News & Features

Tuesday 3rd March 2015

Ask Oliver

Question from a student at the International Macrobiotic School:  I have 2 clients who have diabetes who, on the advice of the NHS, are eating a diet avoiding carbohydrates. These people are looking for a way to keep the balance in their bodies instead of having big rises and falls In blood sugar level. Any advice?

Oliver says:
"I am amazed that advice to avoid carbohydrates is still being given to diabetics! Up to a couple of decades ago this was standard advice, then it was realised what we have known in macrobiotics for a long time, that eating complex carbohydrates like whole grains and root vegetables has a completely different effect on the body to eating simple sugars from refined sugar and the many foods that contain it.

"When we eat simple sugars like sucrose, they are quickly absorbed into the blood stream, and normally the body would need to produce a lot of insulin to move the sugar into the body cells before it reached harmful levels. In a person with diabetes, whose pancreas is producing less insulin or no insulin at all, a high blood sugar level needs to be controlled by taking artificial insulin.

"The effects of eating complex carbohydrates is very different – they need breaking down by the body’s digestive system, first being chewed and mixed with saliva in the mouth, and then being gradually broken down as they move through the small intestine. Only when they have been broken down into very small sugars can they then be absorbed into the blood stream. This means that the release of sugars into the blood is gradual, creating a much more even level of sugar in the blood, so much less insulin is needed.

"Diabetics generally experience more even blood sugar levels when they regularly eat whole grains like brown rice, millet, barley and quinoa, as well as beans and root vegetables. The diabetes charity website www.diabetes.org.uk recommends eating complex carbohydrates at every meal, and making them a third of one’s diet. Very macrobiotic!"