The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes: Carbs That Put Up a Fight


Carbs That Put Up a FightFrom: The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes by Bob Greene; John J. Merendino Jr., M.D.; and Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D. Copyright © 2009 by Bestlife Corporation. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

There are a few broad classes of carbs that have a low glycemic index (GI). All the food categories listed below are highly nutritious and give your digestive enzymes a run for their money — that is, something about their structure delays and blunts the rise in blood sugar, giving them a low GI. Most are high in fiber — fiber-rich foods generally (but not always) have a lower GI than low-fiber foods.

Intact Whole Grains
What they are: Most grains have three parts: bran, endosperm, and germ. (Some, such as barley and oats, are built slightly differently.) The bran, the outer layer, makes up most of the grain. The middle layer is the endosperm, which is starch, and in the center sits the germ, which is rich in protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Refining grains means getting rid of all (or most) of the bran and germ — in other words, removing the most nutritious parts, leaving just the starch.

Refining does more than remove nutrients; it also makes foods more apt to send blood sugar levels soaring. That's because the fiber, fat, and other substances in intact grains put up barriers to digestion, making your body work harder and longer at converting food to blood sugar. The germ even contains a compound that blocks the action of amylase, the enzyme in your gut that breaks down starch. Without these roadblocks, refined flour has an easy pass into your system.

Buying tips: Choose the more intact form or coarser cut of the grain. For wheat, that means bulgur wheat (found in health food stores and Middle Eastern markets) and wheat berries. Always buy 100% whole wheat, whole rye, or other whole grain breads, cold and hot cereals, crackers, crisp-breads, English muffins, bagels, and wraps, and whenever possible choose stone ground, a process that keeps the amylase-blocking substance intact. When choosing oatmeal, get steel-cut, which is the thickest cut, or thick-cut oats. (Steel-cut takes 30 minutes to cook, but some companies sell parboiled versions that are just as good and take only about 5 minutes.) Buy brown rice instead of white and whole corn grits instead of regular, and try other whole grains such as barley, amaranth, and quinoa.

What they are: These are beans, such as black beans and lentils, which come dried or canned. We've also included edamame (green soybeans) in this group because they share some of the nutrition features of dried beans. Legumes have a very low GI, probably because of their fiber and because they contain resistant starch (see below). As with grains, the more intact the bean, the lower the GI. So a side dish of whole, cooked black beans would have a lower GI than a pured black bean dip.

Buying tips: All legumes — black, kidney, pinto, white, cannelloni, garbanzo, adzuki, lentils, soy, pink — are supernutritious, so pick your favorites! Save some money by cooking them from scratch (lentils have the shortest cooking time). If you buy them canned, look for those with no salt added. You'll find edamame in the frozen food section, both with the shell (which you don't eat) or shelled.

Resistant Starch
What it is: These are starch granules that escape the clutches of enzymes. Some go untouched because they're part of an intact or very coarsely cut whole grain kernel, protected by the armor of fiber. Cooking and cooling grains and potatoes also creates resistant starch by forming a gel barrier to enzymes. Some foods are naturally rich in resistant starch.

Buying Tips: Whole grains and legumes are good sources of resistant starch. Bananas also contain resistant starch; be sure to buy ones that still have a little green tinge, and eat them before they get mottled and soft (the less ripe, the more resistant starch). Also, try cooking with Hi-maize, a commercially available corn fiber that is rich in resistant starch. You can substitute about 10 to 25 percent of the flour in recipes with Hi-maize. You can purchase it from King Arthur Flour (


Last Modified Date: June 03, 2014

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by Brenda Bell
Years before I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, The Other Half came out of a doctor's appointment with a diagnosis of "borderline diabetes" and an ADA exchange diet sheet. His health insurance agency followed up on the diagnosis with a glucometer and test strips. After a year or so of trying to follow the diet plan and test his glucose levels, things appeared to be back in "normal" range, and stood there until a couple of years after my own diagnosis. Shortly...
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