We’ve all by now heard about blood sugar levels as we are all becoming more conscious and knowledgeable about our wellbeing, but what really isn’t blood sugar and what effect does it have on our health.
Glucose is a type of sugar in the blood and is an important source of energy for the body. But to maintain optimum health we must have a good balance of blood sugar levels.
You see each day we consume carbohydrates which in fact are sugar in the forms of glucose, fructose, lactose which are known as simple sugars as they contain on one or two molecules or complex carbohydrates which have three or more molecules and are found in starchy vegetables, whole grains etc.
When you consume carbohydrates, this will effect you blood sugar levels, causing it to spike after eating.
When your blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas releases a hormone called insulin which prompts the cells to absorb the sugar from the blood, which in turn lowers the blood sugar levels.
When this happens the pancreas starts making glucagon, which signals the liver to release stored sugars.
The relationship between insulin and glucagon is vital throughout the body especially the brain to ensure a steady supply of blood sugar.
The simple sugars also known as refined carbohydrates that are consumed through white bread, white pasta, cakes, biscuits, are formed of these single molecules of sugar which are quickly and easily utilised for energy leading to a fast rise in blood sugar levels, but results in a quick fall in blood sugar as its utilised so quickly.
Ever felt that mid morning or mid afternoon slump of energy where you feel the need to grab a quick sugar fix, these are your blood sugar levels imbalanced and by adding more refined carbohydrates that are broken down and utilised quickly, we are only providing a very temporary quick fix.
The other form of carbohydrates known as complex carbohydrates have a more complex chemical structure consisting of three or more sugars linked together. This allows the body to break them down more slowly, providing a longer period of energy rather than a quick fix energy. Most complex carbohydrates contain fibre, which also helps to slow down the breakdown of these sugars as well as also containing important vitamins and minerals.
Complex carbohydrates include whole grains, oats, quinoa, vegetables, some fruits, nuts and seeds, legumes, beans and pulses.
Fibre and fat content can all help to slow down the breakdown of the sugars within the foods as well as also the ripeness with ripe vegetables and fruit having a higher glycemic index as the sugars are more simple and broken down quicker.
by reducing consumption of refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white pasta, cakes, biscuits and consuming good quality complex carbohydrates can help to keep blood sugar levels stable and reduce the need to grab that energy bar to keep your energy levels up.
Remember complex carbohydrates, fibre, and fat content of foods can help to slow down the breakdown of the sugars you consume each day which is vital for overall health.
Take orange juice for instance, which although still contains a good amount of vitamin C, is formed of simple sugars as the fibre from the actual fruit is lost so the breakdown of the sugar is very quick whereas a whole orange although is still a simple sugar, has the fibre to slow down the breakdown to help stabilise blood sugar levels.
By stabilising blood sugar levels, you are reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes, dementia, heart disease and even some forms of cancer.
Simple ways we can incorporate complex carbohydrates into a daily life is pretty simple.
Avoid the high sugar breakfast cereals even if they do claim they are whole grain and opt for whole grain rolled oats/oat bran, whole grain bread, berries (lower in sugar than most fruits) protein rich yoghurts, eggs, nuts and seeds.
Ensure that at lunch it contains a good complex carbohydrates such as chickpeas, whole grain bread, lentils, fibre rich vegetables, a good source of fat such as avocado, nuts, seeds, oily fish.
And the same for dinner, by adding in a good quality complex carbohydrate, you can avoid those evening slumps that makes us head to the chocolate draw or makes us wake during the night due to drop in blood sugar levels.