Refined carbohydrates are a huge part of the American diet. You can’t find a meal without some form of refined carbohydrate whether it be white pastas, white rice or white bread.
Some brands are promoting what they are calling healthier versions of these breads and pastas by adding some whole grains, but are still largely processed and unhealthy.
When it comes to our diet we shouldn’t be avoiding carbohydrates altogether either as they are a major source of fuel for our bodies.
What Are Refined Carbohydrates and Why Should They be Avoided?
Refined carbohydrates are bad for us because they are stripped of their outer husk which contains fiber and nutrients. Refined carbohydrates are much easier for the body to digest because it lacks this fiber, and thus is virtually almost immediately absorbed in to the bloodstream.
All of this sugar at once in the blood is more than the body can handle, and thus it secretes insulin which is a hormone used to signal the removal of this sugar from the blood. This sugar is removed from the blood where it is then stored as fat, which is one major reason why these foods lead to obesity and weight gain.
On top of this, if you look at any food product that has refined carbohydrates, they most likely have vitamins and minerals added as fortification as well. This is common on products like many cereals, and is a tell tale sign that the product contains refined carbohydrates.
Manufactures do this because through the processing of these carbohydrates they lose the naturally occuring vitamins and minerals they have, and thus synthetic forms are added back in. The problem with this is that studies show that these synthetic forms are not absorbed as well as the naturally occurring ones found in whole grains.
Refined carbohydrates not only are linked to diabetes and obesity, but a whole slew of other health problems as well. Allergic reactions, depression, gluten intolerance, celiac’s disease etc are all linked to refined foods as well.
Refined Grains Are Linked to Increased Chance of Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes
For years we believed that dietary fat was the main contributor to cardiovascular disease and other diseases related to the circulatory system and because of this many people severely reduced their intake of these fats, and eliminated foods like butter, lard and other fatty additives from their diet.
During this time where fat consumption was low, scientists had a good look of the health effects on the general population and how the rates of some diseases, diabetes in particular, had soared. Scientists began to look at things like the glycemic index, which measures how quickly carbohydrates are digested and gives us an idea of how blood sugar levels will be affected as a result.
Processed cereal grains had some of the highest glycemic indexes, up there with potatoes and fruit juice. These processed grains have a high level of starch compared to fiber and other nutrients found within the whole grain varieties.
Whole grain varieties have less of an effect on insulin response than refined grains because of their fiber content, and thus we should eat them as opposed to their refined cousins.
Added Sugars to Refined Foods Makes Them Even More Unhealthy
Not only do these refined grains turn to sugar in our bodies quickly, many of foods that contain refined grains have added sugar in them as well amplifying the effects.
Consumption of refined sugars and white flour between 2000 and 1970 have gone up by approximately 145 pounds per person per year according to USDA data. Consuming this much sugar in weight alone would be about 17 pounds of fat added per year as well and that doesn’t take into account all the addition weight you will add as well due to insulin and spiked blood sugar levels.
A big part of the problem is that the consumer is unaware, that many people aren’t aware of what they’re buying. This is particularly problematic even in different variations of sugar itself. Many products are marketed as natural or raw giving the consumer the impressions that they aren’t refined when in fact they are.
If you are going to use a sugar like additive use something like raw honey or maple syrup which are going to have less of an impact on your blood sugar levels and overall health.