What's the big deal with carbs?
Jul 28, 2020
The road to chronic disease - from autoimmunity to heart disease - is paved with sugar and refined carbohydrates. It’s like a freeway that leads straight to insulin resistance, especially when given the right conditions - being overweight and inactive.
The devastating chain of events that leads to chronic disease goes like this:
- In the digestive tract, carbs and sugar break down to glucose that the body uses for energy.
- Beta cells in the pancreas make and secrete insulin into the blood. For any extra glucose you don’t use, this insulin taxis it to muscle, fat, and liver cells for storage.
- Given the right conditions, and more glucose than your cells can manage at any given moment, the call goes out for even more insulin - more taxis for fat storage.
- Beta cells keep the insulin flowing, but eventually, the body’s cells can’t absorb it or the glucose building up in your bloodstream - the receptors have become numbed (aka insulin resistance).
- Eventually, the beta cells can’t keep up, and the insulin levels plummet. Now the bloodstream is flooded with glucose, which damages nerves and blood vessels, causes inflammation, and leads to a host of chronic disease.
Chronic Diseases Linked to Insulin Resistance
Here’s a short list for you:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Prediabetes and diabetes
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
- Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD)
Take the First Exit
If your body is falling into this trap, the sooner you give those beta cells a rest, the better your chances of avoiding insulin resistance and diabetes. The intervention is simple, but not easy, if you’ve spent a lifetime eating processed foods, breads, pastas, or drinking sodas (please, don’t even get me started on DIET sodas!).
So, here’s the plan (if you're already on top of this, share it with a friend or family member who needs to take action!):
- Clear your cupboards and fridge of processed foods and those that contain sugar, even if they seem to be “healthy” - like packaged granola, energy bars, and even yogurts with fruit.
- Eat whole, “real” foods - that is, foods made with ingredients you recognize as foods and without pesticides, additives, or any ingredient you can’t pronounce.
- Count your veggies and fruits. Ideally, you want to eat 7 to 10 servings a day, and a serving is about the size of your fist. Extra points if you can include all colors of the rainbow each week.
- Avoid simple carbs, like sugar and white flours, and eat complex carbs found in high-fiber foods. These digest more slowly and don’t cause a surge in blood sugar.
- Regular exercise, particularly high intensity interval training (HIIT), makes muscles more sensitive to insulin.
- Sleep well, night after night. Sleep deprivation has been shown to promote inflammation and obesity.
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