There is nothing inherently wrong with carbohydrates, in fact, low-carbohydrate diets can lead to malnutrition, constipation, enervation and vulnerability to chronic illness. But when we change the makeup of naturally-found carbohydrates, a healthy and natural food source is converted into something quite different.
Simple carbohydrates, and especially refined flour, are digested rapidly, converting immediately to glucose and hitting the digestive system hard. The pancreas, confused by the amount of glucose being received, releases too much insulin, resulting in a dramatic drop in blood sugar and consequentially feelings of lethargy, mental fog, weakness and false ‘hunger.’ It places added stress on the adrenals to pump out balancing hormones and the increased insulin, which promotes storage of fat, paves the way to rapid weight gain and elevated triglyceride levels, which can lead to heart disease. When the pancreas is overworked it eventually stops producing insulin all together, welcoming hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and diabetes.
Perhaps the most immediately observable effect of simple carbohydrates, however, is the short-lived burst of energy they supply, which is rapidly followed by more hunger, encouraging further carb-heavy snacking and binging.
When it comes to the biggest culprits in dietary damage, it’s hard to go past refined sugar and flour. Refined, or white, flour is produced by removing the nutritious and fiber-rich parts of the wheat seed (like the outside bran layer and the germ or embryo). It is pulverized and heated, a process which removes the 14 vitamins and 10 minerals and proteins found in whole wheat.
It is then bleached in chlorine-based solutions, not dissimilar to what we use to bleach fabric, to get the look we have come to associate with bread. One of the more commonly used bleaches, chloride oxide, combines with remaining wheat proteins to produce alloxan, which is commonly used to produce diabetes in laboratory animals. There is no way of eliminating traces of bleach from refined flour, and there is no doubt that it ends up in our system, wreaking havoc.
‘Multi-grain’, ‘stone-ground’ or ‘cracked wheat’ labels can be misleading, and health-orientated packaging could draw us towards a product made from refined flour, with a few extra seeds or even dyes back in to make it look healthier. ‘Enriched flour’, for example, is stripped, processed and bleached before being sprayed with 4 synthetic nutrients. The fact remains that even whole wheat bread spikes blood sugar faster than many candy bars.
In addition to these dangers, gluten (found in wheat, spelt, rye and barley) the protein giving bread its light, fluffy quality, causes damage to the wall of the digestive tract, causing pain, bloating and tiredness and may even contribute to emotional instability and further food intolerance. While it’s believed a large percentage of the population is allergic or intolerant to gluten, it appears these small-scale sensitivities occur in an even greater number.
Does the thought of scrapping these foods leave you dizzy? Fear not, next week we explore the wonderful world of whole and healthful grains!