Reason #1: Glycemic Load
If you have received my Free Guide to Weight Loss in your email, you know that one of my weight loss tips is this: Don’t allow your blood sugar to spike more than once a day. When you eat foods that spike your blood sugar, it stimulates insulin which causes weight gain and contributes to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obsesity, elevated blood triglycerides, elevated LDL cholesterol, reduced HDL cholesterol. Not good.
My personal rule is to ensure my blood sugar and insulin are stable all day long, with the exception of once per day. (People who are younger than me, stronger than me or more active than me can probably get away with twice a day. Obviously I hate those people.) I do this by ensuring that all of my meals and snacks have a Glycemic Load of less than 10, except for one (usually supper), which can be greater than 10. Sign up for my Free Guide to Weight Loss, which has a table of 39 different foods that come in under 10.
What is Glycemic Load?
You have probably heard of the Glycemic Index before. The Glycemic Index (GI) is a relative ranking of how much a food raises blood sugar levels after being eaten. It is determined in a lab, by feeding 10 or more healthy people a portion of the food containing 50 grams of carbohydrate and then measuring the effect on their blood glucose levels over the next two hours. Foods with a Glycemic Index of 50 or higher are considered high glycemic as they spike your blood sugar quite a bit.
The Glycemic Load is the GI of a food times the carbohydrate content of one serving, so it considers portion size and is a more accurate rating. For example, both watermelon and bagels have a pretty high Glycemic Index of 72. But watermelon is something like 95% water and you would have to eat a huge amount to spike your blood sugar. The Glycemic Load of a single serving of watermelon (1 cup) is 7. Compare that to a single serving of bagel (1 bagel), which has a crazy high Glycemic Load of 33.
But What About Whole Grains? I Thought They Were Healthy?
White flour spikes your blood sugar and stimulates insulin more than virtually any other food. Whole wheat flour is a little bit better, but not by much.
Did you know that whole wheat flour is just white flour with wheat bran and wheat germ added? They are allowed to label it “whole grain” because technically it contains all the pieces of the whole grain, put back together again, but your body processes the ultrafine grain particles of white flour much differently than it processes actual whole grains. So while whole wheat flour does contain more vitamins and fiber and it helps protect against insulin spikes somewhat (but not really), it still contains the ultrafine grain particles in the white flour portion that is rapidly absorbed by the intestine, which spikes your blood sugar and stimulates insulin.
During the milling process, the grains are crushed and sifted and separated into white flour, wheat bran and wheat germ. Different blends of flour are made by combining these components back together in different ratios. What that means is that, even flour labelled as “whole grain” is not really whole grain if it has been commercially milled. Once the mill processes and sifts out the white flour portion, it has a much higher Glycemic Index, even once you put the pieces back together again.
100 years ago, when our great grandparents ate a loaf of bread, it was probably homemade cracked wheat bread, which had a moderate Glycemic Index of about 30 and a Glycemic Load of about 5 for 1 slice. Today’s factory-produced bread made from commercially-milled wheat is an entirely different beast. It has a Glycemic Index of about 72 and a Glycemic Load of 14 for 1 slice. The problem comes from the modern-day practice of milling the wheat to turn it into flour.
But I Really Can’t Give Up My Toast!
I choose to avoid both white and whole wheat flour, in part because of it’s high Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load. But there are a couple of options if you really can’t give it up.
- I make delicious bread with almond flour and psyllium husk, which is fluffy and very bread-like. I add a little apple cider vinegar for a nice tang (recipe coming soon!). I also have a seed-nut bread that is dense and hearty (recipe coming soon!).
- If you milled your own flour in a coffee grinder or a fancy stone mill or found an artisan bakery that milled their own flour, the Glycemic Index would probably be closer to 30 and it would be a much better choice.
- Sprouted grain bread or breads made from spelt or rye instead of wheat are also probably better choices than bread made from commercially-milled grains. (p.s. Why do they sprout the grains? I explain this in Reason #3.)
Why Did I Go Flourless? Reason #2: Fiber (coming soon!)
Why Did I Go Flourless? Reason #3: Anti-nutrients (coming soon!)
Why Did I Go Flourless? Reason #4: Filling vs. Satisfying (coming soon!)