More and more we are hearing that chronic inflammation plays a major role in various disease conditions including, arthritis, various cancers, cardiovascular disease, obesity, type II diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, just to name a few. Inflammation can be controlled and reduced by altering one’s daily intake. There is one component of the typical American diet that plays a crucial factor in increasing inflammation, and that is carbohydrate intake.
When the body has to produce a large load of insulin due to a large intake of rapidly digesting carbohydrates, an inflammatory response will begin. Rapidly digested carbohydrates are also known as starch carbohydrates in the Macro Nutrient Balance approach. Starch carbohydrates are broken down quickly by the body to glucose, which causes blood sugar to spike and the pancreas to produce a large load of insulin. Through insulin, glucose is then absorbed by the body and either used for energy or stored in the muscles or liver. Too much storage in the liver can cause the liver to enlarge, commonly known as fatty liver disease. Starch carbohydrates are typically more refined, simple carbs, such as white potatoes, rice, bread and pasta, cereals with added sugar, corn, corn syrup, sugar, fruit juices and foods made with refined flour (pretzels, pancakes, waffles, bagels, biscuits, flour tortillas, etc.). These types of carbohydrates tend to also be low in dietary fiber and because of their quick breakdown to glucose, or sugar, they do not tend to maintain fullness as long.
In order to counteract this carbohydrate driven inflammatory response, it is recommended to choose more smart carbohydrates, as they are known in the Macro Nutrient Balance approach. These carbohydrates cause only a slight elevation, but longer stabilization of blood sugar because they are broken down to glucose more slowly requiring less insulin for entry into our cells. Less insulin production means less of an inflammatory response. Smart carbohydrates include brown rice, soba noodles, barley, quinoa, steel cut oats, whole wheat flour, wheat bran, flax seed, dried beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, low fat yogurt, unsweetened cereals (with at least 3 g fiber per serving), nuts, apples, berries, peaches, grapefruit, plums, oranges, prunes, apricots, cherries, and non-starchy vegetables (leafy greens, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, green beans, asparagus, onions, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, mushrooms, lettuce, and spinach, just to name a few). Smart carbohydrates also play a role in weight loss and management due to their role in increasing satiety, or the feeling of fullness. Because these carbohydrates will typically have more fiber than their more processed counterparts, you will feel fuller with a smaller serving and remain full longer.
Choosing higher fiber, less processed smart carbohydrates is just one step to achieving less inflammation through your daily intake. An easy way to remember this is to always choose foods that come from a plant, and less of those made in a plant!