Too much processed sugar
Historically, we did not eat as much sugar, or foods as high in carbohydrate, specifically starchy foods such as bread, pasta and potatoes as we do now. These types of foods were introduced in relatively recent times with the advent of farming.
Traditionally, the majority of our diet came from meat and fibrous vegetables. We ate smaller amounts of carbohydrate based foods such as berries or nuts when they were available.
Understand how your body reacts
Carbohydrate based foods provide important fibre, vitamins and minerals. They are a ‘good’ choice to include in your normal eating plan, providing our body is able to regulate insulin effectively. Our approach to nutrition is one where ultimately, you have the freedom to eat a wide range of nutritious foods. Understanding how your body reacts to different types of carbohydrate based foods is the key. Some carbohydrates lead to a rapid rise in your blood sugars and provide little nutritional benefits whatsoever.
Choose foods that don't spike your insulin levels
For your continued success, we encourage you to select foods that do not lead to spikes in your insulin levels, although, you will understand that it is not the end of the world if you succumb to temptation. By creating meals and snacks that incorporate protein, high quality fats and carbohydrate, you can limit dramatic rises in blood glucose. These types of meals also serve to satisfy your hunger and tap into your fat burning metabolism.
Here’s a breakdown of what happens internally when we eat:
All foods are broken down into smaller units and are released into the blood stream. Fat breaks down to lipids, protein into amino acids and carbohydrate into glucose. Fibre is the only part of the food we eat, which is transported throughout our body without being digested. After consuming carbohydrate, our blood sugar (glucose) levels rise and our bodies are stimulated to produce Insulin. This is a natural response, and signals to our cells that we need to store excess glucose from our blood into our cells. Insulin is the bodies fat storage hormone; it encourages any excess nutrients to be stored into the fat cells. Insulin also prevents ‘fat metabolism’, or using fat as an energy source.
insulin affects our ability to manage our weight
Our bodies are designed to have about a teaspoon of sugar circulating in our blood stream at any one time. When our blood sugars are low, a hormone called glucagon is released, this tells our body to release the stored sugar from our liver glycogen into our blood stream. Our bodies have the ability to store enough sugar (glucose) to sustain activity for 10 hours. When our blood sugars are high (> 1tsp sugar) following a meal containing carbohydrates, insulin is released. This promotes these excess blood sugars to be stored. It also triggers the body to move away from burning body fat as an energy source. Consistently high insulin levels can also lead to what we refer to as ‘insulin fatigue’. When our bodies are in this state, we can develop leptin resistance. Leptin is a hormone that plays a key role in regulating energy intake, and the control of appetite and hunger cues. This has a direct effect on our ability to manage our weight.
key concepts in gaining weight control
Regulating your insulin levels through healthy eating is the key concept in gaining weight control. This prevents storing excess energy directly into the fat cells and allows you to become more efficient at using fat as an energy source. To relieve our body of the stress associated with insulin fatigue, aim to limit foods that are high in carbohydrate (sugar). Rather than performing a blanket ban of all carbohydrates, aim to avoid starchy foods like potatoes, rice, pasta and breads. Fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals and fibre. They still however, lead to increased insulin levels. While they are important foods to include in your meals plans, it is a good idea to understand which foods have the greatest sugar content. These options can be eaten in smaller quantities and selected less frequently.
Not all healthy labeled food is good food
Other high sugar foods that provide no valuable nutrition content are sugar and flour based products like cakes, biscuits and sugary cereals. Often, we are lead to believe that some foods that contain high sugar contents are actually very healthy for us. Many cereals fall into this category, as do muesli bars, sports drinks and fruit juices. Foods that are marketed as ‘Low Fat’ such as low fat yoghurt, mayonnaise or ice cream, are often higher in sugar as a result. Dried fruits like apricots, pears and raisins are very high in sugar and should also be used sparingly when aiming to keep your insulin levels under control.
Providing that the foods you choose are whole foods that contain real nutritional value, you are probably choosing wisely. It is certainly worth reading food labels however, and understanding the hidden sugars that are often in the foods we eat. Our bodies are not designed to eat as many sugars as our modern diets contain.