By now, you’ve probably heard it everywhere—our society’s affinity for added sugar has reached a borderline addiction. What exactly happens when sugar is consumed and how does the body compensate for such high concentrations of sugar?
Did you know that having steady blood sugar levels is the one thing that every person who lives over 100 has in common? Research shows that the best foods for enjoying good weight are those that don’t cause a sharp rise in blood sugar levels. Balanced blood sugar is associated with physical and emotional health and now we also know, longevity. If you are having problems losing weight, feeling moody, or feel the need for caffeine, you may have a problem balancing your blood sugar.
Blood sugar 🍦 refers to glucose carried in the blood stream. Glucose is the immediate source of energy for all of the body’s cells. The levels of glucose in the blood are monitored by the pancreas and are tightly regulated by several hormones. These hormones include insulin, glucagon (secreted by the pancreas), cortisol, and catecholamines (secreted by the adrenal cortex and medulla). Insulin lowers the blood sugar while the cortisol and catecholamines increase it. The body has the ability to store glucose in the form of glycogen in the muscles and the liver. When sugar or refined carbs are digested, they are initially absorbed in the small intestine and then travel to the liver before they enter our blood circulation.
Today, over a third of the calories we consume come from sugar or white flour, which is highly refined and acts just like sugar in our system. When these foods are consumed, your blood sugar spikes creating alarms 🚨 to sound in your bloodstream and forces the release of insulin into the blood to turn the blood sugar into energy. Once turned into energy, your blood sugar should start to return back into the normal range.
For some people, the process of insulin changing blood sugar into energy doesn’t work efficiently. This can lead to health issues, including insulin resistance or even diabetes. Other symptoms of insulin resistance include: cravings for sugar, intense hunger, weakness, poor concentration, emotional instability, memory loss, lack of focus, feelings of anxiety or panic, lack of motivation, and fatigue. High insulin also damages your arteries and puts you at a greater risk of developing heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, gout, polycystic ovary syndrome, and high blood pressure. Too much insulin will also result in excess unutilized blood sugars being stored as fat. For many years we have been taught to stay away from fat and eat ‘low fat and/or no fat’ foods. However, we now know that in many cases fat is not the problem, sugar is. 🥨🥂🍬
It’s important to remember that not all carbs are bad. There are two types of carbohydrates– complex and simple. Both give us energy. However, complex carbohydrates are full of fiber and break down more slowly in your body which balances out our energy levels and leaves you feeling satisfied longer.
Tips for Healthy Blood Sugar Balance
1. Focus on eating complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, quinoa, beans, legumes, and root vegetables like sweet potatoes and butternut squash.
2. Eat your breakfast: By eating protein within one hour of waking, amino acids are provided which can be used as an alternative fuel for the body. When eaten with carbohydrates, it will slow down the release of glucose into the system.
3. Eat plenty of fiber such as legumes, beans, flax seeds, chia seeds, oats, hemp seeds, nuts and seeds. Fiber will keep you full longer and help you crave less sugar.
4. Reduce mental and emotional stressors. Long-term stress may result in adrenal fatigue, which affects blood sugar.
5. Choose low glycemic foods which release glucose at a slower rate because they take longer to break down in the intestine.
6. Increase antioxidants such as raw cacao, açai, berries, prunes, pomegranates, kale, brussels sprouts, beets, and red bell peppers.
7. Increase essential fatty acids such as cold water fish, nuts, seeds, and hemp seeds.
8. Eat cinnamon. Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic health systems have used cassia (cinnamon) to reduce fasting blood sugar levels. Real cinnamon contains polyphenols that help maintain insulin sensitivity.
Things to Reduce or Avoid:
- Concentrated sweets such as soda, candy, cakes, cookies, etc.
- Too much fruit eaten alone or fruit juice
- Minimize gluten-containing grains which may cause undesirable responses and can continue to promote blood sugar imbalances
- Alcohol and caffeine