Here is as short a summary as I can write (points 1-6 below--the rest is not short), explaining why white wheat flour and white rice make you sick (and why eating whole grain flours, and brown rice, makes you healthier):
1. A starch molecule is nothing more than a long string of sugar molecules stuck together.
2. Usually, a starch molecule contains about 500 sugar molecules (the actual number ranges from 300-1000, depending on the type of starch)
3. Grains such as wheat and rice contain starch and fiber.
4. Refined white wheat flour, and white rice, have been processed to remove the fiber, so all that is left is the starch.
5. When the fiber is removed, our bodies are very good at breaking down the starch quickly, so we get a big spike in blood sugar. This is bad for the pancreas, which has to make a huge amount of insulin to process the huge amount of sugar.
6. When the fiber is present, it takes much longer for our bodies to digest the starch, which slows down the release of sugar into the bloodstream and allows the pancreas to operate at a normal rate. This gives us energy over a longer period of time (helping us to lose weight because we are not hungry again as often).
That's it. Simple. But it means we should NOT be eating: White bread, pasta made from white wheat flour, or white rice. You can take your own blood sugar readings to see how you react to corn and potatoes, but some people can't eat them either (I'm lucky; I can).
This means we can't eat the bread and rice at places like: Panda Express; Chinese and sushi restaurants (unless they have brown rice); almost all burger joints (fast food and at pubs and at sit-down restaurants), unless they offer a whole-grain bun. We can't eat doughnuts, or French pastries, or cakes, pies, muffins, or cobblers. We can't eat bread crumbs on top of baked dishes. We can't eat pizza dough!
I've found that it's the starch, not the added sugar, where most of the sugar is. What a revelation! That muffin may have added sugar in it, and it may be topped with a heavy sugar icing, but the flour in the muffin contains hundreds of times more sugar than the added sugar does. This is what bakers don't understand: They think that diabetics only need to eat baked products lower in added sugar. Way wrong! Diabetics (and all the rest of us) need to eat less sugar, yes, but most of the sugar IS IN THE STARCH! (It's not in the added sugar.) It is the starch that needs to be changed.
(And don't even think about artificial sugars. They are poisonous--linked to nervous disorders and cancer. Just never go there. And if you're a Supertaster, they don't even taste sweet--they taste bitter.)
Whole kernels and parts of whole kernels are great (wheat berries; wheat bran; flax seeds; nuts). Your everyday whole-wheat bread needs to be full of those-if you don't see them, don't buy that bread. If the bread label says something like 21 seeds and 17 whole grain flours (e.g., Dave's Killer Breads), then grab that loaf and hug it as your best friend.
This is why I can drink a huge sugar-spiked Starbucks latte and my blood sugar stays normal. It's because we can handle a certain amount of sugar. It's why I can bake my own whole-grain blueberry muffin (with sugar mixed into the flour), and put a sugar glaze on top, and my blood sugar stays normal. But if I eat a "normal" blueberry muffin, or white rice with a Chinese dinner, the blood sugar goes up too high and makes me score in the Prediabetes range (and wears out my Pancreas, which is already getting old and needs all the help it can get). At some point, if I didn't change my eating habits, I would become Diabetic and then at some later point I would die because of it.
By eliminating most of the refined flours in my diet, and by continuing to eat the same added sugar I always ate, I drove my A1C result (average blood sugar reading over the past few months) from the middle of "Prediabetes" range to well down into the "normal" range. And I come from a long line of diabetics. My doc called me the poster child for how to avoid Diabetes. She says that there is no excuse for any educated person to get Type 2 Diabetes. That is a harsh statement, but what if she's right?
The baking industry is not interested in this science, because it has so much invested in machinery refining white wheat flour, and artificially adding nutrients back into the flour. Because most consumers just buy whatever is in front of them, the baking industry is not going to change unless the law makes it change, and because corporate lobbyists control the government, that is not going to happen. (I contacted the national baking association, and they deny all of this, and they spread "fake news" about the health benefits of refined flours.) But you can find healthy flours to bake with, if you look: Oat, barley, spelt, whole wheat, are just a few grains with a low/healthy/good glycemic index. I bake with a mix of those. Bob's Red Mill makes flours from all of them. Products made from them taste good, though the healthy flours are heavier, so you may need to use more yeast or baking powder.
Think about it this way: We evolved while eating the entire kernel of grain, for millions of years. That is what our bodies know how to handle. But eating only the stripped-out, bleached, nutrient-less refined flour is about the stupidest thing we could do, because our bodies cannot handle it and it tends to make us sick and fat. In my view, this is making America sick; it is a true health emergency costing many billions in avoidable medical expenses.
Some vegan products at bakeries are OK (starch-wise), but some aren't. But that is a good place to look, if you're at a bakery. You should also ask what flour is in a baked product, and you should speak to the bakers, which I do at every bakery. Drip drip drip, trying to drive change. I would rather see good science driving smarter food laws, than have to do it through the courts (suing bakeries for poisoning their customers), but if it takes lawyers to fix this problem, then that's how it should be done. You should ask for whole-grain bread at restaurants, and refuse dishes that have white rice or white flour. Each single one of us, acting with purpose, can drive real change. And this is a big one. More than 100 million Americans have Diabetes or Prediabetes.
“Now that trans fats are largely out of the food supply,” says David Ludwig, MD, PhD, director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Children’s Hospital Boston, “refined carbohydrates, including refined grain products, are the single most harmful influence in the American diet today.”
(photo credit to craftsy.com)