Diabeties, Glycemic Index and the Specific Carbohydrate Diet

I was interviewed for a national Diabetes Magazine the other day. Of course they wanted to know how a diet such as the SCD would be for Diabetes sufferers, considering that inAustralia 10% of Diabetics are also diagnosed with Coeliac Disease. For Diabetics the all important factor is how carbohydrates effect their blood sugar level, and that these foods have a low GI (Glycemic Index). The Glycemic Index is a measurement of the type or quality of carbs in a particular food, and how fast 50 grams of this carbohydrate raises blood glucose levels, (and consequent insulin secretion and effects produced by the pancreas) as it is digested. But it is also important to consider the Glycemic Load of Foods. For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, the Glycemic Load was devised to make the Glycemic Index useful in the real world.

The problem with the Glycemic Index is that the tests use 50 grams of carbohydrate worth of the food being tested. On a practical level, that means they test a plateful of spaghetti, but a truckload of cucumbers! It doesn’t take into account how food is eaten in the real world, and makes foods seem damaging that really aren’t.

The Glycemic Index is the measurement of how rapidly a given carbohydrate food is absorbed, and therefore how fast and hard it spikes blood sugar. In general, a fast, sharp rise in blood sugar triggers a big insulin release . The Glycemic Load is defined as the Glycemic Index times the actual number of grams of carbohydrate eaten. Ten or below is a low Glycemic Load, 11-20 is medium, and anything over 20 is high.

Take carrots. Carrots have a high Glycemic Index for a vegetable – around 50. But do you know how many carrots you’d have to eat to get fifty grams of carbohydrate? More than fifty! So basically the carbohydrate content of say eating two whole carrots with a meal is too insignificant to cause a rise in blood sugar levels. But let’s say you take oatmeal, which has about the same GI as carrots, but one cup serving of cooked oatmeal has 25 grams of carbohydrate, for a Glycemic Load of 12.5 in contrast to say 5 baby carrots which has 4 grams of carbohydrate and a Glycemic Load of 2 – very low.

So how do the foods allowed on the SCD rate in regards to the GI and GL and is this a good thing for Diabetics and everyone else wanting to be healthier?

The SCD is based on ‘Simple Carbohydrate Foods’ or rather monosaccharides which are the single molecule carbs which need no enzyme to break them down to be digested. Carbohydrate foods naturally divide themselves into two groups: starches and refined sugars, and everything else. It’s the concentration of carbohydrates in the starches, and the artificial concentration of refined sugars, that makes them a problem to bowel disease sufferers and diabetics. So the specific carbohydrates allowed on the diet and used in the ‘Healing Foods’ cookbook are the ones that are represented in most low GI foods. These foods are simple fresh foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, some low starch pulses, nuts, meats, cheeses and yogurt. Even the baked goods which are sweetened with honey are acceptable as the almond meal used instead of the wheat flour contain monounsaturated fats which slows the absorption rate of glucose from the honey into the bloodstream.

So considering all these factors diabetics, digestive disease sufferers and generally everyone who wants to live a more energetic and healthy life should be able to benefit from the recipes in ‘Healing Foods’ ‘Cooking for Celiacs, Colitis, Crohn’s and IBS’.