesecake flavored yogurt at 10a.  And if you are hungry at 10a, not having the low blood sugar crazies will help you make a good choice, like an apple, or how about a small portion of creamy full fat plain yogurt with fruit?  Full fat, sounds crazy huh?  Another discussion for another day.

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October 13, 2009 - Posted by | health info you should know, nutrition, self-care | , , , , , ,

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