When we eat carbohydrate foods (breads/pastas/cereals/fruits/sugars), our body breaks them down into glucose, which then enters the bloodstream (blood sugar). Insulin is a hormone secreted by the pancreas that carefully lowers blood sugar levels by bringing gluocose into the cells to be used for energy.
The Vicious Cycle.
When carbohydrates break down rapidly in the body, blood sugar levels rise too high (hyperglycemia). As a response, insulin is pumped out in high amounts to control blood glucose and blood sugar swings from high to low (hypoglycemia). People then tend to experience energy crashes, confusion/poor memory, mood swings/irritability, anxiety and hunger cravings in an attempt to raise glucose levels again. If they then reach for the same type of foods that originally spiked blood sugar, this creates a vicious cycle of imbalance (dysglycemia)!
The Dangers of High Blood Sugar.
Over time, high blood sugar can lead to serious long-term health problems. If these surges happen on a continual basis, eventually cells become desensitized and resistant to insulin (the body does not allow it to bring glucose into cells effectively). Type 2 diabetes results from insulin resistance. Pre-diabetics are individuals who have higher than normal blood glucose but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Did you know? Insulin Resistance is linked to and is the main feature of Alzheimer’s disease. This is why it is known as Type 3 Diabetes!
Other adverse effects include: destruction of thyroid gland, overloaded/fatty liver, overtaxed adrenal glands, weight gain and resistant fat cells, weak immune system, nerve damage in eyes/kidneys/GI system, higher risk of candida overgrowth, osteoporosis, heart disease (excess cholesterol production, arterial damage and poor circulation), etc.
8 Tips to Manage Blood Sugar!
- Limit Sugar & Sweeteners - This includes honey, syrup, table sugar, and artificial sweeteners – Try: Xylitol, Stevia, Coconut Sugar instead!
- Fruit Selection - Avoid juices and higher glycemic fruits (i.e. bananas, dried fruit). If consuming fruit go for fresh, lower glycemic options (i.e. berries, apple, grapefruit) and enjoy them with some type of protein (i.e. nuts/seeds, Greek yogurt).
- Focus On Whole Foods - Avoid foods that are not in their whole form (processed, refined, instant, artificial) These include “white” products like bread, rice, sugar, pasta as well as flour, crackers, pastry, cereal. Also, minimize intake of caffeine.
- Choose High Fiber, Complex Carbs - When consuming carbohydrates, ensure moderation, and choose complex and unrefined ingredients that provide good amounts of fiber, such as ”brown” whole grains (wheat, spelt, oats, rice, etc.)! Other great sources of fibre sources include starches (sweet potatoes, squash), pseudograins (quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, millet), flax and chia, beans/legumes and of course, vegetables!
- Eat Balanced Meals: Always be sure to include ingredients that are high in fiber and protein along with good healthy fats to slow down digestion & prevent spikes in blood sugar. Great protein sources include naturally-raised/wild caught meats and fish, free run eggs and organic/grass-fed dairy. Healthy fats include coconut, olive, avocado, nuts and seeds. Consider high quality supplemental protein or fibre powders as an easy way to boost nutrition in addition to a healthy diet! PGX fibre helps to reduce food cravings, control/balance blood sugar levels and reduce the glycemic index of meals by up to 60%!
- Never Skip Meals – Try eating smaller meals more often throughout the day and ALWAYS eat breakfast! Tip: try adding cinnamon or brewer’s yeast to help stabilize blood sugar levels!
- Consider Natural Supplements – Here are a few key ingredients to consider: Chromium with Vanadium help control blood sugar and cravings by helping insulin activity. Chirositol mimics insulin to reduce cravings, controlling glucose levels Berberine increases the production of insulin receptors. Magnesium improves insulin sensitivity, activity and transport. Vitamin D helps control insulin and blood sugar levels. Garlic decreases and helps stabilize blood sugar levels, prolongs half-life of insulin. Healthy Fats/Omegas (Fish Oils/DHA & EPA, Evening Primrose/GLA) help decrease insulin resistance! Also, Zinc & Vitamin B are common deficiencies for people with insulin resistance.
- Lifestyle Factors – Make an effort to maintain a healthy weight, get regular exercise, manage stress, sleep well, and minimize toxins and common allergens. Consider liver & thyroid support. Improve digestion (probiotics, enzymes), etc. Did You Know? Physical activity moves sugar from the blood into cells and helps reduce insulin resistance and stabilizing blood sugar levels?
What Is The Glycemic Index/Load?
- Glycemic Index is a number associated with a particular type of food that indicates its effect on a person's blood sugar level by measuring the rate at which a carbohydrate breaks down and releases glucose into the bloodstream (higher GI = foods turn into blood sugar very quickly). A value of 100 represents the standard, an equivalent amount of pure glucose. A lower G.I means it is more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized causing a lower and slower rise in glucose and insulin levels. However, this index does not take into account typical portion sizes of foods.
- Glycemic Load is a tool that takes into account the Glycemic Index as well as the amount of carbohydrate in a typical portion size of that food. As a general rule, foods with a G.L under 10 are ideal, those above 20 should be eaten sparingly and all those in between should be consumed in moderation.
This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.