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Why Flour is Like Sugar

If you think sugar-free cookies, cakes and pastries will help you control diabetes or lose weight, you've gotten the wrong message. Flour makes your blood sugar rise almost as much as table sugar. Most recipes for baked goods use about six cups of flour for every cup of sugar. Eliminating the sugar does virtually nothing to slow the rise in blood sugar that you get when you eat bakery products.

Carbohydrates are chains of sugar molecules lined in a row. They are found in all plants and foods made from plants. Carbohydrates can be a single sugar, two sugars bound together, three or four sugars. Thousands of sugars bound together are called starch, and millions of sugars bound together so tightly that you cannot break them down are called fiber.

Only single sugars can pass from your intestines into your blood stream. After you eat, food that contains starch enters your intestines where enzymes knock off each end sugar consecutively. You knock off end sugars rapidly and continuously, and they are absorbed immediately. All simple sugars and starches that are broken down rapidly go into the bloodstream rapidly, to cause a high rise in blood sugar.

Resistant starches contain long chains of sugars that cannot release their end sugars, so they are not absorbed. They pass to the colon where bacteria convert them into fatty acids that help prevent colon cancer and heart attacks. That's why you want to eat carbohydrates that release their sugars slowly and restrict carbohydrates that release sugars rapidly. The easier it is to break carbohydrates down into single sugars, the higher your blood sugar level rises and the more insulin you produce.

When a whole grain is ground into a powder, it loses its protective capsule that keeps it from being broken down so quickly. See my page on the Anatomy of a Whole Grain.

The most healthful carbohydrates are those left with fiber where nature puts them: in whole grains, beans, nuts and other seeds, vegetables and fruits. The most harmful carbohydrates for diabetics and people who are trying to lose weight are foods made from refined carbohydrates : flour, white rice or milled corn, fruit juices and all extracted sugars. Forget the sugar-free bakery products; they offer no benefit whatsoever.

Checked 5/13/18

May 12th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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