Managing blood sugar levels can have a tremendous impact on our health – from allowing us to live with full vitality OR with chronic complaints and disease risk.
These are some of the everyday symptoms of poorly managed blood sugars: cravings, mid afternoon slumps, sleep issues, fatigue with a lack of energy and difficulty losing weight.
Poorly managed blood sugar levels can also lead to heart disease (high levels of circulating blood sugar can damage artery walls), diabetes (our cells become resistant to insulin) and obesity (when cells let sugar in, they also let fat in – with the help of the hormone insulin).
Carbohydrates – key to managing blood sugars
Carbohydrates are the food group which impact blood sugar balance, glucose to be exact – all carbohydrates break down into glucose in the body eventually
Glucose triggers the release of insulin – its the management of this hormone which can impact health.
The diagram below shows the different types of carbohydrates and their impact on the blood.
Monosaccharides are sugar spiking (FAST release of sugar into the blood), polysaccharides are slow release (SLOW release of sugar into the blood) and Disaccharides sit in the middle (MODERATE release of sugar into the blood). So its the polysaccharides and some of the disaccharides which will balance your blood sugars! More guidance on this below.
The role of insulin
When insulin is released, it not only allows sugar into the cells from the blood, but also fat, hence sugar causes weight gain. Excess sugar in the blood can damage artery walls causing heart disease. Yo-yo-ing insulin makes our cells less responsive to it, causing insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes type 2.
After a sugar hit, insulin quickly mops up sugar from the blood; this rapid removal of sugar from the blood is the reason we then feel rubbish – we will suffer a blood sugar low, which impacts mood, energy and concentration. Naturally we feel like grabbing something sugary to compensate – a viscous cycle. See diagram below showing sugar ups and downs and this impact, from Veevital.com
Food advice to balance blood sugars
Carbs are vital for life so definitely don’t avoid them! Its about choosing well…
Slow release foods
release glucose into the blood SLOWLY because of their complex structure and fibre – choose: wholemeal grains, brown rice, wholemeal flour, oats, porridge, sweet potato, brown rice pasta, chickpeas etc. Whole foods basically.
Sugar spiking foods
flood the blood with glucose rapidly, avoid: sweets, fizzy drinks, ice cream, white carbs (processing strips them of fibre making them fast release), sugary cereals, concentrated fruit snacks etc
Low Glycaemic Index
Eating low Glycemic Load (GL) is the best way to properly implement a way of eating to manage blood sugar levels. Patrick Holford is the main man behind this way of eating, and there are some books available on this topic, as well as an app to help you navigate GL foods when out and about.