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Imbalances in blood sugar can cause symptoms such as mood swings,tremors, fatigue, headaches, cravings, nausea and poor concentration ormemory.
Also, high levels of dietary carbohydrates, also known as high glycaemic load foods (e.g. sugars and starchy foods, such as bread, rice, pasta and potatoes) increase your production of insulin to ‘switch off’ fat burning and increase fat gain.
If you have constantly high levels of insulin, you can develop a condition known as insulin resistance. Insulin resistance causes excess weight and obesity.
Natural supplements and a healthy diet can help normalise insulin levels and improve blood sugar level control.
If you would like to improve your blood sugar control, lose weight and improve your long term health, read on!
To be healthy, get sufficient nutrients and fibre, and avoid a blood sugar “spike” adopt the following rules:
• Eat 5-6 smaller meals each day
• Choose a wide variety of non-starchy vegetables (5-7 serves daily)
• Eat lean, clean sources of protein regularly
• Replace refined foods with whole grain products
• Eat fruits and starchy vegetables with high protein or high fibre foods
• Use healthy fats – nuts, seeds, fish, and liquid oils (olive, fish, flax)
• Lose weight (if you’re overweight) and exercise regularly
• Manage stress
• Stay well hydrated
Glycaemic Index (GI) Explained…
Choosing carbohydrates according to the Glycaemic Index (GI)
The rates at which different carbohydrates are broken down into glucose have been measured using a scale that is known as the Glycaemic Index (GI).
The GI is a direct measure of the effect a carbohydrate has on your blood glucose levels.
Carbohydrates that breakdown into glucose quickly during digestion will be absorbed into the blood stream quickly and therefore have a HIGH GI.
Carbohydrates that breakdown slowly, releasing glucose gradually into the blood stream, have LOW GI’s.
In short, a low GI carbohydrate will help keep blood sugar levels more stable and sustained, and energy levels consistent.
A high GI carbohydrate will cause a surge in blood glucose, triggering off a stressed response from the pancreas. This can contribute to imbalanced blood sugar and the conditions described previously.
The GI Scale
The GI scale is measured from 1 to 100 with pure glucose being given the score of 100.
Foods with a score of 0-55 are considered low, 55 to 70 is considered moderate and above 70 high.
In general it is best to consume the majority of your carbohydrates from the 0- 50 range whilst avoiding those with a score of above 70.
If you consume foods with a score of between 50 and 70, try to combine them with a low scoring carbohydrate to even out the overall score.
For example, bananas have a high score, whereas oats and milk have a low score. If you combined all three at your breakfast you would bring down the overall score and still be able to enjoy the odd banana.
Factors affecting the GI
• Amount of cooking: Starches in food swell when cooked. The starch grains in a baked potato swell to bursting point, whereas the starch grains in brown rice remain relatively unchanged. The former has a high GI, the latter a moderate GI.
• Type of starch: amylopectin and amylose are both starches found in carbohydrate. The amount and ratio of these two in a food will make the difference between a fast break down and slow break down.
For example wheat, corn and rice are high in amylopectin making them fast releasing whereas barley, rye and quinoa are higher in amylose making them slower releasing. Basmati and Doongara rice are higher in amylose and therefore lower in GI compared to normal white rice.
• Processing: When grains are rolled, ground, smashed or pre-cooked (ie. instant), the protective (and harder to digest) outer jacket is removed exposing the soft easily digested starch. Whole oats have a lower GI than instant or quick-cook oats.
• Fibre: Fibre acts as a bulking agent slowing down glucose absorption. Some foods naturally have higher amounts of fibre – (eg. beans and legumes). It is therefore better to eat whole foods such as brown rice and wholegrain breads rather than their white, refined alternatives. It also means that whole fruit with its higher fibre content is better than a fresh juice without pulp. You may want to dilute fresh juices with water and add back some pulp.
• Protein: Protein will lower the GI of a meal by slowing down digestion and gastric emptying time. Protein also has a higher satiety level meaning you will be kept satisfied for longer. Aim to make up at least 1/3 of your meal from protein.
• Fat: Fat also reduces gastric emptying time and as a result slows down the absorption of glucose from the meal. It is essential to consume the right kind of fats from raw nuts and seeds, fish, avocado and cold pressed oils.
Glycaemic Load (GL) Explained…
The latest development in blood glucose regulation techniques comes in the form of the Glycaemic Load (GL).
The GL provides information where the GI is lacking by also taking into consideration the amount of carbohydrates per serving.
For example, the carbohydrate in watermelon is high GI but the carbohydrate level is low so the resulting GL is low.
On the other hand, pasta (which has a lower GI than watermelon) has a very high carbohydrate content which results in a high GL.
Therefore understanding the GL appears to be a more accurate way to judge your carbohydrates.
Formula for the Glycaemic Load
GI / 100 x Carbohydrates per serve (g)
Watermelon has 6 grams of carbohydrate per 120 g serve and a GI of 72 (High GI)
72 / 100 x 6g = GL 4.32 = low GL
Cup of cooked pasta has 40 g of carbohydrate per serve and a GI of 71 (High)
giving it a GL of 28 (High)
GL reference range:
10 or less = low
11 to 19 inclusive = medium
20 or more = high
So what does all this mean?
GL values are useful but they’re available on a limited basis, and don’t take into account any valuable vitamins and minerals found in a particular food.
Natural Supplements to Help You Balance Blood Sugars…
Chromium is an essential component of Glucose Tolerance Factor (GTF), a substance known to improve glucose tolerance by potentiating the effect of insulin on carbohydrate metabolism.
Chromium supplementation can help to improve glucose uptake in insulin sensitive tissues and improves the glucose/insulin system in people with hypoglycaemia, hyperglycaemia, diabetes and increased blood lipids.
Emed’s Best Chromium and Blood Sugar Balancing Supplements include:
The Science Behind the Symptoms…
Carbohydrates are made up of glucose molecules. One main functions ofglucose is to provide energy.
This dependency on glucose requires that we eat carbohydrates regularly and that our body uses glucose efficiently.
In situations of blood glucose imbalance (dysglycaemia, reactivehypoglycaemia, insulin resistance or diabetes) physical energy andfunction is affected as well as mental function – this could beexpressed as poor concentration, poor memory, fatigue, nausea,headaches, irritability and depression (to name a few).
Blood glucose metabolism
Major Players: Insulin & Glucagon
The body’s response to an increase in blood sugar is to secrete a hormone called insulin from the pancreas.
The function of insulin is to send glucose into the cells where it is metabolised to produce energy.
The excess glucose is stored as glycogen in the muscle and livercells or it converted to fat and stored in adipose (fat) tissues aroundthe body.
The result of this process is a decline in blood sugar.
When blood sugar levels fall below normal, the pancreas releases a second hormone called glucagon, which has the opposite effect of insulin.
Glucagon promotes the conversion of glycogen from the liver andmuscle cells back to glucose for energy and encourages the burning offat.
It is the carbohydrates we choose and the amount we eat that commonly cause conditions of glucose imbalance.
Left unchecked, the result may be insulin resistance (Syndrome X), diabetes, obesity and/or heart disease.
Blood glucose imbalances
Diabetes mellitus – is a failure to properly metabolise glucose due to either reduced secretion of insulin from the
pancreas(Type 1 Diabetes), or more commonly, from insulin resistance (Type 2Diabetes). This results in dangerously elevated blood glucose levels.
Insulin resistance – is an inability of the cells to respondto insulin. As a result, the body releases more insulin in an attemptto elicit a response. In this case there is both high glucose andinsulin in the blood stream.
Reactive Hypoglycaemia – occurs when there is an exaggeratedinsulin response to a rise in blood glucose. As a result there is adramatic drop in blood glucose, causing physical and mental symptoms,including irritability and sugar cravings.
This is where most of us currently sit.Headaches, moody, 3pm-itis? You may have reactive hypoglycaemia. Bloodglucose travels a volatile roller-coaster throughout the day – Balance your levels with the diet tips and recommended supplements in this article.