Chapter 4: White Food

The overconsumption of “white foods,” as I like to call them, is an unhealthy practice that can cause such diseases as diabetes. What are white foods? Items like white rice, white spaghetti, and white bread are just a few examples. In white foods, the skins and seeds of the grains have been removed. This means that the healthy vitamins, proteins, fat, minerals, and fiber are taken out. All that is left are the carbohydrates. Processing facilities then put back certain “nutrients” from other sources. For example, Vitamin B is present in unprocessed rice. When the brown rice is made into white rice, the Vitamin B is lost in the procedure. To compensate for this loss, the processing plant must “enrich” the white rice with vitamin B from a different source. The added vitamin B comes from an unidentified source. To further compare, brown rice is 7.3-8% protein, 3% fat, and 71.8% carbohydrate. On the other hand, white rice is made almost entirely from carbohydrates and is very low in fiber. Which do you think is healthier for you? Of course, brown rice and other whole grains are better.

What happens when we eat a lot of processed foods? Like all things that our bodies break down, these foods are converted into glucose for energy. Unlike healthier food sources, these processed foods are changed so quickly that the resulting glucose is rapidly pushed into the blood cells. This causes our blood glucose levels to spike upward, which leads to diabetes. In Korea, diabetes is appropriately known as “high glucose in blood vessel disease.”

In an attempt to regulate the glucose levels, our pancreas releases insulin into our blood cells, where the glucose is stored. Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas that helps the muscle and fat cells absorb glucose. The body tries to neutralize any excess glucose in the bloodstream. To put it into perspective, think of a house fire. What do firemen do to put it out? They douse it with water, thereby neutralizing the threat. If flames represent excess glucose in our bodies, the water from a fire hose represents the insulin that is released. But, the problem is that our spleens can only produce so much insulin. So what happens to the glucose that was not removed by the insulin? Unfortunately for us, it stays in our blood cells. Again, diabetes is caused when we eat food that produces a lot of glucose, the excess of which our bodies cannot absorb.   If we have problem producing insulin, or we can produce it, but just not enough, then the excess glucose stays in our blood vessels. Thus, “high glucose syndrome” develops, which doctors and scientists believe is a cause of diabetes. Without insulin, glucose cannot transition into the cell, and, as a result, the cell will not function properly.  Therefore, the person becomes overweight, tired, and has poor energy.

A common problem is that we assume certain foods are good for us. We are told that, because they are “natural” foods, they are healthy for us. The best example of this is white rice. Since it is rice, we assume that it is healthy for us to eat it. However, it is not. It does not start out white in nature; it actually starts out brown. It is brown because of all of the good nutrients it contains. Then, it is harvested, processed, and refined by the manufacturer. Once this process is completed, all of the beneficial ingredients in it are gone. The vitamins and minerals it once had have disappeared. Its life force is no longer there. Eating this empty rice is not only detrimental to our cells, but our bodies as a whole. This is because the body cannot pull any vital nutrients from it, as they are all gone. The body rapidly processes it into glucose, which floods our bloodstream. A benefit of whole foods is that, because of their makeup, they are slowly digested and the resulting glucose is slowly released into the bloodstream. Even birds know white rice is bad. If given a choice between whole grains and white rice, they will eat the whole grains first because, instinctively, they know that processed foods are unhealthy for them.

What should you take from what I’ve just said? Eating anything processed is never good for you. Again, let us take white rice as an example of what processed foods can do to you. In World War Two, the Japanese soldiers put prisoners into camps. At one camp, the only staple given was white rice.1 When these prisoners were freed after the war, they were in terrible condition. Their leg bones (femur, tibia, and fibula) had become so weak from the lack of vitamins and minerals that their legs became crooked. Their teeth were falling out as well. The Allies were outraged, believing that the prisoners from this camp had been tortured, which would have violated the Geneva Convention. It was later determined that their bodies were simply reacting to the lack of nutrients in the white rice. White rice is unhealthy due to the processing procedures that deplete its vitamins.

High glucose levels cause more than just diabetes. When our bodies have too much extra glucose, the blood becomes sticky and the vessels become inflamed. This Inflammation leads to arthritis, a very painful disease. You probably know somebody who suffers from arthritis, perhaps a grandparent? Depending on where the arthritis is, it can be painful to grab things, move around, or even stand up. It is a horrible disease that many people experience in their older years.

The first place we get arthritis is in our eyes.2  This is usually after approximately seven years of unhealthy eating.  Arthritis is typically incurable, but in some cases, it can be fixed by a dietary change and portion control.  If it is not fixed, the arthritis then spreads to our feet, toes, and eventually, our hearts. It can even reach our brains, causing a stroke or impotence. Arthritis causes our bodies to gradually, silently, and slowly, die.

We need a proper amount of glucose in order to fuel our brains, but how can we strike a balance? In order to control our glucose levels, we must eat the proper foods in the proper amounts. Additionally, glucose can be controlled by oxygenating our blood through proper breathing (Ki-gong). Our energy level depends on two things: glucose and oxygen. The more oxygen we have in our blood, the more glucose can be combined with the cells to create energy. Finally, stimulating our muscles through exercise can control glucose levels. Exercise causes us to use energy, and, combined with proper breathing, will use up the glucose. Remember, we must have balance within our bodies.

Let’s move on to what the liver does. Our liver stores glucose, in the form of glycogen.  When we run out of glucose in our bloodstream and muscles, the liver releases glycogen to give us energy. However, if the liver is at full capacity, it releases the stored glycogen into the bloodstream, even when we do not need it. Our muscles also store glycogen. When it is released, it is converted back into glucose. People with big bellies and thin limbs are considered to have a spider or turtle shape.  That means their limbs have a “dried shape”, and they are not muscular like they should be. Such a body is more prone to developing diabetes, as it has less muscle mass and uses glucose much more slowly.

If we have a lot of muscle, like world-class athletes, this glycogen (and, therefore, glucose) is burned off. Muscles at rest use more energy than fat at rest. Similarly, people who are martial artists, speed skaters, sprinters, football players, and soccer players all have strong and muscular lower bodies. As a result, they do not have diabetes. 70% of our muscles are below our waists. This includes our glutes, our calves, our quadriceps, etc. If these areas consist mainly of muscle and our livers release glycogen, the glucose is then burned off due to muscle mass.

Eating the proper amount of whole grains has several positive effects on the body. First, the whole grains keep the arteries from hardening by keeping them clean. When our blood sticks together in our arteries due to poor eating habits, the heart has to work harder to clear out the buildup of debris. Increased stress on the heart means there is a greater chance of having a heart attack. Whole grains stop this from occurring by providing us with vital vitamins and nutrients that prevent this debris buildup. Second, whole grains prevent constipation. Being constipated means that waste is stuck in your colon. Since feces contain everything the body cannot use, it is pushed through the colon quickly and efficiently. Whole grains have an abundance of fiber, which stimulates bowel movement to get rid of the waste. Third, whole grains make glucose when they are digested. Our brains, muscles, and bodies run on glucose. Eating sweets provides glucose en masse, but our brains cannot properly use it because it is delivered very quickly and all at once. On the other hand, whole grains slowly release a steady and healthy amount of glucose for our brains to feed upon. Eating sweets is like throwing gas on firewood and lighting it. It burns off rapidly, and the fire may go out once the gas is burned off, without even lighting the wood. If you build a fire with small sticks, then larger sticks, and finally logs, it will be easy to light and will burn steadily. This is how whole grains work in your body. They break down slowly, and provide sustained fuel to your body.

Proper eating habits affect your lifespan, but so do poor eating habits. The people who make it to 100 years of age usually eat little meat, and a lot of whole grains. They are active, and have good stamina, because the whole grains give them sustained (not fast) energy. By eating this way, their arteries are clean and their hearts do not have to work too hard. Furthermore, their colons are also completely free of toxins, because the waste is efficiently moved through the body.

Grandmaster Jang, sidekick, Rainy Mt. 2006
Grandmaster Jang, sidekick, Rainy Mt. 2006

  1. See Japanese POW Camps During World War Twoto read more about the living conditions in Japanese prison camps.

  2. See 6 Ways Arthritis Can Affect Your Eyes for more information about eye arthritis. Inflammation in the joints can cause the eyes to stop producing natural tears. Vision becomes blurred and the eyes start to feel irritated and dry.

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