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|
|“White things” |
White flour products
|“Brown things” |
|“Green things” broccoli and other green vegetables|
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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