The Perils of Refined Foods

Here’s an important rule to remember when following the South Beach Diet: The more a food is refined, the more you should stay away from it. What are refined foods? They are highly processed foods that have been stripped of their nutrient content and fiber. Refined white flour, white pasta, and white sugar are just some examples.

How Refined Foods Affect Hunger
Consider a loaf of sliced white bread. First, the wheat is stripped of bran and fiber, and then it’s pulverized into the finest-textured white flour. The baking process puffs it up into light, airy slices of bread. No wonder your stomach makes such quick work of it. A slice of white bread hits your bloodstream with the same jolt you’d get by eating a tablespoon of sugar right from the bowl!

On the other hand, 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain bread — the coarse, chewy kind with a thick crust and visible pieces of grain — puts your stomach to work. It, too, is made of wheat, but the grains haven’t been processed to death. And while these types of bread contain starches, which are just chains of sugars, they are bound up with the fiber, so digestion takes longer. As a result, the sugars are released gradually into the bloodstream. If there’s no sudden surge in blood sugar, your pancreas won’t produce as much insulin, and you won't get the exaggerated hunger and cravings for more sugary and starchy carbs.

Refined Foods to Avoid
The following should be avoided on Phase 1 and Phase 2 and consumed only occasionally on Phase 3:

  • White bread
  • Bagel (unless 100% whole wheat or whole grain, in which case it’s Phase 2–friendly. Choose mini bagels!)
  • Crackers (unless 100% whole wheat or whole grain, then they’re Phase 2–friendly)
  • Cookies (or any baked goods made with white flour or refined wheat flour and sugar)
  • Instant oatmeal or cream of wheat
  • Potato chips and other kinds of veggie chips (whether fried or baked, veggie chips are often made with potato starch or puréed white potatoes and are rarely made with much of the green veggies or carrots implied on the labels)
  • Rice cakes
  • White pasta
  • White rice (white basmati rice is okay on Phase 2)

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