I know, I know, I talk about this A LOT! My clients will vouch for this but it’s with good reason. Why? Because it is so fundamental to how we feel! It’s fundamental to good health and without it we can’t be truly healthy. And when we understand the concept, and start to make changes to the way we eat, and drink (!), we feel SO much better. Add to this the fact that we naturally lose excess weight, the healthy way. Our body loves us for it!
So what exactly is blood sugar and how do we balance it?
Fundamentally, it means eating the right foods in the right quantities and the right balance to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Certain foods have pretty much zero effect on your blood sugar. Others have a slight effect. Others have a significant effect and then there's those which have a huge effect.
When we eat too much of the foods that have a significant or huge effect on blood sugar, and too often, our blood sugar levels can go sky high. And what goes up.... must come down…. So we basically get a roller coaster effect of highs and lows. And with this comes highs of energy and lows of, well, no energy!
I don’t like to use the word diet or dieting as this isn't about a quick fix. It's about changing the way you eat for life. It's about eating the way your body naturally wants to be nourished. The word diet (has the word 'die' in it for a start, need I say more... ) sounds like something restrictive, painful and hard to achieve. When we eat the right way for our bodies, it shouldn't be any of those things. Eating this way works with your body's natural design.
So how do we balance our blood sugar? Well as I mentioned before, certain foods have little to no effect on our blood sugar, and some have a moderate to significant effect on it. In order to balance it, we need to eat more of the 'little/no' effect foods, and cut down on the 'moderate/significant' effect foods. And it's actually quite easy in principle because the only foods that affect our blood sugar are foods that turn into sugar in the body... i.e. carbohydrates.
So, that is to say, all carbohydrates end up as glucose in the blood. No matter how complex the carbohydrate, when it is broken down it will end up as a glucose molecule in the blood. But carbohydrates are not all created equal. Some carbohydrate foods will break down much more quickly than others. For example, processed white bread will turn into glucose more quickly than a slice of wholegrain. And white rice more quickly than brown. In today's western diet, the wrong types of carbs are consumed excessively resulting in too much blood glucose.
On the flip side, if your blood glucose levels are even you'll have a steady supply of energy and a healthy but balanced appetite.
Protein and fats have little effect on the blood sugar. That's not to say that I recommend a very high protein diet (as this comes with its own issues such as too much acidity) or an extremely high fat diet (though we shouldn't be scared of fat, especially good unsaturated fats). But getting the carbohydrate type and quantity correct, in balance with protein and good fats, is the key to balancing our blood sugar.
This chart explains a bit more about how carbohydrates affect our blood sugar.
As you can see, the more roller coaster your blood sugar, the more fat you store. The more level your blood sugar, the more energy you have...and the easier it is to reach and maintain the right size for YOUR body.
So what does all this mean for our health?
Ok, so I’ve explained the principles of blood sugar balance, and how carbohydrates affect blood sugar. But what does all this actually mean for our health? Well it can mean a number of things. We are all individual, we all have different digestive systems and metabolisms, so everyone will react slightly differently – hence why you might get one person who consumes huge amounts of sugar and refined carbs being obese whilst another eating the same amount is stick thin. That is not to say that the stick thin one is any healthier though! But in general, consuming too much carbohydrate and having imbalanced blood sugar can lead to or contribute to a whole host of health problems including digestive/gut issues, excess weight and obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, raised cholesterol, cancers, to name a few, and the knock on effect to the rest of our health is unlimited.
How to balance blood sugar
It’s all very well talking about blood sugar balance but what you’ll want to know is how to achieve this in a practical way. This is why one of the first things I teach everyone I work with is the Low GL way of eating.
GL, as I’ve mentioned previously, stands for Glycaemic Load. It is a measure of the quality and quantity of carbohydrate in a given portion of food, meaning it measures the amount of carbohydrate in that portion of food, and the speed at which that carbohydrate will raise your blood sugar level.
As you can see in the diagram above, the Glycaemic Index of a food only looks at the speed a food raises blood sugar, whereas the GL of the food also accounts for the amount of carbohydrate in the food, so it is a more practical and accurate way of measuring.
The Benefits of Low GL eating
The benefits to eating this way are vast. As well as healthy weight loss, people also experience:
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