It's the curse of our time.
Sugar, sugar everywhere and not a bite to eat!
The human body has all the equipment to eat carbohydrates, like oats, wheat and rice, for example, break them down into mush, digest them and use the end product, glucose, as the fuel for living our lives. Like petrol in a car. The amount of glucose in our bloodstream at any one time is called our 'blood sugar'.
However, in order to protect itself, our bodies have a mechanism for ensuring that our blood sugars don't go too high or too low. They need to be maintained within quite a narrow range.
When we eat wholegrain versions of these foods, like wholewheat breads, brown rice, porridge, the digestion process is slowed down due to the fiber included in a wholegrain. This means that the 'petrol' is delivered in a steady, slow fashion, perfect to keep us going during the day. Our blood sugar is stable.
The problem arises when we take in
quantities of sugar, or refined carbohydrates, like white pastas, breads and rice, which deliver such a surge of glucose in the bloodstream, that the body has to work to bring it backdown to normal. It does this by releasing insulin to force glucose out of the blood stream to be stored as glycogen in the muscles and liver, or as fat, if the glycogen stores are full. However, when the glucose level drops, you feel hungry, craving another glucose boost and so the cycle starts again.
Other symptoms of your blood sugar going up and down during the day, like on a rollercoaster, include: mood swings, anxiety, poor concentration, cravings, excessive thirst, energy slumps, insomnia.
There are some ways to keep your blood sugars even during the day:
Avoid added sugar.
Look at the labels - sugar can be called a number of different things: dextrose, fructose, sugar, barley malt, syrups, maltodextrin. Avoid products where 'sugar' is listed as one of the top ingredients. Cereals and low fat yoghurts are particular offenders. For your sweet treat, look at lower sugar options, e.g. 70% dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate, low sugar homemade carrot, raisin and pineapple buns (see picture below), banana whipped up with a teaspoon of cocoa powder and topped with orange rind and chopped nuts.
Switch to wholegrain versions of the carbohydrates you eat:
brown bread, pasta, rice. Consider quinoa instead of rice. Look at some 'no added sugar' muesli for breakfast, like Flahavans Hi 8, or even better, porridge topped with berries, ground seeds and natural yoghurt.
Eat protein at every meal:
like fibre, protein helps to slow down the digestion process. It doesn't mean eating big hunks of meat. A portion of protein for dinner is the size of your palm. Consider beans, lentils, eggs, nuts, seeds as protein options, as well as chicken, fish and red meat. Snacks, for example, could be 2 oatcakes with peanut butter, or a handful of nuts with a piece of fruit, or some hummus with carrot sticks.
Eat every 3 hours:
until you feel that you have an even level of energy during the day. Consider 3 smaller meals and a couple of small snacks.
Cut back on caffeine:
caffeine has the same impact on blood sugars as eating refined carbohydrates. Consider cutting down to 1 per day, replacing your coffee with some nice spicy herbal teas, like those from pukka, or yogi teas.
It does take a little bit of planning to avoid sugar and a little bit of time to retrain our taste buds. Follow the tips above, and you'll be off to a good start.