Carbohydrates can have a large affect on blood glucose and insulin levels. Understanding this is vitally important to anyone dealing with diabetes.
How Carbohydrates Affect Insulin Levels
Carbohydrates are broken down by the body into sugar. Some carbohydrates break down quickly causing a spike in blood glucose levels. As a result, insulin is released from the pancreas. This hormone helps move glucose out of the blood and into the muscles and fat cells for storage.
How This Can Lead to Weight Gain
After the body releases insulin, the levels of glucose in the bloodstream return to normal fairly quickly. However, it takes longer for insulin levels to return to normal. This can cause food cravings shortly after eating. Basically, insulin is left in the blood with nothing to do; so a signal is sent to the brain to ingest more sugar. This cycle of food cravings and eating leads to excess weight gain.
Keep in mind that it’s not only what people eat that contributes to this problem. What they drink can affect this too. Studies have shown that people who drink sugary sodas with their meals have a tendency to eat more. Drinking just one soda a day for a year can result in a 10 pound weight gain.
Not All carbohydrates Are Created Equal
There’s a considerable difference in how quickly the body can break down various carbohydrate foods into sugar. The more fiber that a food contains, the slower that food can be digested. Consequently, blood glucose levels are less affected.
Processed foods that contain refined sugar and flour and lack dietary fiber not only increase insulin levels, but are usually void of much nutritional value. Replace these foods with high fiber fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. You will be supplying your body with much needed nutrients as well as curbing your appetite. Eating high fiber foods gives you a feeling of fullness. You will be satisfied and feel full longer with fewer calories. Not only that, but you’ll be preventing the hormone reactions that cause or contribute to diabetes, as well as protecting yourself against weight gain and heart disease.
The Glycemic Index
The Glycemic index is a useful reference for determining how a food will affect your blood sugar. Since the early 1980’s, various carbohydrate foods have been tested to see how they affect blood glucose levels. Each food is given a ranking on a scale of 0 to 100. Foods ranked with the highest numbers are more likely to cause spikes in sugar and insulin levels.
It seems that mother knew best. Perhaps the simplest way to stabilize blood sugar and keep weight gain in check is to sit down to a balanced meal. Protein and fats slow down the breakdown of carbohydrates in much the same way as fiber does. Modern day life has led many to grab their food on the run.
Taking the time to plan your meals and snacks to include a balance of carbohydrates, protein and fats can go a long way in preventing the problems associated with unstable blood sugar.