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Issue 50: Naked Carbs May Lead to Insulin Spike

You probably know that you should not eat your carbs naked, but do you know why you shoudn't? It has something to do with the glycemic index.

You may have heard of the glycemic index. Simply put, the glycemic index is a measure of how fast insulin (a hormone released by the pancreas to manage blood glucose levels) rises in response to the amount of glucose or sugar entering the bloodstream. Here’s how it works: the faster glucose arrives into the bloodstream and the higher the amount of that sugar, the higher the glycemic index of that food.

Carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates, have a higher glycemic index and will enter the bloodstream much faster than proteins or fats do. Most of us know that too many carbohydrates, especially those from refined sources, not only cause insulin spikes but can also cause the body to store excess carb intake as body fat.        

If the release of insulin is too frequent due to foods high on the glycemic index, cells can eventually become desensitized to insulin--a condition associated with cardiovascular disease , high blood pressure, adult-onset diabetes, blood fat abnormalities, and obesity. 

And that brings us to this: one thing you can do to avoid the insulin spikes is to never eat your carbs naked. By that, we mean to couple your carbs (healthy ones) with a healthy protein or fat. Insulin is released quickly in response to carbohydrates, and if carbs are eaten alone, insulin levels can skyrocket. And our culture sure has its share of over-abundant carbohydrate intake. And sugars, including fructose and high-fructose corn syrup, have been major players.

In fact, as early as the 1970s, studies were indicating the correlation between refined carbohydrate intake and increases in degenerative conditions like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Likewise, further studies indicated that the addition of sugar to our diets gleaned a large increase in heart disease and diabetes. Pioneering studies resonate with current studies indicating that increased sugar consumption eerily mirrors the increase in the incidence of cardiovascular disease—and some of it has to do with the hormone insulin.

You may be wondering what effects high insulin levels (due to high carbohydrate and sugar consumption) can have on the body. According to Ann Louise Gittleman, author of How to Stay Young and Healthy in a Toxic World, sustained high insulin levels can increase cholesterol production, increase fat storage, and lead to hypertension. Likewise, Ralph DeFronzo, M. D., of the University of Texas Health Center, believes that high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity are symptoms of underlying hyperinsulinemia. 

And DeFronzo is not alone. Additional studies conclude that sugar intake (especially fructose intake) may be a risk factor for hypertension, insulin resistance, hypertriacylglycerolemia, obesity, type 2 diabetes, preeclampsia, chronic kidney disease, stroke, and cardiovascular disease—all bad things for health.

The bottom line? Avoid sugar, especially fructose and high fructose corn syrup, and be sure to eat foods with a low glycemic index, including organically grown non-starchy vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes (soaked first for optimal benefits) and sprouted grains. Non-starchy vegetables include arugula, asparagus, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, mushrooms, onions, spinach, squash, and tomatoes.

And when you do eat healthy carbs, be sure to pair them with a healthy protein or fat. It’s a combination your insulin levels will appreciate--and ensures that you never eat your carbs naked.


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

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