Food Structure Matters
How long are we going to live? It depends.
Long term human survival potential (how long we will hang around before we die) is first attached to our genes. We are stuck with the genes that produced us. But we can and and often do interfere with that survival potential.
Interference may cause you to die sooner or it may just make you miserable while staying alive. An earlier post celebrated how the medical community is really good at keeping us alive. Dying sooner may not bother you so much but (at least for me) miserable is another matter.
Chronic health conditions like arthritis and diabetes and diseases like cancer eventually have symptoms. Symptoms reflect some degree of misery. Environmental stuff like toxins in the air and water, paint, chemical fertilizers/pesticides and herbicides, drugs, mold – its a very long list – can create misery and sometimes death. But the one thing associated with chronic illness that we, as humans, can most control is the food we eat.
The combination of typical whole foods, plant and animal, naturally contains all of the essential nutritional elements required to keep the human body going right up to the end. Those essential elements are protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and a whole bunch of other nutrients and antioxidants.
There are also carbohydrates in plants. Starchy plant foods (root vegetables and seeds) are heavily carbohydrate (glucose). However carbohydrate itself is not an essential nutrient. If necessary the liver will make whatever glucose is required for the body. But the vitamins/minerals, and other nutrients in plants are essential.
As I have previously described (perhaps ad nauseam) a hormone named insulin is essential to the digestion and storage of glucose and fat in the body.
There are about 50 hormones in the body. Hormones are in the signaling business, telling various cells of the body what to do and when. The human body is looking for just the right amount of any hormone. Too much or too little and there will be an operational breakdown.
Too much and not enough insulin (sometimes at the same time) play a huge role in many (if not most) chronic conditions. Next week we will begin a series showing specifically how insulin does that. But before we go there we probably need to know how “too much insulin” usually happens.
How Does Too Much Insulin Happen?
Turns out the central problem with too much insulin is connected to glucose, especially the starch in root vegetables such as potatoes as well as seed grains like wheat.
The whole food natural structure delivers food with all of its integral parts to the mouth and then the stomach, starting the digestive process. Protein and fat spend more time in the stomach but the carbohydrate gets to the intestines well ahead of the line.
When everything is working correctly the intestines complete digestion of the parts spread out over time, generate the right amount of insulin, and distribute the required nutrients into the blood for their specific purpose.
Not “working correctly” is attached to the pre-processing that occurs before the food enters the mouth.
Cooking likely started a million or so years ago when man figured out how to control fire. Cooking is definitely processing of food. But when the natural integrity of the food is literally destroyed by pre-processing something unfortunate happens. The carbohydrate starch is turned into some sort of powder, most often called flour.
Starch is simply long and complex chains of glucose. Unaltered from its natural form, starch breaks down slowly in the intestines. Altered, on the other hand, is the problem.
Nothing slows the digestion of that “altered starch” and excess generation of insulin is required right away. Anytime the food is ground up into powder (such as in flour and sugar) the insulin requirement will be huge. That means anything made with flour and/or sugar will have the same insulin problem.
In case this is the first of my posts you have ever read, then FYI. The foods containing the most flour and/or sugar are breads and sweets. This will be true whether the food source is the grocery or your kitchen.
When it comes to insulin, it isn’t the number of carbohydrates or even the number of calories. It’s the structural integrity of the starch in the food.
Consider Lays potato chips. Sliced and then fried, the structure of the potato is maintained. In Pringles, on the other hand, the structural integrity of the potatoes (potato flour making up less than half of the total ingredients) and grain is completely gone.
Another example would be legumes (as in beans). Again a healthy nutrient contributor as a cooked whole food, anytime the whole bean is ground into a flour and then made into something like a bean chip, the same insulin problem occurs.
Any product made of cornmeal includes powdered corn, same problem. You might look at the ingredient list on a vegetable chip and find, along with spinach or kale, some sort of (altered) starch. And maybe some sugar too, just for good measure. Same problem.
Oats are another example. Whole oats, rolled or steel cut, have maintained their structural integrity. Instant oatmeal, on the other hand, has not.
Note: The amount of blood sugar generated by the unaltered and altered starch will be about the same. It is the insulin requirement that is extraordinarily different. Further note that whole-grain flour should include the vitamins/minerals/etc missing in white bread but the insulin requirement is still the same.
If you would like to know more about how this works, here are two video links that show a lot of detail. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMO-5mq3crU (Dr. Michael Eades) and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwO-Uizzx8I (Gabor Erdosi).
All foods bring nutritional value when they are eaten in their whole, original structure. But if those containing starch are ground into powder (flour) not only do they generate two to three (or more) times insulin but many of the natural nutrients in the the original food may be lost. ———————————————————————————–
Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Proceeds from her book benefit the Montgomery County Food Pantry. Her website is http://www.allaboutthefood.org/ She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, 870-490-1836. Her Facebook page is www.facebook.com/patsmithbooks.