High Carb, Low Glycemic Diets, With Riva Greenberg

Good Complex Carbs

| Aug 25, 2011

Carbohydrates have become the ugly stepsister in the family photo album of healthy eating. Standing in the grocery aisle, consumers study ingredients and food labels, counting and analyzing the carb content of their foods. In the last decade, the popularity of low carb diets rose to dramatic heights as Americans gravitated toward the South Beach, Atkins, and Zone diets. Fruits were forsaken for plates piled high with steak and eggs.

People with diabetes have been counting carbs for years, and many adhere passionately to the philosophy of doctors like Dr. Bernstein, whose advice (six grams of carbs for breakfast, 12 at lunch and dinner) differs from the ADA recommendations (45 to 60 grams per meal) for a healthy diet. But something gets lost in the fervor over carbohydrates, and that is the reality that even ugly stepsisters have redeeming qualities.

There are two basic types of carbohydrates: simple (bad) and complex (good). "Good" complex carbs are found in the following:
Oatmeal and oat bran
Nuts and seeds
Most fruits (for example, strawberries, blueberries, pears, and apples)
Most vegetables
Dry beans and peas
Whole wheat bread and wheat bran
Barley, brown rice, couscous, bulgur, and whole grain cereals

"Bad" carbs include sugars found naturally in foods such as fruits, vegetables, milk, and milk products. Simple carbohydrates also include sugars added during food processing and refining, refined grains like white bread and white rice, processed foods such as cake, cookies, chips, certain lunch meats, and hotdogs, and soft drinks and alcohol.

Here's where it can get a little confusing. It's not just about the carbohydrate content of foods that matters for managing blood sugars. The glycemic index (GI) needs to be considered as well.

The glycemic index ranks carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are rapidly digested and absorbed, resulting in marked fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Low GI foods, by virtue of their slow digestion and absorption, produce gradual rises in blood sugar and insulin levels and have proven benefits for health.
Low GI diets have been shown to improve both glucose and lipid levels in people with diabetes (type 1 and type 2). They have benefits for weight control because they help control appetite and delay hunger. Low GI diets also reduce insulin levels and insulin resistance.

Low glycemic index foods tend to be complex carbohydrates like whole grains, non-starchy vegetables, beans, nuts, yogurt, whole wheat pasta, and many fruits. They contain less calories, sugar, and fat, are more filling, and don't set off cravings for fat, sugar, and salt the way high GI foods do.

According to the Glycemic Index Foundation (http://www.glycemicindex.com/), a low GI diet (under 50) is beneficial because it helps people lose and manage weight and increases the body's sensitivity to insulin. Low GI carbs also improve diabetes management, reduce the risk of heart disease, improve blood cholesterol levels, reduce hunger and keep you fuller longer, and prolong physical endurance.

Riva Greenberg has lived with type 1 diabetes since 1972. After graduating from college and moving back to her native New York City, she ate the standard New York diet of bagels, muffins, scones, and pretzels. She says that she used to think she ate a fairly low carb diet. It wasn't until she read Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution that she began to change the way she ate. She gave up the bagels and pretzels, but took liberties with the rigid Bernstein diet.

Greenberg continued to read the latest research on various meal plans and had an "ah-ha" moment when she realized that she was using the term "low carb" incorrectly. "I thought I was eating a low carb diet, but every day, oatmeal, veggies, fruit, nuts, and beans made up the bulk of my diet, and those all have carbs in them," she says. She realized that she was following a higher carb diet than she thought, yet it was low glycemic index, and it was working.

Greenberg says routine helps. "If you can eat the same way most days, your blood sugars are more predictable." Usually, her meals consist of the following:
Breakfast: steel-cut oatmeal with flaxseed, sunflower seeds, berries, a spoonful of nonfat Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese and peanut butter
Lunch: leftover veggies, chick peas and turkey, chicken, and hummus or feta cheese
Dinner: chicken or fish, non-starchy vegetables, beans, and a glass of red wine
Snacks: dark chocolate, fruit, and nuts

Greenberg notes, "I'm not saying I never eat pancakes, fried calamari, or the occasional dessert, and I do always dunk the bread crusts in olive oil when I'm out to dinner. But pretty much the way I eat now is simple and really clean. Eating this way, I've been able to maintain my lowest weight without much effort. I also don't feel deprived. I like what I eat. I don't miss bagels at all."

Greenberg believes that when you change your eating habits over time, your taste buds change. She adds, "I also think that when you shift your mindset from feeling deprived to wanting to be healthy, then it doesn't feel like giving up processed foods and refined carbohydrates is a sacrifice.

Food is a complex issue for people with diabetes. What we eat affects how we feel physically and emotionally. Everyone is different, and what works for one may not work for another. What's most important when making food choices is to be informed, know the difference between good and bad carbs, and choose what works best for you.

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Categories: Blood Sugar, Carbs, Diabetes, Diabetes, Dr. Bernstein, Food, Fruit, Glycemic Index (GI), Losing weight, Sugar & Sweeteners, Type 1 Issues, Type 2 Issues

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Posted by Anonymous on 25 August 2011

IOW, "What's wrong with you low carbers? haven't you heard of the glycemic index?"

Yes we have, and we have found that it falls far short of it's promises.
In the end, complex carbs=simple carbs=sugar. It's all a matter of how fast they hit you. You don't fight fire with gasoline, you don't treat alcoholics with alcohol, and you don't deal with the inability to properly metablolize carbohydrate by eating lots of carbohydrate.

Posted by Without Envy on 25 August 2011

Thanks for this article. Since our daughter's diagnosis 1 1/2 yrs ago, we've taken what was already a warn-out word to our family, esp. the children -- moderation -- and carried it to great new heights, to everyone's benefit, not just the one with diabetes. One new thing we discovered as a result: juicing. It truly does do a body good.

Posted by Bourret on 25 August 2011

I have to agree with the first comment. Glycemic Index is someone's attempt to come up with an easy number to compare foods without really getting to the nitty-gritty of how foods are metabolized.

A good example of how the index fails us is to look at Fructose....It has a GI of something like 20, but it is NOT a good carbohydrate.

Posted by dejack@rogers.com on 25 August 2011

Diet, Low carb And Lot's of Excercis wiil drop your Aic G.I. has a lot of Help!!!

Posted by Anonymous on 26 August 2011

Shame on you, Diabetes Health, for printing such a rediculously inaccurate article on diabetes meal planning. I am a Registered Dietitian working daily with PWD and have to constantly battle misinformation such as this-- it is hard enough for them to learn what is right without having to unlearn all of the wrong information first. Next time have an actual Dietitian write your articles so you can be considered a reliable source of information. In case you are wondering-- the carbs in fruit and milk are NOT BAD since they are food groups with a considerable amount of nutritional density. The GI is a joke-- it tries to over-simplify the subject but most people don't realize that the GI for any given food item changes depending upon how it is prepared and with what other foods it is consumed. If you don't understand the concept of counting carbs within a healthy, nutritious meal plan then get yourself to a Diabetes Educator and/or Registered Dietitian post-haste!!!

Posted by andre Chimene on 26 August 2011

All carbs are either fiber or sugar. Whatever is not fiber, will turn to sugar. There are no simple or complex or safe carbs. They are either fiber or sugar. Eat higher fiber, veggies etc..and not sugar...grains , potatoes. Please, stop it! Stop trying to hoodwink us diabetics into eating carbs and then covering the blood sugar spikes with more medicine. Either you want to be on the side of truth and help diabetics or you don't. Low carb works the best because it is the only way to be low sugar.

Posted by Anonymous on 28 August 2011

My name is Andre Chimene. I am a Type 1 Diabetic. I have commented several times and because I do not support the conclusions of many of your articles, my comments do not get published. This is dissapointing and leads me to suspect that you fear constructive critisizms of your conclusions. Your magazine joins the ranks of those who help keep the real and simple truth from diabetics on how to control blood sugars with minimal or no medication. Simply do not follow a diet that promotes sugar or carbohydrates that turn to sugar to a person (diabetic) that is sugar intolerant. Since the evidence is overwhelming and the logic is unassailable, my only conclusion for your stance is that you either don't care for the health of diabetics or you are in the pocket of those who make money off of the disease. I am happy to debate this with you or receive information from you that will change my mind as to your intentions with this publication. Thank you, Andre Chimene

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