Ah, carbohydrates. We hate to love them! Especially for those of us who struggle with high blood sugar. Why are carbs so craveable? What makes us want them so badly, and why do we have so much trouble giving them up? Believe it or not, the brain has more to do with this than the stomach.
Simple/refined carbohydrates prompt rapid spikes and drops in blood sugar. Whether you consume a food that contains refined sugar, or a food that is a simple carbohydrate, the body receives both in the same way. Cookies, cakes, pasta, bread, etc. – the body sees them as equals and responds accordingly.
The pancreas releases insulin in order to move the sugar from the bloodstream into the cells where it can be used for energy. If there is not a sufficient amount of insulin available, or if the body’s cells are resistant to insulin, the excess sugar remains in the bloodstream. High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) occurs when the level of glucose in the blood rises above the normal range.
The incoming calories from the food item consumed are then driven into muscle, liver, and fat cells. This reduces the amount of calories in the bloodstream available to the body for use as fuel. When your brain registers “low-fuel” it prompts feelings of hunger, causing you to want to eat again after only a short period of time. And so the cycle repeats, potentially causing weight gain and blood sugar control issues.
While certainly undesirable in the short term, weight gain and unstable blood sugar can lead to deadly long term effects on your health. Metabolic Syndrome is a health condition that encompasses high triglyceride levels, insulin resistance, obesity, and low HDL ‘good’ cholesterol levels. This syndrome increases one’s risk for heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and death.
Simply put, in order to control diabetes, you must eliminate sugar and refined carbs from your diet. There is hope, however! There are other carbohydrates (known as complex carbs) that have less of an impact on blood sugar. Complex carbs convert into sugar more slowly, giving the body a better chance to regulate the amount of sugar in the blood.
The key is to avoid simple/refined carbohydrates and consume complex carbohydrates instead. For example, instead of white rice try quinoa. Quinoa is a great source of both protein and fiber. One cup of quinoa contains 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. This combination not only fills you up, it helps stabilize your blood sugar, too.
Swap that bowl of sugary breakfast cereal for a bowl of our Cinnamon Pecan Granola Cereal with fresh berries. Steel-cut oats are another complex carb. As the oats digest, they release energy slowly, allowing you to hold onto your feeling of fullness. It also helps to keeps blood sugar and insulin levels stable.
Try a handful of nuts for your next snack instead of potato chips. Raw, unsalted nuts like almonds and walnuts are full of protein, healthy fats, and nutrients. This makes nuts a great addition to meals and desserts, and also qualifies them as an exceptional snack. A handful of nuts will help you stay full and energized far longer than a bag of potato chips would!
Eat whole fresh fruit, like apples. The fiber in the fruit and skin of an apple helps you feel full and satisfied, and slows the absorption of the apple’s natural sugars into the bloodstream.
Sweet potatoes are a complex carb that is high in many nutrients: beta-carotene, vitamins A, B6, C and E, thiamine, niacin, and potassium. They also contain protein and calcium!
The best way to enjoy complex carbs is in combination with foods that will help to slow their absorption even more. If the complex carbohydrate is paired with fiber, protein, or fat, it is absorbed even more slowly and blood sugar will remain more stable. Fiber and healthy fats are absolutely essential for blood sugar management.
Isn’t that a relief – you don’t have to give up all carbs for the rest of your life just because you’re a diabetic! By consuming the right carbs in appropriate portions, and in combination with other nutritious foods, stable blood sugar is achievable!