Humans have evolved to crave sugar. This may be hardwired into us from our ancestors who 15 million years ago lived through a time of ‘global cooling’. We adapted a greater sensitivity to fructose because it’s a source of energy and therefore it taps into a primitive survival mechanism. It also stimulates the ‘feel good hormone’ in the brain dopamine so that we get hooked! But we would have had to hunt for it millions of years ago, sometimes for days!
So, this was useful 15 million years ago, but in a world where sugar is now everywhere, hidden in packaged foods, both sweet and savoury, it’s easy to see why this primitive survival mechanism is currently failing us.
What Happens When We Eat Sugar?
Digestible carbohydrates in food are broken down into sugar which enters the bloodstream. As sugar enters the bloodstream, the pancreas produces insulin. Our cells need insulin to absorb blood sugar for energy production in the brain, muscles and cells. Excess glucose goes to the liver where it is transformed into fat for storage. Subsequently, sugar levels decline in the bloodstream.
Blood sugar imbalance refers to the peaks and troughs in blood-sugar levels, caused by diet. Sugary foods and refined (white) carbohydrates cause a sharp rise in blood-sugar, followed by a steep decline which can result in hunger, fatigue, tremors and dizziness.
Signs of blood sugar imbalance can present with signs and symptoms, such as, irritability, anxiety, fatigue, drowsiness, poor concentration, mood swings, fat storage, (especially around the middle), brain fog, insomnia, food cravings and difficulty losing weight.
A diet high in refined carbohydrates and sugar, not enough sleep, too little exercise, stress, some medications, such as diuretics and blood pressure medicines, not brushing & flossing teeth, smoking, gut microbiome imbalances, a high glycaemic load diet can all lead to sharp increase and decrease of blood sugar.
How to balance your blood sugar.
1 – Eat a Low Glycaemic Load Diet
A low glycaemic load diet has been shown to decrease the spikes and troughs of blood-sugar imbalance. These foods include watermelon, apple, orange, kidney & black beans, lentils, cashews, peanuts and carrots.
2 – Increase Fibre
Soluble fibre slows digestion, preventing quick spikes in your blood sugar levels and may also lower cholesterol and slow transit time. This kind of fibre includes oats, beans, peas, barley, flaxseed, berries, apples and carrots.
Insoluble fibre also slows blood sugar spikes and can reduce constipation and aid in weight management. This kind of fibre comes mainly from whole wheat, whole grains, nuts, bran, seeds, brown rice, skins of produce contain insoluble fibre.
3 – Feed Your Gut Microbiome
Artichokes, garlic, leeks, asparagus, green bananas and flaxseed contain prebiotic fibre which help to feed our gut microbiome, which in turn make short-chain-fatty acids that produce nutrients for our colon cells for better digestive and metabolic health.
4 – Increase protein and good fats
Fats and proteins won’t affect blood sugar as much as carbohydrates because protein and fat can take longer to digest. Some of the protein you consume is converted into sugar, but this is significantly less than carbohydrates.
When you consume healthy fats, less than ten percent of it is turned into sugar. It is also known to slow down digestion and may help in cell membrane function and assimilation of some fat-soluble vitamins.
Examples of low insulin foods include salmon, nuts, avocado, olive oil, eggs and grass-fed butter or ghee.
5 – Get better quality sleep
Going to bed at a reasonable time every night and aiming for 7-8 hours of quality sleep will help to increase your glucose tolerance and decrease cortisol concentrations.
6 – Try Time Restricted Eating
Leaving gaps between meals and letting your digestive system rest for between 12-16 hours per 24-hour period will help to regulate your blood glucose levels.
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