What is the blood sugar roller coaster and how does it affect our health?
First, we need to understand blood sugar and its role in the body.
Blood sugar is the level of sugar (glucose) in the blood. Glucose is a simple sugar found in food and the body's preferred energy source.
When we eat, the food is broken down and the sugar (glucose) from our food goes into our blood stream. Once the glucose is in our blood, our brain sends a signal to the pancreas to release insulin. The insulin helps move the sugar out of the blood and into our cells to be used for energy. This brings the blood sugar level back down.
Excess sugar is stored as glycogen in "short term" reserves (primarily in the muscles and liver), so when we need a burst of energy, we our bodies can turn that glycogen back into glucose it's and ready to use.
If all of these short term reserves are full, then extra sugar is stored in "long term" reserves as fat. Once sugar is stored as fat, it can no longer be turned back into glucose to be used for energy.
Let's take a look at a few simple graphs to understand the concept of the blood sugar roller coaster.
We all have an optimal blood sugar level that our bodies work to maintain.
Let's say you are eating a balanced meal of complex carbs, healthy fat and protein. Your blood sugar levels would look like the graph below as the food is slowly broken down and insulin is released gradually to keep your blood sugar level regulated.
The blood sugar level will fluctuate a little throughout the day because those are the signals we need to tell us to eat, so our body can get the glucose it needs for energy.
Now, let's say you start the day with simple carbs (processed foods, sugary cereals, etc.).
These types of food are turned into glucose very quickly which cause a spike in the blood sugar, so more insulin is released all at once to try to bring that level back down.
After the insulin is released it causes a crash in the blood sugar level and you get cravings, which lead you to reach for a quick fix (usually a simple carb) and the cycle continues throughout the day.
On top of sugar cravings, low blood sugar levels may also create energy crashes, mood swings, and depression. This roller coaster takes a huge toll on our health and well being.
It's not surprising that all of these spikes and crashes cause you to eat more than is needed, your sugar reserves will fill up and the rest is stored as fat.
Every time you eat a meal, your food choices either promote or reduce stress in the body.
The good news is that there are simple ways to manage the blood sugar roller coaster.
If you're interested in learning more,
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