A recent headline in the New York Times caught my eye – “Questioning the Idea of Good Carbs, Bad Carbs.”
As someone with type 2 diabetes, I immediately devoured the article, hoping that a researcher had arrived at the Holy Grail – a diet that no longer excluded white mashed potatoes, ripe bananas or sourdough bread, long banned by the glycemic index for boosting blood sugar with dizzying speed.
But as I read about the study, I realized that sadly, this was not to be.
In fact, the research didn’t address people with type 2 diabetes – the group who has the most trouble with carbs and sugar control. Instead, the investigators were examining how the glycemic index impacted heart health for people who didn’t have diabetes.
While I wished they had looked at people with type 2 diabetes, the study remained important, since people with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes often develop heart issues.
So what was the takeaway of the study? For people without diabetes who followed a healthy diet — lots of whole grains, lean meat, poultry, beans, fruits, and vegetables – the research showed that the glycemic index didn’t really matter all that much when it came to heart health or insulin sensitivity.
This makes sense, since people without diabetes aren’t as exquisitely tuned to high or low glycemic carbs as type 2’s.
But here’s where it gets interesting: what did matter to overall heart health was the total amount of carbohydrates consumed. When the overall amount of carb intake – whether high or low on the glycemic index – was lowered, cardiovascular risk factors improved – including insulin sensitivity, cholesterol and blood pressure levels.
As we know, a low carb diet for diabetes is the way to go for controlling unruly blood sugars. This study points out that it’s also a heart smart way to eat and that sticking to a heart healthy diet with minimal carbs and calories can be a good thing – whether or not you have type 2 diabetes. And that’s very good news, indeed.