Sometimes, it’s enough to rock your fitness boat: calories to count, foods to select, deciding between good and bad carbs. Despite the fact that you feel you might need a calculator every time you go to the grocery store, let’s look at why carbs are a very important consideration. In general, complex carbs should be your carbs of choice.
What’s significant about simple and complex carbs? With few exceptions, complex carbs mainly slow down the absorption of sugar in the blood, which is measured by a value known as the glycemic index (GI). The GI for carbohydrates ranges from 1 to 100 (1 is the slowest; 100 is the fastest). Pure glucose has a glycemic index of 100 with carbohydrate-rich foods such as honey and puffed rice close behind it with a GI in the 90s.
Taking all factors into consideration, don’t skip out on a nutritious form of carbohydrate just because it has a higher GI in favor of food with little nutritional value that may have a lower GI. Rather, it’s more important that you use this information to watch what you eat. Below are 7 genechanging tips to help you get carbs right:
1. Choose Complex Over Simple
Simple carbohydrates are quick-energy sources that lack fiber and nutrients that your body needs. Think candy and cookies. Complex carbohydrates are a better option because they often provide you with energy as well as nutrients and fiber.
- Seeds are the most important source of starch because 70% of their weight is composed of complex carbs.
- Beans and peas are the second most important source of complex carbs because they are made up of 40% starch by weight.
- Tubers, such as cassava and yam (mainly in non-Western cultures) follow these two top sources of complex carbs.
Below is a general overview of the GI of certain carbohydrates. Please use this summary “loosely” because the glycemic index of food isn’t fixed. In fact, various factors influence the GI of food such as:
- Cooked or processed.
- Starch type: Barley is broken down and absorbed slower than potato starch.
- Fiber: Foods with more fiber tend to have a lower GI.
- Ripeness: Ripe fruits contain higher amounts of sugar, which raises their GI.
- Amount of acid or fat: The more acid or fat a food contains the lower its GI.
Low/Medium/High GI Foods
Low GI Foods (55 or less)
- 100% stone-ground whole wheat or pumpernickel bread
- Oatmeal (rolled or steel-cut), oat bran, muesli
- Pasta, converted rice, barley, bulgar
- Sweet potato, corn, yam, lima/butter beans, peas, legumes, and lentils
- Most fruits, non-starchy vegetables, and carrots
Medium GI (56-69)
- Whole wheat, rye, and pita bread
- Quick oats
- Brown, wild or basmati rice, couscous
High GI (70 or more)
- White bread or bagel
- Corn flakes, puffed rice, bran flakes, instant oatmeal
- Shortgrain white rice, rice pasta, macaroni and cheese from mix
- Russet potato, pumpkin
- Pretzels, rice cakes, popcorn, saltine crackers, melons, and pineapple
Source: American Diabetes Association
2. Genechanger Coconut Tip
Coconut crystals commonly known as “Coconut Secret,” a brand name, is the best sweetener you can use (www.coconutsecret.com). It has the consistency of sugar but a much lower glycemic index—meaning it requires less insulin to metabolize. It is made from the sap of the coconut tree and is rich in vitamin C, amino acids, and B vitamins. Unlike brown sugar that is usually subjected to high heat and contains 90% sucrose, coconut crystals contain 80% insulin. The coconut crystals are sweet-tasting, prebiotic nutrients, which foster intestinal health. And they’re free of pesticides and require no chemicals in the extraction process.
Both simple and complex “carbs” can be further categorized as refined or unrefined sugars. Refined sugars don’t make great dietary sources because they are mainly processed foods that are devoid of any nutrients and fiber. Snacks and packaged foods may seem like a convenience, but these processed foods are major players involved in our growing waistlines as well as conditions like diabetes.
3. Avoid Nutrient-Depleted Carbs
Nutrients are removed from refined carbs, so eating them really doesn’t provide any nutrition. Just how much are you losing when you consume refined foods? A lot. When wheat is converted into white flour, the process removes large amounts of vitamins and minerals—over 80% of vitamin E and magnesium, for instance, are lost based on data that John Neudstadt, ND, shares in a book he co-authored called A Revolution in Health or Nutritional Biochemistry.
Do vitamin E and magnesium sound familiar to you? Well, that’s because they are nutrients that are depleted in diabetic patients; specifically, they’ve been shown in studies to improve glycemic control and keep that “memory” associated with diabetes-like cardiovascular problems in check. In my book, The Gene Therapy Plan: Taking Control of Your Genetic Destiny Through Diet and Lifestyle, which comes out April 21, I share examples and a patient success story to illustrate this point.
4. Include Chromium and Zinc
Chromium and zinc are important minerals removed from refined sugars that are necessary for digesting carbs. So, what do you think the body does when it can’t get necessary nutrients from food? You guessed it! The body will leech off internal storage sites to obtain what it needs. And in doing so, the body depletes stores of vital nutrients leading to deficiencies because not enough of these nutrients are coming in from ecogenetically-sensible foods. Take a look at the findings of these scientific studies:
In a double-blind, cross-over study, chromium levels were reported to be lower in diabetics compared to controls. Researchers supplemented diabetic subjects with chromium or placebo during specified periods, and at one point the groups were switched (during this crossover period the chromium group received the placebo and the placebo group received chromium supplements). At the end of the study, researchers reported that participants who supplemented with chromium had improvements in the blood glucose levels.
For years, I’ve been telling my patients to supplement their diet with chromium to facilitate blood sugar control. I’ve also told them to steer clear of white sugar, which is the next micronutrient-depleted food of discussion. White sugar is a processed, refined version of cane or beet juice. And, again, all of the necessary ecogenetically-intelligent nutrients are removed. To put it bluntly, as Robert Lustig did in his lecture, “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” sugar is insidious. Lustig is unwavering in his belief that refined sugars (e.g., high-fructose corn syrup, white sugar) are, in fact, toxic to our health. And don’t be fooled by marketing terms used on food packages.
5. Beware of “Enriched” or “Fortified” Foods
You might be lead to believe that terms such as “enriched” or “fortified” are good for you. Untrue! They sound “healthy,” but just take a look at their definitions in Webster’s dictionary:
- Enrich – to improve the nutritive value of
- Fortify – to make strong
However, from a manufacturing standpoint these terms are meant to describe the process in which they’ve returned some micronutrients back into food after it’s been refined; but that’s only after the natural vitamins and minerals were removed in the first place. Now, from a nutritional standpoint, it doesn’t make much sense to strip food of its naturally healthful nutrients only to add a few back.
6. Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
My rule of thumb: If you see the word artificial, then skip it. Artificial sweeteners are far from natural. Just like white sugar, which is refined, artificial sweeteners also promote weight gain. The guidelines for controlling blood glucose levels and carbohydrate consumption in patients with type 2 diabetes include increasing physical activity, making healthy dietary choices, and using low-calorie sweeteners.
One study reported that long-term exposure to aspartame in mice led to adverse changes in blood glucose levels. Another study examined the effects of 5 different macronutrient compositions on glucose and insulin levels during exercise in men with type 2 diabetes. The macronutrient compositions included fasting, a sucrose meal (high glycemic index), a fructose meal (low-glycemic index), a high-fat, low-carb meal, and an aspartame meal. Although the researchers hypothesize that either fructose or aspartame would have lowering effects on insulin release and glucose, the study results showed that aspartame, in fact, raised glucose and insulin levels.
So, with a better understanding of carbs, your choices for health can, actually, be simple. From a genetic point of view, those choices will fortify not only your body, but future generations of your descendents.