Hello, my name is Neen and I am a recovering sugar addict.
For years I both knowingly and unknowingly consumed large quantities of refined white sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (how did that end up in canned soup???) which contributed to my eventual rise to 280 lbs. Foods like my beloved cinnamon scones from Au Bon Pain, fluffy white bread, muffins, white rice, white potatoes, ice cream, juices (with added sugar), pastries, and most baked goods are problematic to the human digestive system.
According to Dr. Francine Kaufmann, professor of Pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California and Head of the Center for Diabetes, Endocrinology and Metabolism at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, “the human response to ingestion of carbohydrates is an evolutionary relic from Paleolithic man. In short, our bodies are designed to work based on slow digestion and absorption of complex carbohydrates and a gradual release for energy in lean times. Essentially, our bodies have not responded to modern lifestyle and eating habits. Any spikes in blood sugar provoke an insulin response as a survival hormone to capture extra calories and store them as fat” (Cunningham, Kilara and Merolli 2).
In other words, if you’re looking to live a healthy lifestyle and maintain a normal weight, rapid spikes and drops in blood sugar are not what you’re after. Think about kids on Halloween night or Easter morning (1 lb. chocolate bunny anyone?). A sugary snack provides a short period of hyperactivity and then leads to an eventual crash. Your blood sugar is that little kid.
But don’t get depressed. There’s a solution, and I promise that it’s doable and won’t leave you longing for that fluffy white bread. In fact, quite the opposite happened in my case. Once I recognized how those spikes and drops in my blood sugar really made me feel, I realized that I didn’t want to experience that anymore. Starting my day off in high school with a Pop Tart (or two) made me feel wide-awake and ready to go during my first two classes. By third period, I was toast and craved more energy. In contrast, starting my day off now with a serving of high-protein, high-fiber cereal (specifically Kashi Go-Lean) leaves me with a satisfied pouch (stomach for those of you without re-routed digestive plumbing) and a steadier stream of energy. When I do feel hunger in between meals, it can usually be tamed by a few swigs of water. If not, I reach for a protein cupcake or Glucerna mini snack bar.
I digress. The solution I propose is one that diabetics are somewhat familiar with and is commonly referred to as “glycemic management.” The glycemic index ranks carbohydrate containing foods according to how they affect blood sugar levels within two hours of digestion. “The glycemic index separates carbohydrate-containing foods into three general categories: (1) High Glycemic Index Foods (GI 70+), which cause a rapid rise in blood-glucose levels; (2) Intermediate Glycemic Index Foods (GI 55-69) causing a medium rise in blood-glucose; and (3) Low Glycemic Index Foods (GI 54 or less), causing a slower rise in blood-sugar” (Cunningham, Kilari and Merolli 1). For instance, a french baguette has a glycemic index of 95 while apples have a glycemic index of 38. Don’t fear spaghetti either, its glycemic index is only 41. Have some that’s been enriched with protein and it goes down to 27(southbeach-diet-plan.com).
By eating foods with a low impact on blood sugar levels, glucose is released slowly into the bloodstream and the demand on the body to produce insulin is reduced. This, in turn prevents the cycle of spike-crash-crave from occurring. Other benefits exist as well. According to a study published in Diabetes Care, following a low glycemic diet has been shown to help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes and reduce the risk for coronary artery disease (Temelkova-Kurtschiev et. al, 2000).
All of that sounds really exciting and wonderful, but you’re probably wondering where to turn in the grocery store. For starters, seek out foods that are high in fiber, like multi-grain cereals (avoid those with suspiciously high amounts of sugar) and cruciferous vegetables. Fiber digests very slowly and thus, foods containing high amounts of it usually have low GIs. Most vegetables, fruits, and 100% fruit juices are low on the GI chart, but carefully read the labels on any dried fruit you might buy. Many companies add sugar or high-fructose corn syrup to dried fruit to make it more shelf-stable, thereby increasing the product’s GI. Beans and lentils of all varieties are great, and most milk products (including unsweetened or low-sugar yogurt). If the thought of unsweetened yogurt grosses you out (it does for me!) use a low-impact sweetener like blue agave nectar or a medium impact sweetener such as raw honey or grade b/c maple syrup to add flavor. Or just throw it in a blender with a handful of fruit. Instant deliciousness. Nuts and seeds are also your friends, but once again they’re often abused in some prepared forms. Specifically, many peanut butters are high in sugar, so either find a place that lets you crank your own (Whole Foods does this and it is so much fun) or look for all-natural peanut butters.
This all comes back to being aware of what you put into your body. A properly fueled body is a well-oiled machine prepared to get the job done (whatever yours may be). By maintaining steadier blood glucose levels, weight management becomes easier and risks for later health problems decline. In short, be nice to your body and it will be nice to you.
I hope this little lesson hasn’t bored you to tears or scared you away from my blog forever. I just really wanted to share some of the research I’ve been doing lately. Who can resist when granted access to thousands of journals via a university library? I’d been longing for that student perk again, haha. Anyway, I hope that everyone has a fantastic weekend. The Steelers play the Browns on national TV Sunday night so I think you all know where I’ll be!
Ciao for now, friends!
Cunningham, S., Kilara, A., & Merolli, A. (July-August 2006). Managing glycemic response: the rapidly rising popularity of glycemic index (GI) has opened the doors to many food industry innovation opportunities. Nutraceuticals World , 9, 7. p.82(3) Retrieved September 12, 2008, from Culinary Arts Collection via Gale: http://0-find.galegroup.com.mill1.sjlibrary.org/itx/start.do?prodId=PPCA
Glycemic Index Food Chart and South Beach Diet. Retrieved September 12, 2008 via: http://www.southbeach-diet-plan.com/glycemicfoodchart.htm
Temelkova-Kurktschiev, T., Koehler, C., Henkel, E., Leonhardt, W., Fuecker, K., Hanefeld, M. (December 2000). Postchallenge Plasma Glucose and Glycemic Spikes Are More Strongly Associated With Atherosclerosis Than Fasting Glucose or [HbA.sub.1c] Level. Diabetes Care, 23, 2. p.1830 Retrieved September 12, 2008, from Health and Wellness Resource Center via Gale: http://0-galenet.galegroup.com.mill1.sjlibrary.org/servlet/HWRC/hits?docNum=A68322731&year2=&year1=&aci=flag&index3=KE&index2=KE&index1=AU&tcit