Our bodies produce insulin, a hormone that makes cells receptive to glucose. With the help of insulin, glucose enters cells to be converted to energy. Diabetes is a condition in which high levels of glucose (sugar) stay in the bloodstream for long periods of time instead of being utilized as energy for the body.
High levels of glucose in the bloodstream can lead to kidney failure, eye damage, nerve damage, heart attack, stroke and a host of other complications if left untreated.
There are two reasons for high blood glucose levels. Either the pancreas is not producing enough insulin or cells are resistant to the insulin being produced. When the body doesn’t produce enough insulin, it is referred to as type 1 diabetes. When cells are resistant to insulin, it is referred to as type 2 diabetes.
The good news is that complications from type 1 diabetes can be prevented or greatly reduced and type 2 diabetes can be reversed. To reverse type 2 diabetes means to greatly reduce or eliminate the medication needed to manage the condition. Since type 2 diabetes is a result of insulin resistance, efforts to reverse it should focus on increasing insulin sensitivity.
There are 3 simple steps you can take right now to increase insulin sensitivity and reverse type 2 diabetes.
Step 1: Favor foods with a low glycemic index
Yes, this plan involves being aware of what we eat. But this is not, I repeat, NOT a diet. There is no need to count calories or restrict the amount of food you eat. As a matter of fact, contrary to most diabetic diets, this step says eat as much pasta and other carbohydrates as you like. Just make sure they meet some basic criteria.
All carbs are not equal, that is to say, they affect your blood glucose levels in different ways. Glycemic Index is a number that ranks carbohydrate in foods based on how they affect blood glucose levels. Some foods digest slowly, others quickly. Carbohydrates that take longer to digest lead to lower glucose levels in the blood. Conversely, carbohydrates that digest quickly lead to higher blood glucose levels.
A slowly digested carbohydrate is like a pill that releases small amounts of glucose into your blood over an extended period of time. These carbs have a low glycemic index value, which is 55 or less. A “good” carb has a GI value of 55 or less.
Carbs with a high glycemic index value, 70 or more, are quickly digested and cause blood glucose to rise accordingly. White bread, for example, has a GI value of 70 because it is digested quickly and creates a spike in blood glucose levels. A “bad” carb has a GI value of 70 or higher.
Surprisingly, pasta has a low GI value. That seems odd because pasta is a carb and we have been told as diabetics to minimize carbs so as not to demand too much insulin production. So why does white bread spike your blood glucose levels while pasta doesn’t?
When the body digests food, enzymes are employed to break up carbs into glucose molecules to be released into the bloodstream. Yeast causes bread to rise, leaving small pockets of air that allow enzymes to breakdown carbs quickly, increasing glucose levels in the bloodstream at a rapid rate.
Pasta is a carb, but it does not rise like bread, leaving it more compact and difficult to break up into glucose molecules. As a result, pasta is digested slowly and glucose enters your bloodstream at a slower rate.
Remember, digestion is a process of breaking food down into usable nutrients for the body. The more a food is already processed or broken down, the closer it is to being digested. That’s why whole oats have a lower GI value than instant oatmeal. Instant oatmeal has already been cut and processed to cook faster, so it doesn’t take as long to be digested, absorbed and metabolized.
Glycemicindex.com provides a database of foods and their corresponding GI values as well as other helpful resources.
- 55 or less = Low (good)
- 56- 69 = Medium
- 70 or higher = High (bad)
Here’s a look at low glycemic index foods at a glance:
- Beans, lentils, peas
- Leafy vegetables
- Most fruit
- Pumpernickel and rye breads
- Yams and sweet potatoes
- Oatmeal and bran cereals
This is not the same low carb diet plan. You can eat as many carbs as you want as long as they have a low glycemic index value. This plan is not about food quantity but food quality, exchanging “bad” carbs for “good” ones. This first step combined with steps 2 and 3 can reverse type 2 diabetes and revolutionize your health.
This blog is for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician before discontinuing use of medication or changing diet.
D.J. Jenkins et al., “Glycemic Index of Foods: A Physiological Basis for Carbohydrate Exchange,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 34 (1981): 362-6
J.Brand-Miller et al., “Low-Glycemic Index Diets in the Management of Diabetes,” Diabetes Care 26 (2003): 2261-7.