Ever walked through the bread section in a store and thought ‘…mmmmm, that smells so good’ – notice how sweet the smell is? That’s because breads (even whole grain), along with other processed grains such as pastas, tortillas, pitas, etc. are really fairly simple, fiber-less sugars disguised in a more fluffy form. Why is that a big deal? Well, here is the gist.
Processed foods (foods no longer in their natural form – pretty much the only way you can eat grains) – have very little fiber and therefore a huge glycemic load.
This means your stomach digests that food down to sugars that enter your blood stream very quickly. The problem with that is that historically, in nature we would never come in contact with a food like that (except maybe honey and that would only be around seasonally, along with some angry bees). Pretty much all other natural foods (i.e. from the earth: veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean meats) are loaded with tons of nutrients, one of them being soluble fiber which slows the absorption of those sugars into your blood stream.
Where are you getting your fiber?
A common misconception is that cereals and whole grains are a good source of fiber, but when compared to fruits and veggies, they pale in comparison. Per 1000 calories, processed grains have roughly 6-24 grams of fiber, whereas fruits have 41 grams and vegetables have a staggering 185 grams! (Paleo Diet for Athletes p 101). Slowing the absorption of sugars is important because high blood sugar is stressful to the body. One of the major reasons high blood sugar is stressful to the body is its negative role on your immune system function.
The Immune System
You see, your immune system is a powerful system of white blood cells (WBC) that police your body, finding and destroying foreign objects (bacteria, viruses). Now these WBCs require, amongst other things, Vitamin C to function properly. Think of the WBCs like the police force in a city and the Vitamin C is like the weapons that are given to the cops to deal with criminals. Sugar (a.k.a. grains/bread) has a structure very similar to that of Vitamin C, so the Vitamin C absorption sites are blocked and the WBCs get bogged down with sugar and can’t get the Vitamin C that they need. This has a terrible effect on the efficiency of your immune system. Have you ever heard that a can of Coke or a candy bar decreases your immune system function? This is why.
This is exactly why people are told to take Vitamin C when they are sick. Vitamin C supplements boost the amount of that essential vitamin in our blood, allowing the WBCs a chance to get the weapons they need. This does not mean that we should always be taking Vitamin C; it means we need to eat a diet rich in veggies and fruits because they are naturally loaded with Vitamin C and other nutrients, and their sugars are released much more slowly. This natural way of eating keeps our immune system healthy, rather than treating a toxic super-sugary lifestyle.
Grains and Diabetes (Our Children’s Cancer)
Did you know that of the children born in the year 2000, 30% are predicted to be diagnosed with diabetes during their lifetime. Diabetes Type 2 (Diabetes Melitus) is now the 7th leading cause of death in the US. (click here to see more statistics about Diabetes Type 2).
It’s also completely preventable, avoidable, and reversible.
When you eat sugar or processed grains (a muffin, piece of toast, bowl of pasta or cereal), your blood sugar spikes very quickly, causing your pancreas to put out insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is required to allow sugar to enter into our cells. You should think about insulin like a door man, knocking on the cell’s door to let it know that there is sugar outside for use. Without the doorman (insulin), the sugar just floats through the bloodstream, causing eventual havoc on our tissues. This is a brilliant system; you eat food, it’s broken down into sugars, and insulin gets it into the cells. Here is the problem: the western diet, with its high amounts of processed foods (grains, sugars, fiber-less food substances) and low amounts of vegetables and fruits, is the exact recipe to keep super high amounts of sugar in our blood. This means that our pancreas is always stressed, producing more and more insulin, which then is constantly pounding on the cell’s doors yelling “Hey cell, there is some sugar out here, hey, hey HEY!!” Well, cells are just like you and me, and that constant knocking is not only annoying but stressful, so your cells will down-regulate their insulin receptors (decrease the number of doorways for the sugar). This down regulation results in something called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is when your cells become resistant to insulin, so they no longer listen to the doorman. This is the definition of type II diabetes (Diabetes Miletus).
Insulin resistance results in a constant high blood sugar content which is damaging to our tissues. In addition, insulin is used not only to get sugar into the cells, but it also it serves as a door man for many other nutrients. This means that insulin resistance (DM II) causes nutrient starvation. Once insulin resistant, our cells have a difficult time getting calcium, magnesium and a host of other nutrients because the door man has annoyed our cells for too long, and many of the doors have been boarded up. Insulin resistance plays a role in many adaptive physiological processes, such as osteoporosis due to decreased storage of calcium, and high blood pressure due to decreased magnesium uptake.
Another interesting fact surrounding insulin resistance is that not all of our cells board up their doors (down-regulate insulin receptors) at the same rate. First, our liver down regulates, then our muscle cells, but it is our adipose (fat) cells that are some of the last cells in your body to become resistant. This means that your fat cells will continuously grow and store that sugar in the form of fat.
When we eat in the manner that we were designed to eat (hunter-gatherer; wild meats and fish, fruits, nuts, vegetables, seeds), our insulin or nutrient storage system works like it should, and we express health. Diabetes II is 100% preventable, correctable and avoidable when we use our bodies as they were intended, by eating, moving and thinking in the manner which we were created/evolved.
For more info on diabetes: