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What is blood sugar and why you should care about it.
Your blood sugar is what keeps your body working. From lifting weights, to walking to breathing (yes, even breathing), blood sugar is making all of this possible. We need blood sugar (glucose) flowing at all times as well as some in storage (glycogen) for times when it is not available through foods.
Every time you put food in your mouth it is digested and separated into usable bits and then transported to the organs that need the energy or to help with waste elimination.
When it comes to weight loss, blood sugar maintenance is important because any extra blood sugar (glucose) is transformed into long chains which become glycogen and are stored in the liver and muscle tissue as accessible reserves. Any excess after that goes directly into fat cells which are the least accessible to convert back to glucose.
The pancreas doesn’t care how much glucose is needed. Its’ only job is to convert it. So when you eat a meal consisting of high carbs, low-fat and low fiber and have not done much physical activity the excess is moving directly to fat!
To avoid this from happening, we need to manage the blood sugar levels, which means balancing our food intake.
The key players of blood sugar management.
Insulin and glucagon are the yin and yang of blood sugar.
Insulin is a hormone that is created in the pancreas when carbohydrates are digested. It is then turned into glucose which it allows into the cells. Insulin also help to maintain a constant level of glucose in the body.
Basically, insulin is like the bank manager and has the combination to the vault (the cells) and must be present for the glucose to get in.
Glucagon is a hormone that is created when blood sugar is too low and the energy levels are not being met. When this happens, glucagon sends the liver a message to break down the glycogen that is stored there. If the liver does not have enough storage, the lean muscle and stored fats will be triggered to jump in and level the blood sugar.
Carbohydrates are the bodies preferred source of usable energy because it is the easiest to process into blood sugar. Carbs are also used as energy first and burn the fastest.
The carbohydrates that we eat (good and bad carbs) are digested and converted into blood sugar (glucose) by the pancreas. The glucose is then deposited into the bloodstream and sent to the cells to be used as energy.
Protein from animals contain amino acids that are building blocks that help repair, preserve and build muscle and tissue. There are 22 amino acids total and 8 that are essential. These 8 amino acids cannot be produced by the body and need to come from food sources.
Fats are another macronutrient that the body cannot produce and needs to come from food sources. Think of the term “Essential Fatty Acids” when making food choices that include fats. Essential fatty acids are important for brain health as well as better absorption of Vitamins A, D, E and K.
A meal of chicken, broccoli and brown rice would be a good example of a healthy dinner for optimal blood sugar. Your body would begin digesting and trigger the pancreas of the incoming glucose and to start producing equal amounts of insulin to transport to the to the cells.
These foods are low in natural sugars which slows down digestion so that your blood sugar doesn’t spike and it can be burned off at a steadier rate.
Signs and Symptoms of Imbalanced Sugars
First, let’s go over the highs and lows as both can have similar symptoms such as an increase in appetite that may make it very easy to overeat which then can cause even more imbalance.
Hyperglycemia is when your blood sugar is too high. Symptoms can include:
flushed, hot, dry skin
fast heart rate with low blood pressure
Hypoglycemia is when your blood sugar is too low. Symptoms can include:
lack of mental clarity
Insulin Resistance and High Blood Sugar
Insulin resistance or high blood sugar is caused when the body is producing the right amount of glucose based on food consumption but the insulin won’t open the door to the safe to let it in. So the body asks for more glucose to be sent in. Since there is a steady stream of glucose some eventually gets in, but it has taken a lot more effort to do the same job.
This also means that there is now excess glucose floating around with nowhere to go and can lead to chronic high blood sugar or pre-diabetes. Another area of concern is that the excess insulin will also block fat burning and push the essential fatty acids from the bloodstream straight into the fa cells.
The easiest way to help balance blood sugar is to remove or reduce refined sugars, simple carbs, unhealthy fats (trans, hydrogenated and overly processed oils) and processed foods, and replace them with more nutrient dense options.
Think of Mother Nature and what she creates. Eat the rainbow, grass-fed lean meats, whole grains and healthy fats from nuts, seeds and fish.
The goal is to incorporate all three macronutrients (carbs, protein and fats) into every meal so that your body can process every possible nutrient and vitamin in a way that supports a healthy lifestyle.
Here are some completely doable examples:
multi grain toast with avocado mash
Power bowls or Buddha bowls are gaining in popularity and for good reason. They are simple to make and pack a nutritional punch. There are sooo many combinations to try that I am not going to try to list them here. Easiest way to get ideas for these beautiful bowls is to go to Pinterest and search power bowls. You will be amazed at the amount of hits that come up.
Salmon with broccoli and brown rice
Non food ways to maintain blood sugar levels are reducing chronic stress, getting enough sleep and movement. I will go into more detail in a future post, but all of these things have a major impact on blood sugar.
I am in the process of compiling a food list to make selecting foods from each category easier. If you would like a copy when it is complete send me an email or comment below with “Food List”.
Until next time.