Refined carbohydrates are rapidly broken down into glucose and digest very quickly, provoking a quick, sharp blood sugar rise and insulin response.
By: Kathy Freston
It’s simple. The foods we eat cause a blood glucose response in our bodies, and we can use our diet to have better control of how quick and how high the response is, and this in turn helps control our appetite. High-GI foods provoke a higher, faster response in our blood glucose level. A rapid increase in blood glucose tells the pancreas to increase insulin levels. In the hours after a meal, this increase in insulin then causes a sharp decrease in blood glucose levels, and before you know it, your body is telling you that you’re tired and hungry again.
Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute notes that 15 out of 16 published studies have found that eating low-GI foods “delayed the return of hunger, decreased subsequent food intake, and increased satiety (feeling full) when compared to high-GI foods”.
A major component of a whole-foods plant-based diet is complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruits, and beans. Carbohydrates, which were once cast in a negative light because of outdated diet theories like Atkins, are in fact a vital, nutritious part of our human diet. But here’s a better way of thinking about carbs: you can classify them in two categories, refined and unrefined.
Refined carbohydrates have a bad rap for a good reason: They include heavily processed foods, such a white bread, candy, soda, sugar and cake. Refined carbohydrates are rapidly broken down into glucose and digest very quickly, provoking a quick, sharp blood sugar rise and insulin response. Refined carbohydrates are most often found in processed foods because during processing most of the nutrients are stripped away and lots of sugar is added. This might make the food more of a taste sensation, but it’s bad news for your weight.
Unrefined carbohydrates, such as those you find in a piece of fruit or a serving of black beans, are metabolized slower. What this means is that the resulting rise in blood sugar and, subsequently, insulin is more stable, and is sustained over a longer period of time. Stable blood sugar and insulin help control hunger.
Dr. Neal Barnard explains the principle: “Low-GI foods can help control cravings. Here’s why: a high-GI food (for instance, white bread) makes your blood sugar rise quickly. And what goes up must come down, and as your blood sugar falls, cravings tend to kick in. Many people are on a sugar roller coaster, with cravings kicking in every few hours. Low-GI foods help control cravings, because they keep your blood sugar much more stable.” Makes, sense, doesn’t it? The goal is to stay steady.
About the Author:
Kathy Freston, author of The Lean: A Revolutionary (and Simple!) 30-Day Plan for Healthy, Lasting Weight Loss, is a bestselling author with a focus on healthy eating and conscious living. Her instant New York Times bestsellers include Veganist, Quantum Wellness, and The One. She has appeared frequently on national television, including The Dr. Oz Show, Ellen, Good Morning America, The View, Charlie Rose, Extra and Oprah. She lives in Los Angeles.