Wednesday, November 10, 2010

NT in a Nutshell Part 4: Carbohydrates

Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats
Welcome back to our discussion about Nourishing Traditions! So far we have talked about fats and cholesterol and their roles in our bodies. Today we will take up the topic of carbohydrates – an area of nutrition in which modern trends seem to be heading in the right direction. This information is condensed from pages 21-25 of Nourishing Traditions, and is not intended as medical advice, but as an introduction to healthy eating practices.

Carbohydrates are simply starches and sugars that we consume as we eat plant foods, including grains. All starches and sugars are broken down into glucose through the digestion process. Glucose is passed into the blood stream and is what is measured when we speak of “blood sugar.” Although glucose is the “food” of the cells in the body, one does not necessarily have to consume sugars or starches in order for the body to produce it; the body can convert other molecules, such as proteins or fats, into glucose as the body needs it.

Carbohydrates are not bad in themselves; however, highly processed, refined carbs are a problem. There are certain vitamins and minerals that the body needs to effectively use carbohydrates that are lost in the refining process. From page 21-22:
“Only in the last century has man’s diet included a high percentage of refined carbohydrates. Our ancestors ate fruits and grains in their whole, unrefined state. In nature, sugars and carbohydrates – the energy providers – are linked together with vitamins, minerals, enzymes, protein, fat and fiber – the bodybuilding and digestion-regulating components of the diet. In whole form, sugars and starches support life, but refined carbohydrates are inimical to life because they are devoid of bodybuilding elements. Digestion of refined carbohydrates calls on the body’s own store of vitamins, minerals and enzymes for proper metabolism. When B vitamins are absent, for example, the breakdown of carbohydrates cannot take place, yet most B vitamins are removed during the refining process.
“The refining process strips grains, vegetables and fruits of both their vitamin and mineral components. Refined carbohydrates have been called ‘empty’ calories. ‘Negative’ calories is a more appropriate term because consumption of refined calories depletes the body’s precious reserves. Consumption of sugar and white flour may be likened to drawing on a savings account. If continued withdrawals are made faster than new funds are put in, the account will eventually becomes depleted. Some people may go longer than others without overt suffering, but eventually all will feel the effects of this inexorable law.”

Diabetes and “pre-diabetes” have become epidemic in our country, largely in part to the addictive nature of refined carbohydrates. In addition, many people experience episodes of hypoglycemia from the quantities of insulin that are pumped into the bloodstream to handle the overload present due to overconsumption of refined carbs.

Quoting from pages 23-24:
“Our physical nature is such that we need foods that are whole, not refined and denatured, to grow, prosper and reproduce. As the consumption of sugar has increased, so have all the ‘civilized’ diseases…[Today] less than half the diet must provide all the nutrients to a body that is under constant stress from its intake of sugar, white flour and rancid and hydrogenated vegetable oils. Herein lies the root cause of the vast increase in degenerative diseases that plague modern America
“Scientific evidence against sugar has been mounting for decades. As early as 1933, research showed that increased consumption of sugar caused an increase in various disease conditions in school children. Sugar, especially fructose, has been shown to shorten life in numerous animal experiments. Sugar consumption has recently been cited as the root cause of anorexia and eating disorders. In the 1950s, British researcher  Yudkin published persuasive findings that excessive use of sugar was associated with the following conditions: release of free fatty acids at the aorta, rise in blood cholesterol, rise in triglycerides, increase in adhesiveness of the blood platelets, increase in blood insulin levels, increase in blood corticosteroid levels, increase in gastric acidity, shrinkage of the pancreas and enlargement of the liver and adrenal glands.
“Numerous subsequent studies have positively correlated sugar consumption with heart disease. These results are far more unequivocal than the presumed association of heart disease with saturated fats…
“More plagues than heart disease can be laid at sugar’s door. A survey of medical journals in the 1970s produced findings implicating sugar as a causative factor in kidney disease, liver disease, shortened life span, increased desire for coffee and tobacco, atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease. Sugar consumption is associated with hyperactivity, behavior problems, lack of concentration and violent tendencies…encourages the overgrowth of candida albicans, a systemic fungus in the digestive tract, causing it to spread to the respiratory system, tissues and internal organs…is positively associated with cancer in humans and test animals…Research indicates that it is the fructose, not the glucose, moiety of sugar that is the most harmful, especially for growing children. Yet the greatest increase in sugar consumption in the last two decades is from high fructose corn syrup used in soft drinks, ketchup and many other fabricated foods aimed at children…
“Last but not least, sugar consumption is the cause of bone loss and tooth decay…”

Wow! If I, too, weren’t addicted to sugar (and to some extent, white flour also), I’d never touch the stuff again! Unfortunately, however, in our family, this is an EXTREMELY hard habit to break. We did successfully switch to Splenda for a while, but after considering how it’s made (I understand that Splenda is made by chlorinating sucrose – further refining the refined sugar), I wonder if regular sugar isn’t better!  So what is a person to do?

The authors recommend “natural sweeteners high in vitamins and minerals, such as raw honey, date sugar, dehydrated cane juice [here the author’s specifically recommend Rapadura brand, but I can’t find this in my area and it is very expensive on the internet] and maple syrup.” (page 25) I have largely switched to Demerra Cane Sugar, a dehydrated cane juice that I can purchase in my area at Wal-Mart stores (and at Whole Foods, but it’s twice as expensive there). Raw honey and maple syrup are expensive, but I also try to keep these around – but the raw honey is hard for me to find. I figure that honey is a better sweetener than sugar even if it has been pasteurized. However, I have found that pasteurized honey is bad to solidify if the temperature drops too low – opened containers do so in our house after nights when the temperature has dropped to 60 degrees (our night-time thermostat temperature).

Another step we have taken is to start using freshly milled and frozen whole wheat flour and masa (instead of corn meal) as much as possible. Whole grains and legumes need to be soaked with a little whey or cider vinegar to neutralize phytic acid; with planning this is possible, but I’ll admit, forgetting to start soaking the beans 12-24 hours ahead can really throw a monkey wrench into a meal plan. The biggest challenge for my family has been giving up cold cereals. They are loaded with sugar and highly refined grains, and unfortunately, they are extremely convenient for busy mornings; plus, the kids love them. But these are now off-limits at our house, no matter how much the kids complain.

Bottom line: start phasing refined sugars and grains out of your diet. It won’t happen overnight and takes commitment, but your health, and the health of your family, will greatly improve with the effort.

Please join me again tomorrow as we discuss the role of proteins in our diets from the NT perspective. Have a blessed day!

1 comment:

  1. I have this book (somewhere). I will dig, I mean look for it, so that I can discuss.

    ReplyDelete

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