I talk about blood sugar a lot, my clients will vouch for this, but it’s with good reason. Blood sugar balance is so essential to how we feel! It’s fundamental for good health and without it we can’t really be healthy. When you start to understand the principles behind it and start to make changes to the way you eat (and drink), you’ll feel so much better. I mean, unbelievably better!
And add to this the fact that when you balance your blood sugar properly, you naturally lose excess weight, who wouldn’t want to understand it?
Anyone who has worked with me on a programme of any sort, whether for 7 days or 6 months, follows a blood sugar balanced eating plan. The most common response is amazement at how much better they feel in a short amount of time. Improved energy, no hunger, and weight loss are just some of the usual improvements discovered.
So what is blood sugar and how exactly 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 no effect on your blood sugar. Others have a slight effect, whilst others have a significant effect; and then there’s those which have a huge impact.
When we eat too much of the foods that have a significant or huge influence on blood sugar, and too often, our blood sugar levels can go sky high. And what goes up must come down! So we get a roller coaster effect of high and low blood sugar. And with this comes highs of energy and lows of, well, no energy!
I don’t tend to use the word diet or dieting as what I teach clients isn’t anything close to a quick fix/crash weight loss programme. Don’t get me wrong, you do lose weight, but in a sustainable fashion. It’s about changing the way you eat for life and eating the way your body naturally wants to be nourished. The word diet (has the word ‘die’ in it for a start.. coincidence?) sounds like something restrictive, painful and hard to achieve. When you eat the right way for your body, it shouldn’t be any of those things because 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, whilst some have a moderate to significant effect on it. In order to balance blood sugar, 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. These are also known as 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 you will be left with glucose molecules 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 SUPER fast, and more quickly than a slice of wholegrain, because the wholegrain fibre slows down the breakdown of the carbohydrates. And white rice will break down more quickly than brown. In today’s western diet, the wrong types of carbs are consumed excessively which results in way too much blood glucose being dumped into the blood in one go.
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. That’s right. Carbohydrates are the number one cause of fat gain, especially around the middle of the body, not dietary fat. So the more level your blood sugar, the more energy you have…AND the easier it is to reach and maintain the right body shape and body fat % (notice I avoid talking about weight!).
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 ten Benefits of Low GL eating
The benefits to eating this way are vast. As well as healthy weight loss, people also experience:
- Increased energy, stop feeling so tired
- Cravings disappearing and hunger reducing
- More stable hormones
- Improved moods
- Improved body composition and better muscle to fat ratio
- Improved risk factors for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and cancer
- Increased and improved quality of sleep
- Reduced feelings of stress
- Better skin health
- An overall improved feeling of wellbeing and vitality
So that’s Part 1 done and dusted? Confused? Ask your questions in the comments and I’ll reply, or if you’d rather not, feel free to drop me an email, firstname.lastname@example.org
In Part 2 I’m going to be looking more at the Glycaemic Load, what it means, and some typical scores for typical foods.
If you’re interested in trying out some Low GL foods, why not download the Low GL Recipe eBook I’ve created. It’s completely FREE for Thames Club members. To download it, click here and fill in your details, and you’ll receive a link to download it (after verifying you want it so do make sure you follow all the steps!).
Until next time…
Your Thames Club Nutritionist