Eating carbohydrates the wrong way can spike your blood sugar levels and lead to insulin resistance. As you probably already know, sugar is one of the worst forms of carbs you can consume if you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight or prevent type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.
But not all the carbs are bad for you. In fact, there are some types of carbs that your body needs even if you have diabetes or insulin resistance.
The BIG problem with refined carbs.
Complications arise when the majority of your carbs come in processed form like breads, cakes, cereals, muffins, and donuts.
When you ingest these foods, your body converts all those refined carbs into glucose (blood sugar molecule) so that it can be absorbed in the gut.
The problem is that refined carbs are converted into glucose at an incredibly fast pace. It’s so fast, that your pancreas may not be able to keep up with the demand for insulin.
When that happens, blood sugar levels may remain elevated for longer periods of time. And that’s not good because it can damage the vessels that supply blood to vital organs, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, vision problems, and nerve problems.
Too much leftover glucose, not enough insulin…
As we age, the pancreas produces less insulin. That’s because the pancreas undergoes various pathological changes with aging such as increased fatty tissue, fibrosis, atrophy, and decreased perfusion.
And people with diabetes have it worse because by the time you get diagnosed with the disease, your pancreas has already lost 50 to 60 percent of its insulin production capacity.
The worst part is that diabetics are also more likely to have more insulin resistance than anyone else, which makes absorbing glucose by your cells even harder.
So how do you go about picking which foods to eat?
Understanding the glycemic index
Eating foods that rank high on the glycemic index such as bread, potato, rice, and pasta will inevitably result in significant rise in your blood sugar levels.
On the other hand, food sources that rank on the lower side of the glycemic index have a slower release of energy, which means these foods won’t spike your blood sugar levels.
The slower the release, the better. This might not seem like much but it gives your pancreas enough time to produce more insulin, which helps keep your blood sugar levels stable.
In short, high glycemic index carbs should be avoided at all costs. The lower the glycemic index the less impact a particular food has on your blood sugar levels.
Ideally, you’ll want to stick to foods with a glycemic index of 55 or less. Anything under 40 is even better. A score of 70 is considered high and should be avoided.
Now, trying to remember the glycemic index chart by heart isn’t practical. You can download a chart or look it up on your mobile phone whenever you need but there’s an even simpler way to go about it.
The trick is to look at the nutrition labels. The amount of protein and fiber combined together should be greater than the amount of carbohydrates and sugars.
How to naturally lower the glycemic index of foods?
Did you know that certain ingredients can help lower the glycemic index? Adding something as simple as olive oil to pasta can help lower its glycemic index.
Olive oil and other healthy fat sources help slow down the absorption of other foods when eaten together. You can also achieve similar results by taking apple cider vinegar during or after your meals.
Low-fat meals are more than likely to raise your blood sugar levels quickly. If you start your mornings with a cup of orange juice and a muffin or a bowl of cereal with low-fat milk, you can expect your blood sugar levels to spike.
If you were to replace the same amount of carbs that comes in these breakfast meals with something like an apple and peanut butter, you’ll see a big difference when you check your blood sugar one hour after eating.
You can further improve the glycemic index of foods you eat by making sure you get a decent amount of dietary fiber along with healthy fats.
There are two main types of fiber. One is soluble the other is insoluble. They’re both beneficial in their own ways, for example, soluble fiber dissolves in water and forms a gel-like substance that helps protect the lining in your gut, lower cholesterol, and prevent blood sugar spikes.
Meanwhile, insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve and helps add bulk to your stool, which is important to prevent constipation and help your body process waste better.
Both types of fiber are essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system but for the purpose of keeping your blood sugar levels stable, soluble fiber is the most important one.
What are good sources of soluble fiber? If you haven’t already checked it, we talk about good sources of soluble fiber in this video: