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White Flours and Heart Disease

Recently CNN had an article about the correlation between white flours and high glycemic foods and  heart disease.  The study was conducted in Italy and surveyed 48,000 people about their diet, detailing how much and what kinds of carbohydrates they regularly consumed.  The follow up 8 year period revealed that 463 people in the study suffered from heart related problems including bypass surgery, heart attacks, or died of heart related problems.

In another cruel twist that makes life harder for women (not knocking the men out there, just sayin'), the study showed that men were not affected by the connection between white flours and heart disease in the same way that women were. In fact, men were not at an increased risk of heart related problems regardless of how many, or what type, of carbs they ate, whereas women who ate the most high glycemic foods were at a 2.25 times greater risk of developing heart disease than the women in the study who ate the least.

Although this is unfortunate, it does bring out some very important ideas that we, as women, should probably be aware of in our diets. Since "heart disease" is the number one killer of women, beating out even cancer (according to the CDC), clearly the idea that we could be exposing ourselves to an even more increased risk is something that we should tackle.  Joanna McMillan Price, a nutritionist and author of "The Low GI Diet" says about changing our diets:  "that means cutting out processed carbs and choosing minimially processed whole grains and low GI starchy vegetables, fruits, and legumes"

White flour and high glycemic foods, I must admit, are hard to cut out of your diet completely without having a massive overhaul of your eating principles (like soaking grains and grinding your own flour, making homemade everything, etc). Since I find that most of us are more "middle of the road" that that, there were a few suggestions within the article that I found helpful. The nutritionist, Price, said that "the best low glycemic index foods are whole-grain breads, barley, quinoa, beans and chickpeas, low fat dairy products, fruit, and sweet potatoes." These are great suggestions, and ones that can be fairly easily implemented into your diet to replace higher glycemic index foods. Quinoa is an easy substitute for something like white rice (and it cooks fast too!), higher fat dairy is easily replaced by its low fat counterpart, and sweet potatoes can replace white potatoes, even in recipes like french fries!

As a side note, I have some recent experience with lower glycemic foods that I think is telling in ways related to weight loss. I have been eating somewhat healthier recently since I started doing the Making the Cut program and trying to lose about 10 pounds. Sort of on accident, I have been eating less high glycemic foods, simply because I am trying to watch what I eat, and I find that high glycemic foods do not keep me full for very long. The other day, I had a lazy moment where I really just wanted some spaghetti, so I cooked up some spaghetti with shredded cheese over it, and ate it for my lunch. After not having eaten white carbs like this (especially by themselves) in a while, I felt awful! I was so sluggish and lethargic, and as an added negative, I was hungry again like an hour later, and craving more carbs. From what I have read, foods that speed through your system like high glycemic foods cause an insulin spike, and then one your blood sugar goes back down again it leaves you feeling worn out and craving carbs which would make it spike again (so it is a vicious cycle). In terms of weight loss, this is very revealing to me, since I am a carb freak. By avoiding foods that spike my blood sugar, I am also able to avoid the carb cravings that come on afterwards.

I am hoping to have some recipes that can incorporate these ideas in the upcoming weeks. Let me know if you have any particular requests!

Please note that I am not a doctor, and I am not pretending to offer any kind of medical advice here. I am stating what has worked for me and what I find interesting about the things I read, but please consult your doctor if you are trying to make adjustments to your diet or if you have concerns about your body in particular. Welcome to the 2000's readers, where I have to have a disclaimer available!

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post! I have been reading a lot about the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (www.breakingtheviciouscycle.info). It is recommended for people suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases and autism. Since my daughter was just diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, we're going to give it a try before allowing yet another strong medication be added to her body. If it is as simple as changing the way we eat, I will be thrilled! We're only on day three of the diet and it's not easy, but we're managing. I made a banana cake tonight out of eggs, bananas, honey, vanilla, and coconut oil. It's not the same as a fluffy cake I'm used to, but it sure tastes good after three days of the SCD intro diet!

    So... not only are our dietary changes possibly going to help my daughter recover, they'll also reduce my risk of heart disease since I won't be eating any flour.