Sugar is Essential for Health
Sugar has enjoyed bad publicity in the past few decades with the increase in diabetes. Is sugar really bad for our health? Or is this a total misconception?
The body needs lots of energy for it to perform thousands of functions in the cells, and for us to perform our multiple mental and physical activities. The body and the brain can only get that energy from glucose. Glucose fuels the body’s trillions of cells. Insulin is the key for the glucose to enter the cells, If sugar is essential for the body and brain to function, then sugar is essential for health.
The Abuse of Sugar Causes Diabetes!
When the body constantly produces high insulin due to constantly high sugar levels, eventually there is a malfunction and the body cannot produce the insulin or the body cannot respond to insulin. That is diabetes mellitus, often referred to as diabetes. Therefore diabetes is a result of disordered metabolism, resulting in abnormally high levels of blood sugar (hyperglycemia). In Type 1 diabetes, the high blood-sugar is caused by a diminished production of insulin. In Type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes, there is sufficient insulin production but high blood-sugar is caused by reduced cellular response to insulin.
We Eat Too Much Sugar!
In most cases diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar or sugar-producing foods! The average person eats about 70kg (150 lb) of sugar every year, i.e. 191g or 6.5oz per day! That is dozens of times higher than our ancestors ate. That is why diabetes is higher now than it was a century ago.
We get all this sugar through sports drinks, breakfast cereals, baked products, white rice and rice products, corn and corn products, sodas, juice, chocolate bars, energy bars, lunch meats, snacks, jarred spaghetti sauce, salsa, ketchup and salad dressings. We don’t need all that sugar considering the sedentary lifestyle that we live. Which of these do you eat in a day? I hardly eat any of the foods listed above because of the high Glycemic Index (GI).
The Glycemic Index(GI)
The glycemic index (GI) of a food is an indicator of how quickly or slowly it causes a rise in blood-sugar levels, two or three hours after eating. It is applicable to foods high in carbohydrates. Not all carbohydrate foods are created equal; in fact they behave quite differently in our bodies. The GI describes this difference by ranking carbohydrates according to their effect on our blood glucose levels. Foods high in fat or protein don’t cause your blood glucose level to rise much.
GI values are percentages on an absolute scale and are commonly interpreted as follows:
Low GI with GI Range 55 or Less
These include most fruits and vegetables (except potatoes and watermelon), grainy breads, pasta, legumes, pulses, milk, fish, eggs, meat, nuts, and oils.
Fruits are sweet but they have a low GI. If you are eating a lot of fruits as part of your diet, it looks like you do not need to worry too much about how much sugar you are taking in.
Medium GI With a GI Range of 56 to 69
These include wheat bread, whole-wheat products in general, brown rice, orange sweet potato, and table sugar. Contrary to popular belief, table sugar does not have a very high GI. The problem is that we use too much sugar in a day.
Despite its publicity as “healthy”, the GI of whole wheat bread is quite high. According to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating two slices of whole wheat bread spikes your blood sugar more than drinking a can of soda or eating a bar of chocolate or six teaspoons of sugar. Again we eat too much bread from that first toast in the morning, to that croissant at tea time, and that sandwich later in the day.
High GI Foods with GI Range of 70 to 99
This group includes corn flakes, potatoes, potato chips, certain types of white rice, croissants, white bread, and candy.
Corn flakes and white flour have been deprived of most of their nutrients and they are almost pure starch. Potatoes are naturally high in starch. That explains the high GI. These should be minimized or avoided as they raise blood sugar too fast.
Very High GI Foods With GI of 100
Glucose is the only food that has GI of 100.
About High GI Foods
If you eat a huge pile of chips or bread, your body has to deal with a serious flood of blood-sugar. It overreacts, pumping out too much insulin. If you are overweight, it may pump out even more. All that extra insulin brings blood-sugar down too far, and it hangs around a long time, keeping blood-sugar low for hours. As a result, you can fall into a semi-starved state. Your blood-sugar may end up even lower than it was before you ate! Then your energy is low, you may get a headache, and those cravings start again!
About Low GI Foods
Because low-GI foods take longer to break down, your blood-sugar level rises and falls gradually. This helps prevent high insulin levels, which are associated with weight gain, high blood fats, high blood pressure and insulin resistance. As you know all these can result in long-term health problems such as Type-2 diabetes or heart disease.
Please note that you can’t consider only the GI of food to determine if it is good for you. For example, milk and meat have low GI but they become acidic in your body, so you can’t eat them just because they have a low GI. The GI must be considered as part of a balanced diet and balanced lifestyle. By eating six small meals a day, you keep your blood-sugar stable and energy levels up. There is no need to get obsessed with the GI. If your diet comprises mostly fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and some whole grains, you have no need to worry.
About Gluten-free Breads
If you are allergic to gluten, you probably eat gluten-free bread. Gluten-free breads are made from rice flour, corn starch, potato starch, tapioca starch, sorghum flour, and millet. These have a very high GI. Here is what Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly says about them. “These powdered starches are among the few foods that increase blood sugar higher than even whole-wheat. It means these foods trigger weight gain in the abdomen, increased blood sugars, insulin resistance, diabetes, cataracts, and arthritis. They are not healthy replacements for wheat.” Just remember that gluten-free means you can eat without getting an allergic reaction, but you still have the GI to consider.
Choose Low GI Foods
A fairly consistent blood-sugar level is the ideal, preventing cravings and keeping the body at a sustained energy level. For most people, most of the time, foods with a low GI have an advantage over those with a high GI. Choosing low GI foods is the secret to long-term health, reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes. It is the key to sustainable weight loss.
Everyone Should Worry About Blood-Sugar
For a long time doctors thought that only diabetics needed to be concerned about the effect of food on blood-sugar. Now we know that high blood-sugar after meals can, over time, damage the body in everyone. In short, everyone must watch their blood sugar. People become diabetic because they never worry about blood-sugar! It should concern you even if you are slim, especially if you don’t get much exercise or if you carry extra weight around your middle.
Big Meals, Starch and Sugar
When you eat, the food is digested and then converted into glucose which is the main fuel for muscles and the brain. Most people’s bodies can bring blood-sugar down within an hour or two of eating. The body does this by releasing insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas. Insulin signals the body to let that blood-sugar into cells to use as fuel, and to store the rest in the muscles and the liver.
Now, a big starchy meal or a quick sugar fix gives the body more glucose than it needs. The pancreas senses this as a sugar crisis so it produces more insulin than is needed. Most of the sugar is then stored as fat. This insulin activity brings the blood-sugar level down too low, resulting in loss of energy, and that well-known feeling of hunger.