Want to know the most effective intervention you can make to lose weight, eliminate cravings and cut your risk of disease ?
It’s balancing your blood sugar
What is blood sugar and why should we keep it balanced?
Your blood sugar is the concentration of glucose in your blood. Glucose is a simple sugar, and it’s your body’s preferred primary energy source. It is vital to keep blood sugar balanced because when there is too much or too little, it triggers a stress response in the body.
How does it work?
When the body needs energy, it releases “the hunger hormone” ghrelin, which tells you to “go look for food for energy!” Whatever food you choose goes through the digestive process where the carbohydrate (sugars and starches) in the food is broken down into glucose. It is in the small intestines that glucose is absorbed by the intestinal wall after which it then moves into the bloodstream.
How is blood sugar converted into energy?
The bloodstream is the delivery system that carries glucose to your cells but just because you have glucose in your bloodstream, that doesn’t mean your body’s cells can use it and this is where challenges arise (more on that below). Your ability to utilise blood sugar is determined by the hormone insulin , which is produced by the pancreas. When blood sugar (blood glucose) levels rise, insulin is released, and the insulin then binds to receptors on your cells, unlocking the pathway for the glucose to move into them and be converted into energy. This process (glycolysis) removes the glucose from your bloodstream and brings your blood sugar levels back down to normal.
What foods are a good source of energy?
The body can get energy from proteins as well as fats but glucose is it’s preferred energy source, and that’s where carbohydrates come in.
Complex carbohydrates are a good choice – vegetables, salad, quinoa, brown rice, sweet potatoes. Why? Because they are also packed with fibre which significantly slows down the absorption of the glucose. Complex carbs become a great choice if you also add some protein and healthy fats into the mix.
What foods should I avoid?
When it comes to simple carbohydrates you need to be far more discerning. Simple carbohydrates are found in natural foods – fruits, milk, and milk products – all ok in moderation as they also include fibre or fat. But then there’s the processed and refined foods and these are the ones to avoid. Refined foods, by definition, have been stripped of their fibre – white rice, white bread, pastries or white pasta (notice the white and beige foods theme!) and then of course there’s the sugary stuff itself (sweets, soft drinks, syrups and table sugar).
The blood sugar rollercoaster
The body breaks down simple carbohydrates really, really fast and the glucose will enter the bloodstream in a rush. This sudden increase in blood sugar brings you to the top of the roller coaster. Here your brain is alerted to ‘danger’ and a message is sent to the pancreas to release insulin and ‘send it now!’ The pancreas rushes to send out a whole bunch of insulin, and too much blood sugar is taken out of the bloodstream at once. Now your blood sugar is too low, your body crashes and you fall into a slump and your body needs a quick source of energy to find balance. You go on the hunt for caffeine and a little pick me of some sort. You might eat a biscuit (or three) and have a coffee, and pretty soon you are riding the roller coaster right back up again. This can happen multiple times in the day keeping the body in a stress response over and over. Each time, at the top and the bottom of the rollercoaster, the body is signalling “Emergency… do something!”
This is how it affects your health
- Moodiness – the more uneven your blood sugar, the more uneven your mood
- Increased cancer risk – studies show that women with high blood sugar levels are at an increased risk of developing cancers such as breast, pancreas, skin, womb and urinary tract.
- Weight gain – if brain, muscle and blood cell glucose receptors are full then the glucose begins to be stored as excess fat. This is an even bigger issue if you are sitting down for a large part of your day because your body doesn’t need to tap into those fat stores for energy.
And, when it comes to weight, there’s a double whammy
If you are always on the blood sugar roller coaster, your body can’t produce Glucagon. Glucagon is an essential hormone for weight loss. The function of Glucagon is to break down your stored fats into fatty acids for it to then be converted into ketone bodies for energy. So this ride you are on is not only causing your body a great deal of stress but it’s also causing you to gain weight and keeping you from burning fat.
Here’s the good news
Managing your weight, having consistent energy, feeling calm and contented and being able to stay focussed; that’s all within your reach! Eliminate processed and sugary foods from your diet as these are the carbs that spike your blood sugar the most. Instead, focus on salad and vegetables and include some brown rice and sweet potatoes plus some fruit in moderation. They all play an important role in a healthy diet. But it doesn’t end there…
Now balance your plate
Adding protein and healthy fats alongside complex carbohdrates at every meal needs to be a dietary focus. I tell my clients a balanced plate consists of half vegetables, a palm size amount of protein plus 2 tbsp of good fats. You should also include 50g of starchy carbohydrates (brown rice, sweet potatoes) at least once a day.
It doesn’t have to feel complicated!
If you want to loose weight, reduce biological stress (cut your risk of disease) and eliminate cravings, keep your blood sugar balanced – include complex carbs, protein and fats at every meal and avoid processed, sugary and refined foods as much a possible.
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This blog provides general information about health and health-related subjects and the content and links are not intended to be used as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, please do not delay in consulting with a healthcare professional.