Diabetes rates have grown to “epidemic” proportions. The latest statistics revealed by the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) state that 25.8 million Americans have diabetes. In addition, research from the ADA shows that 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes. That is 25% of the US population! These rates are expected to continue to soar in the next few decades.
One of the main causes of Type 2 Diabetes is a diet consisting of refined carbohydrates and sugars. Carbohydrates are long chains of sugar molecules. But not all carbohydrates are treated equally by the body. There are huge differences in how different carbohydrates affect blood sugar and insulin levels.
Carbohydrates that trigger the biggest surge in blood sugar are anything with refined flour such as bread, cereal, and pasta. Starches such as potato starch, corn starch, and rice starch also trigger surges in blood sugar. Liquid carbs such as soda, beer, and fruit juice are also major culprits. These foods all get digested quickly because they lack the fiber and nutrients that are only present in an unrefined unprocessed state. Therefore, they flood the blood stream with glucose and stimulate a surge in insulin.
While most people are aware of the risk of sugar consumption, processed carbohydrates and starches can, in some cases, cause even greater spikes in blood sugar levels. In fact, two slices of bread made with commercial whole wheat flour raises blood sugar higher than six teaspoons of table sugar and higher than many candy bars! Why is this? Wheat contains lots of fiber- which should slow down the blood sugar response- right?
In theory, wheat should not convert into sugar quickly in the body. Wheat Kernels are composed of three parts- the bran, germ, and endosperm. The bran and germ contain the bulk of the fiber and nutrients. White flour is composed entirely of the endosperm, which is basically starch (sugar), which obviously would raise blood sugar levels when consumed. To understand why even commercial whole wheat flour raises blood sugar drastically, we have to understand what is going on in the milling process.
Today, wheat kernels are ground in machines called steel mills. After the Industrial revolution, steel mills replaced stone grinders. To make flour, steel mills literally strip the bran and germ off of the endosperm. To make commercial whole wheat flour- the bran and germ and thrown back into the white flour after they were removed. However, they are no longer bound to the starchy endosperm! The molecular structure of the wheat kernel is permanently altered during the steel milling process. Without the fibrous bran bound to the endosperm- even whole wheat flour is digested too rapidly, causing blood sugar levels to spike, which causes a sharp rise in insulin.
For thousands of years, our ancestors used Stone grinders to process wheat. The stone grinding process preserves the fiber, enzymes, and nutrients in the wheat kernel. Only whole grain stone-ground flour is sure to contain the grain components in their original proportions and to include the germ. When the stones grind the wheat kernels, they distribute the germ oil evenly without exposing it to excess heat, so rancidity does not develop as quickly as it would were it ground by steel roller-mills.
If you would like to continue eating grains, then consider using only fresh whole meal stone ground flour. After the flour is stone ground, the bread must be baked within 24 hours to preserve the nutrients and enzymes.
In conclusion, a diet low in fiber and nutrients and high in refined carbohydrates , sugars, and commercial steel milled flour is detrimental to blood sugar levels and pancreatic health.
On the other hand, a diet high in Leafy greens and vegetables (both high in nutrients and fiber) will go a long way to promote healthy blood sugar levels. Beans (high in fiber) and stone ground bread are also suitable foods for blood sugar maintenance.
M.P. Geulah is the author of "Managing ADHD Without Medication- from a Mother's Perspective".