The Carbohydrate Continuum

The Carbohydrate Continuum

The chart below, called the Carbohydrate Continuum, was developed by Dr. Kathleen DesMaisons to explain the effects of different carbohydrates on our blood sugar. She explains that and how it affects mood and health so beautifully in her book Potatoes Not Prozac. I highly recommend it!

The chart gives us tools to make sense out of the many diets and plans limiting carbohydrates. I think what’s important is, it’s not just low-carb, but the type of carb! Plus, it’s simple and somewhat visual, which helps me remember it.

Interpreting the chart

Paraphrasing from Dr. DesMaisons’ book, the farther to the left on the chart a food is, the more quickly the food is converted to glucose and the greater the effect on our blood sugar. (Or in the case of alcohol, it goes into the bloodstream directly.) To increase your health, limit foods on the left of the chart and eat more of the ones on the right (except for the wood!) 

ALCOHOL SIMPLE SUGARS SIMPLE STARCH COMPLEX STARCHES COMPLEX STARCHES WOOD
Beer

wine

Glucose

Sucrose

Fructose

White sugar

Honey

Corn syrup

Other sugars

“White things”

White flour products

White rice

Pasta

“Brown things”

Whole grains

Beans

Potatoes

Roots

“Green things” broccoli and other green vegetables

“Yellow things”

Squash and other yellow vegetables

Not digestible by humans

Brown, green and yellow things

The foods with complex starches require many digestive steps to break down. They are much less likely to cause a blood sugar spike, and of course, contain many nutrients! And notice — these are more likely to be listed as part of any healthy diet than foods in the first three categories.

And as a former chemistry teacher, I appreciate the inclusion of wood, hoping no one reading this (or the book) plans to make it part of their diet.

Go for the brown, green and yellow things! 

Source: Potatoes Not Prozac: simple solutions for sugar sensitivity, by Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D. Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2008.

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