Written by Jennie on August 8, 2016.
Most people associate the term ‘blood sugar levels’ with diabetes—but your blood sugar (more accurately, blood glucose, but as most people refer to it as ‘blood sugar’ I too will use this term) rise and fall naturally according to what you have eaten or drunk, or how stressed you are, and how long it is since you last ate. Most people only have a vague idea of what is meant by blood sugar: it’s a term that sounds scary, so firstly know that it’s a natural part of your digestive process. However, because its role is not widely understood, you may unwittingly be creating a blood sugar levels roller-coaster which can lead to energy lows, weight gain (especially around our middle) and, if the roller-coaster goes on for too long, an increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Let me then share with you what happens in the body when we eat food and how you can learn to keep your blood sugar levels more steady.
Understanding Blood Sugar Levels
When we eat, our digestive system breaks down our food into the different nutrients. Although there are myriad of things the body does with the nutrients we eat, these are the key things:
- Protein, as found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy, beans, nuts etc, helps the body build and repair itself.
- Fats, as found in butter, oils, meat, fish, eggs, dairy etc, provides us with a condensed form of energy.
- Carbohydrates provide us with energy.
Carbohydrates are the largest food group. They are often referred to as ‘carbs’ but what is usually meant by this is the starchy/sweet foods such as bread, cakes, sweet treats, potatoes and white rice. Whereas carbohydrates are found in all foods that have come from a plant source; for example vegetables, fruit, grains and nuts. Eating ample amounts of vegetables, good amounts of fruit and small amounts of grains and nuts is an essential part of a healthy diet, so please don’t exclude or limit these foods from your diet.
After eating food containing carbohydrates, our digestive system breaks it down into simple sugars, which are then absorbed into the blood stream. Our blood carries sugar to the trillions of cells that make-up our body where it is used to keep our body functioning and also allows us to exert energy in our physical activities. We need this energy to live and to be healthy, BUT our body was designed and works best when sugar is slowly absorbed into our blood, drip-by-drip. When we eat refined foods (food containing white flour, white sugar and white rice) or processed foods (most packet, carton, sachet and many foods found in bottles and jars) or foods that have added sugar (including foods that are not obvious sugar as smoked salmon, ham, bacon, mustard etc) then the sugar doesn’t go drip-by-drip into the blood stream, but floods into our blood stream which may cause our blood sugar levels to become too high.
How Insulin production is connected to weight gain
When blood sugar levels have risen too high, our body responds as this is detrimental to health. To do this, insulin is released to mop-up the excess sugars. Insulin then can temporarily store the sugars as glycogen in the liver or in our muscles, or convert and store the sugar as body fat.
There is though a double whammy to this process. When the blood sugar levels are high, insulin becomes very efficient at it’s job, removing more sugar from the blood than was there originally. In this way it causes blood sugar levels to plummet.
Guess, what then happens? Yes, the body then sends cravings for sugary foods to replace the sugar that it has just removed from the blood stream!
This is how the roller-coaster begins and not only is the body potentially storing more body fat because of this, it is sending out cravings for more sugary food. And in this way it’s very easy for your body to gain weight.
If your diet and lifestyle keep your blood sugar levels on this roller-coaster, you can exhaust your pancreas (which produces insulin) and at this point you increase your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes which is, sadly, becoming far too common.
At this point, you may be getting concerned, please don’t be. It is perfectly normal for your blood sugar levels to rise and fall. What we all need to focus on keeping our blood sugar levels steadier so we don’t get the extremes of highs and lows. Steadier blood sugar levels can help with weight loss, reduce cravings and minimise the risk of getting Type 2 diabetes. So let’s now look at how you do this.
Three Tips to stabilise your blood sugar levels
- Tip 1. Minimize the amount of processed and refined foods you eat: in particular foods made with or that contain white flour, white rice and sugar.
- Tip 2. To help your body slow down it’s digestion of carbohydrates so sugar flows more slowly into the blood stream, chose fruit, vegetables and grains that contain a high level of fibre and eat them with small quantities of protein and good fats. Doing this slows down the release of sugars from carbohydrates.
- Tip 3. When you are in the supermarket, take the time to read the ingredients list. Sugar is added to so many foods, even savoury foods that you would never imagine had sugar in them. It may not be listed as sugar – so look out for names ending in ‘ose’ – such as glucose, sucrose, lactose, fructose etc.
Understanding and learning how to steady your blood sugar levels is a key part of the Eat Well—Be Well program. Pop over to my Live Classes on the Phone to find out more.
I am always interested to hear your thoughts, views and ideas. Get in touch via the comments box below.