Blood sugar, also known as blood glucose, is like the electric current flowing through the wires of an electronic device. It provides us with energy and sustains all of our vital functions. Just like unplugging the source of current from an electronic device, taking away a human’s source of blood sugar, would also shut them down. But it is crucial to maintain our blood sugar within a healthy range, and that balance heavily relies on our dietary intake. When we consume foods, particularly carbohydrates, our body metabolizes them into simple sugar that is then transported throughout our blood. Meanwhile our pancreas secretes insulin, a hormone that helps cells absorb sugar from the blood in order to use it for energy. The insulin in our body acts like a key that helps unlock the access door to cells so that they can uptake and make use of the sugar.
In some cases, our bodies can become insulin resistant. This means that cells become less responsive to the hormone known as insulin. In that case insulin would only be able to unlock the door to some cells, leaving the rest of the sugar floating around in the blood stream and ultimately resulting in hyperglycemia (high blood glucose). While hyperglycemia can seem harmless, or just like an extra storage supply of energy, it actually has dire implications on our bodies. Hyperglycemia is the gateway to cardiac disease and type-two diabetes. While there is no single concrete cause for insulin resistance and hyperglycemia two common modifiable risk factors include physical activity and diet composition. We have the power to take charge of our lives and manage our blood sugar prior to the onset of any possible complications; below are a few ways.
Incorporating the Right Fats and Preventing Insulin Resistance
Consumption of a high fat diet is often associated with insulin resistance and reduced insulin sensitivity. The solution is not simply to cut out fats altogether, but rather we must make an effort to substitute saturated fats with monounsaturated fats. And we must consume fats in moderation. This means that majority of our fat intake should come from nuts, avocado, canola oil, olive oil, and sunflower oil.
Carbohydrates, Glycemic Index, and Blood Sugar Sustainability
High glycemic foods typically refer to carbohydrates that are quickly broken down into simple sugars, and thus cause abrupt spikes in our blood glucose levels. Examples of these foods are cookies, white bread, sugary drinks, white grain products like pasta or crackers, and most packaged cereals. A study performed in 1999 found that consuming carbohydrates which promote low but sustained blood sugar levels serve better in controlling our sugar metabolism and preventing onset of complications that stem from hyperglycemia. Examples of low glycemic carbohydrates include oats, barley, legumes, whole wheat grains, lentils, and beans.
Fibre and Modulating Sugar Levels
Foods rich in soluble fibre have been found to change the composition of carbohydrate rich food, when consumed in combination. Soluble fibre has been found to increase the viscosity of a carbohydrate rich meal and as a consequence slows down the body’s rate of digestion of the carbohydrates. This helps in modulating blood sugar levels and ensuring a slow and steady release of sugar from food being metabolized. Food sources rich in soluble fibre include beans, oats, rice bran, whole grains, peas, citrus, apples, and seeds.
Simply put, by modifying our diet and ensuring that our blood glucose levels remain steady throughout our day, we are actively preventing the onset of hyperglycemia. And by preventing hyperglycemia, we are also avoiding further associated complications and the many costs that come along with them.