Answering a Readers Question: Refined Foods and Honey

Yesterday Susan asked an excellent question. I started writing a reply, but it just got longer and longer until it became its own article. I tried to keep it short, but a major problem I have with this work is that there are so many factors that tie together that this seems impossible. I tried to make it into an interesting story though, so maybe you can follow along to the end.

The Question
You talk of not eating refined sugar or grains, but what defines these? Raw honey is NOT refined, but has the same reactions as regular sugar but at the same time it has natural anti-viral/anti-bacterial properties and a multitude of trace minerals and vitamins. Are you saying any sugars period? What about the grains? I grind my own whole wheat. I generally try to make bulgur rather than straight ground whole wheat. I use no added white flour, so it’s truly 100%. A more defined explanation would be very helpful. Thanks!

Thanks for the great question, Susan.

According to Science (I don’t completely agree)
One of the main factors to consider is blood sugar. The faster a food brings up blood sugar, the more the negative impact on the body. This is called the glycemic index (GI). 55 and below is considered low while over 55 is high. Glycemic load (GL) is also important to considered. This is the glycemic index times the grams of the food being eaten divided by 100. The problem is that glycemic index charts very wildly, even those from various universities. One will list honey as low while another lists it as high, I didn’t find any showing it as medium.

Even with these numbers, the total daily glycemic load is what is most important. According to this idea, you can have your cake and eat it too, as long as the total load is kept within a certain threshold. The guideline is: if you weigh less than 150 pounds 55 GL points per day would be the maximum. 150-175 pounds a GL of 65 or less is recommended, more than 175 the GL can go up to 80. There are obvious problems here such diabetes and obesity who really should avoid sugars and processed foods in general. But, there may be other more subtle issues that make linear thinking like this flawed.

The total GL of a meal is averaged out based on the different foods you eat. Eat one high and several low and you end up with a total GL that is within the guidelines. Fats, which don’t have a GI, will actually bring down the GI of other foods. So, having your pie with whipped cream on top makes it less harmful. There are problems with this kind of thinking though. Saying that sugar is okay to eat seems irresponsible and shows a lack of thinking through other factors that I will bring up soon.

Carbohydrates, which include fruits, vegetables and grains, are long chains of sugar molecules coupled together. Carbohydrate digestion decouples the bonds that hold these sugars together. When this happens slowly, blood sugar comes up slowly and insulin levels don’t spike. The more chopped up or ground up a grain is, the faster it digests because of more surface area being exposed to digestive enzymes. The sugar is released faster causing sugar to release into the blood at a faster rate.

Whole oats that are not overcooked have a very low GI. Chopped up oats, the quick cooking kind, have a high GI. The same thing happens with bread. Whole wheat berries may have a low GI, but when they are ground up the GI is high. Some charts show whole wheat bread to be only a point lower than white bread. On the other hand, course ground breads and grains other than wheat do have a lower GI.

There are other problems with grains. They all have a protein in them that causes inflammation. Inflammation has been shown to be the start of most major health conditions.

The Main Factor to Consider
High levels of insulin are responsible for most major health conditions, and it is a major cause of aging in general. There are a whole series of events that occur when insulin releases. For example, insulin is pro-inflammatory.

In terms of survival, insulin mitigated the fluctuations in the availability of food our ancestors had to endure. This was necessary, fattening up to survive the winter lean times. However, in terms of longevity and major illness, and because of the steady availability of good quality food, there is good reason to keep daily insulin levels low.

The Healthy
There are people I have met who are what I would consider ‘super healthy.’ They never eat sugar of any kind at all including honey. They also avoid the sweet fruits like red apples. Some fruits are okay when not overly ripe like bananas and mangos. Most GI charts rate mangos and bananas low, while I know that eating a perfectly ripened mango or very ripe banana will set of a reaction. The same thing happens with honey. And, consider the fact that diabetics can’t safely eat honey because it require a release of insulin.

By the way, these people are the ones that teach and practice natural healing, the ones that are the most educated in what foods do to the biochemistry of the body. They also know about detoxification and nutrition. They detoxify regularly, and take a fair amount of supplements for the right reasons.

Reality Check
Another really big factor to consider is satiety. Or maybe even sanity! A little treat now and then can make the difference in whether or not someone will binge for example. I always encourage my clients to cheat with the diet plan I may give them. Conscious cheating is better than what may happen when someone radically changes their diet. And, combining treats with a well balanced meal that includes plenty of vegetables greatly mitigates any problems the treat may cause.

The real issue is insulin. Anything that can be done to keep insulin low should be considered.

It takes time to acclimate the body to eating well all the time. Abruptly quitting all the foods someone has been eating all their lives just doesn’t work for most. It is much better to start eliminating some of the worst things. Allow several weeks to acclimate to the change before eliminating something else. Education is the best weapon. It may take years, but knowing both scientifically and practically in your own body, makes making changes much easier.

Meet the Author


Hello and welcome to my blog! There are several reasons I decided to start writing a blog on natural self-healing. The main thing I want to do is to share information on health and healing so that people can take action to heal themselves using natural techniques. I have met so many people who couldn't afford natural health care. They may have had health insurance, but they didn't trust that model. Many people want to know how to be healthy naturally. They want to know what really works and what doesn't. They want to be health conscious and often fail because of poor information, lack of knowledge, bad science and other factors. This blog is intended to help demystify the body and its various functions and to help people understand what is really needed to obtain optimum health. One of the great things about knowledge of the body is that once you know and understand how it works it becomes easy to know what the right things to do for it. And, it is much easier to do the right things when the consequences of the wrong things are fully understood. To do this I will be drawing from the knowledge of many people that I have learned from. I will talk about biochemistry relating that to what is needed to obtain optimum health. There will be information about the physical structure of the body and how to keep that aligned and functioning well. A major part of yoga has to do with health, so information about yogic techniques will be included. Mental and emotional health are important for the health of the body/mind, so articles about these topics will be included. And, there will be an occasional article about me and what I am up to. Hopefully I can relate that back to some health issue as well. The title Self Adjusting Technique comes from my technique for self-adjusting the structural part of the body, that is adjusting the body's various vertebrae and joints. For this blog it will include the idea of how to adjust health issues for yourself and those you care about. With a little knowledge there is a lot people can do to help heal themselves and stay healthy. I want to explain complex information about the body in a way that is easy to understand and useful. The comments section will help in that goal as people can ask for clarification if there is something they don't understand. And maybe we can get some helpful input from people smarter than me that will benefit us all. I hope you find information that can help you with your health issues. Kalidasa

2 comments… add one
  • Leanne Jan 6, 2008, 9:41 pm

    I am 30 years old, and an ex-sugar addict. I have spent years fighting and giving in to my sugar urges, and am now at the point where I realize it isn’t worth it anymore to continue these regular indugences. I always feel like crap for hours or days after I eat something sugary. I do however have some sweets, I bake all of my own treats, use minimal amounts of sucanat (unrefined sugar cane), or agave nectar. I don’t get a reaction to these sugars in small amounts, as I do with a white flour, loaded with sugar treat. I avoid anything that I don’t make myself! I have tried to completely eliminate sugars from my diet many times, but feel very deprived and end up giving in. Recovering form Adrenal fatigue is done layer by layer (imagine a head of cabbage) there are so many components to healing but i do beleive from personal experience, eating a whole food, low sugar diet is a big piece of the recovery puzzle. Then lifestyle habits like exercise and stress reduction. It is all about BALANCE!

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