Understanding Carbohydrates

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Understanding Carbohydrates

Why do 5 grams of carbohydrate from a potato cause a bigger insulin spike than 5 grams of carbohydrate from a sugar cube?

To understand this, you have to think like a biochemist.

Nutrition used to be simple in the old days.

There were only 2 types of carbohydrates:  simple ones (like table sugar) and complex ones (like bread, pasta, potatoes, and rice).

Simple carbohydrates were bad for blood sugar levels, and complex carbohydrates were good.

Then this theory was totally destroyed by actual studies.

Research found some simple carbohydrates enter your bloodstream as glucose much slower than many complex carbohydrates.

This flip-flop on carbohydrates is due to biochemistry.

All carbohydrates have to be broken down into simple sugars, like glucose and fructose, to be absorbed.

(Milk and dairy products contain another simple sugar, called lactose, which many people can’t digest.)

Grains and starches (bread, pasta, rice, corn, potatoes, and so on) are made of long strings of glucose held together by very weak chemical bonds quickly broken down during digestion.

As the glucose is quickly released, it flows into your bloodstream, causing an increase in the secretion of insulin.

The more rapidly glucose enters your bloodstream, the more insulin is secreted.

On the other hand, fructose is rapidly absorbed but is very slowly converted into glucose in your liver.

As a result, the simple sugar fructose will actually enter your bloodstream as glucose slower than the glucose coming from a complex carbohydrate.

Less glucose in your bloodstream means less insulin is secreted.

Vegetables are about 30% fructose, fruits are about 70% fructose, and grains and starches are 100% glucose.

This should help you see why eating more complex carbohydrates, like grains and starches, has a stronger impact on increasing insulin levels.

Add soluble fiber (found primarily in fruits and vegetables) and you reduce the rate of entry of glucose into your bloodstream even more, making a smaller increase in insulin.

(The insoluble fiber found in the grains and starches has little impact on slowing glucose entry into your bloodstream, which is another strike against grains and starches.)

To put it simply, eating carbohydrates mainly in the form of vegetables and fruits is a great way to control insulin levels, whereas eating grains and starches is not.

Each carbohydrate-containing food enters your bloodstream at a particular rate.

The rate at which a particular food enters your bloodstream is called the glycemic index of that carbohydrate.

The higher the glycemic index of a food, the faster that food raises your blood glucose levels and the quicker the rise in insulin secretion.

For example, a sugar cube is composed of one-half glucose and one-half fructose, whereas a potato is 100% glucose.

This is why the same amount of carbohydrate in the form of a sugar cube enters your bloodstream as glucose at a slower rate than the same amount of carbohydrate in a potato.

No wonder the nutritional establishment hates the idea of the glycemic index.

Although there’s been a lot of hype about the glycemic index, it has significant limitations.

It’s based on eating 50 grams of carbohydrate of a particular food at a single sitting.

Since you don’t normally eat that much of one food, it doesn’t tell you how much a real serving of the food raises your blood sugar levels.

It also doesn’t take into account your total carbohydrate intake in a given meal or snack.

This means it doesn’t give you the big picture, which is how much your blood levels are going to rise from a particular meal or snack.

Instead, you have to rely on a relatively new term called the glycemic load to get this information.

Come join us on our natural weight loss journey!  We’d love to have you along!

Have an awesome day!

(Based on Dr. Barry Sears’ “The Anti-Inflammation Zone”)

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Dick and Lenay

email: lenay@dickandlenay.com – 715-431-0657

P.S. If your diet isn’t working for you, join us on our natural weight loss journey.


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