All Carbohydrates Are Not Created Equal
Julian Whitaker, MD
Carbohydrates have been targeted as the bad boys of nutrition in recent years. They are maligned in best-selling diet books and squeezed out of the many low-carb foods now available. While I think it is important to select the carbohydrate foods you eat judiciously, wholesale vilification of carbohydrates is completely unwarranted.
Insulin Resistance Increases With Age
As we age, our ability to metabolize carbohydrates falters. Our cells no longer respond as readily to insulin, and as a result, glucose levels remain elevated, causing more insulin to be produced. This is a condition known as insulin resistance, and it is accompanied by abdominal obesity, abnormalities in blood lipids, high blood pressure, and increased risk of heart disease and diabetes.
The only way to completely eliminate insulin resistance is to stop eating. I jest, of course, but seriously, caloric restriction does indeed reduce insulin resistance. However, I don’t recommend low calorie diets. They don’t work for one reason: people don’t like feeling hungry, and they won’t stay on such a diet for prolonged periods. What I do recommend, however, is that you alter the quality of the food you eat. Here are the basics of the Whitaker Wellness nutritional plan.
1. Eat a Low-Fat Diet
Essential fats are a vital dietary constituent. Fats are important components of each and every cell membrane. They cushion your body, are stored for energy, and serve as precursors of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances with multifaceted biological functions. Excessive fat intake, however, is related to a wide range of diseases, and some types of fat are worse than others. We recommend that you go easy on saturated fat from animal sources, use heart-healthy monounsaturated olive oil as your oil of choice, and enjoy modest amounts of unprocessed polysaturated nut and seed oils.
2. Eat Moderate Amounts of Protein
Amino acids, which are the constituents of protein foods, are necessary for tissue building and repair and are integral to the functioning of the immune and central nervous systems. Protein also stimulates the release of glucagon, a hormone that mobilizes fat. Make sure you include moderate amounts of lean protein with every meal. Poultry, fish, shellfish, nonfat yogurt and cottage cheese, egg whites, and beans are good sources of high-quality protein.
3. Eat the Right Type of Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy. Carbohydrate-dense vegetables, fruits, and beans, are also nature’s richest sources of vitamins, minerals, and health-enhancing phytonutrients. The human body needs carbohydrates for optimal function. However, as I mentioned above, you have to be selective in your choices.
The glycemic index is a way of evaluating foods based on how quickly they are metabolized into glucose and raise blood sugar. Some carbohydrate foods are broken down quickly and cause a sharp rise in blood sugar. These foods, which include anything made with white flour, sugar, or other sweeteners, have a high glycemic index. Other foods, such as fiber-rich vegetables, beans, grains, and fruits, release sugars more slowly into the bloodstream, so they have a low glycemic index. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to tell you that unprocessed, nutrient-rich, low glycemic carbohydrates are the way to go.
- Nutritional education and counseling is an important part of the Whitaker Wellness Institute’s Back to Health Program. To enroll in the program, call (866) 944-8253 or click here.
- I’ve written two cookbooks based on these sound dietary principles: Quick & Healthy Recipes for Vibrant Living and the Reversing Diabetes Cookbook. Call (800) 810-6655 to order your copies today.
- Reaven, GM. Role of insulin resistance in human disease. Diabetes, 1988;37: 1595-1607.
- Jenkins, DJ et al. Starchy foods and glycemic index. Diabetes Care, Feb. 1988;11(2): 149-159.
Modified from Health & Healing with permission from Healthy Directions, LLC. Photocopying, reproduction, or quotation strictly prohibited without written permission from the publisher. To subscribe to Health & Healing, click here.