Everything You Need to Know About Blood Sugar and Weight Loss
The key to lifelong weight maintenance and wonderfully vibrant health is knowing how to keep your insulin levels low. Spiking blood sugar levels are one of the biggest culprits of an unhealthy body and unavoidable weight gain, but few people seem to really understand the link between weight gain and blood sugar.
When we talk about sugar, we are not just referring to the white refined stuff but sugar that is found, possibly well hidden inside some of your favorite foods. Foods such as certain yogurts, salsas, and baked goods like donuts, bagels, and pastries. Even some “healthy” seeming foods such as low-fat salad dressing or fruit bars can contain too much sugar.
Of course, all food contains some sugar, and glucose is an essential part of our energy source, so the issue is not in denying yourself sugar all the time but rather in being aware of where it is found in the foods you eat and striving to understand how it affects your body so that you can balance your blood sugar levels, be healthy and lose weight.
The sugars and starch found in refined carbohydrates are converted quickly into smaller glucose molecules in the body, absorbed into the bloodstream, and then deposited as fat. The enzyme responsible for breaking down these starches into sugars (glucose) is called amylase, and it’s found in your saliva and small intestine.
These foods that raise your blood sugar quickly are considered high-glycemic foods. Unfortunately, these are usually the kind of foods we all love and crave. Foods such as white bread, white rice, corn, waffles, candy, cookies, cakes, and bagels. When you consume too much of these foods on a regular basis, your blood sugar levels spike resulting in glycemic stress and inflammation of the blood vessels. High blood sugar signals to the pancreas to release the hormone known as insulin, which takes sugar out of the blood and stores it in our cells until it can be burned as fuel.
If we don’t use that energy immediately, the excess gets stored as fat which tends to lock in place the more stressed we are. The fatter you get, the more insulin is required to take the blood sugar into your cells for storage and the higher the insulin levels the harder it is for your body to release that fat as fuel for energy.
The key then is in understanding your individual body and blood sugar response to the different foods you eat.
Stable blood sugar and optimal insulin come from eating a healthy, balanced diet with the right amount of protein, the right kinds of carbohydrates and fats for your individual body.
Ideally, your diet should consist of 80% low-glycemic-index foods. These kinds of foods are digested more slowly and don’t cause large spikes in blood sugar levels. If the food contains protein and fiber it’s also going to be digested slower, this is also the case when you combine foods that are lower and higher on the glycemic index.
In the table below you can see some examples of the difference between high and low glycemic foods.
|White potatoes (baked or fried)||Broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, zucchini|
|Corn||Apples, oranges, berries|
|Refined breakfast cereal||Beans and peas|
|White rice||Sweet potatoes|
|White bread, rolls, bagels, pastries||Sweet corn|
|Candy bars||Meat and Fish|
|Sugar-sweetened drinks/ Soda||Eggs|
|Wine, beer, liquor||Lentils, hummus|
Think about how you normally start the day. We tend to wake up each morning with naturally low blood sugar levels, due to the fact that we’ve been asleep for the past 6-8 hours. If you wake up each morning and reach for a breakfast laden with sugar, you will automatically cause a big spike in your blood sugar levels straight away.
If your usual breakfast is a sugary coffee with a donut or a bowl of commercial-style cereal (loaded with hidden sugar) sadly you’re setting yourself up for failure. Your body will react by producing insulin in order to bring the blood sugar levels down. By 11 am you are craving another coffee and something sweet to send your sugar levels up again, and so it continues throughout the day if you tend to eat in this way. It becomes like a roller coaster of spiking and sinking blood sugar levels which the hormone insulin struggles to regulate.
If your blood sugar levels are constantly spiking, your body converts excess glucose into fat instead of storing it as energy to be used later. So you can see how ideally your blood sugar levels should remain even, balanced between a certain range where they do not spike too high or sink too low.
The best way to ensure even, balanced blood sugar levels is to consume a diet free from processed, junk food and instead focus on boosting your intake of fresh, natural, low glycemic, and chemical free products.
Christiane Northrup M.D says in her book, “Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom” “Just about every cell in our bodies is affected by wide fluctuations in insulin levels, which also results in the production of excess inflammatory chemicals - the basis for all chronic disease, including headaches and insomnia.”
A lifetime of eating high-glycemic food can catch up with you when you start trying to lose weight in your thirties and forties. But when you eat to stabilize your blood sugar and make small shifts in your dietary habits, you can turn all of that around, not only losing weight but also improving everything from PMS to headaches to high blood pressure.
You don’t have to think of controlling your blood sugar and insulin levels as a “diet” but rather, a healthy and sustainable way to live. It is, however, going to take a bit of effort to figure out what works for you and your way of life.
It’s not a flaw in your character to crave refined carbohydrates by the way! Humans were designed to crave the kinds of foods that helped us to bulk up and survive. History shows us that it was always an advantage to gain weight fast in order to be prepared for times when there was not much food available. We are in some ways predisposed to crave fatty, salty, sugary foods that also give us that dopamine rush.
However, if you want to lose weight and be healthy into your thirties, forties, and beyond, you do need to check your reliance on refined carbohydrates and consider injecting your diet with more plants and low glycemic foods.
The Power of Plants
Following a plant-based diet is supported by research to be helpful for blood sugar level control. If you start to switch to more and more of a plant-based diet with whole-foods and lots of vegetables, fruit, legumes and some nuts and seeds and whole grains, your body actually begins to develop a better sensitivity to insulin and increases its tolerance to carbohydrates. Consuming lower glycemic index foods means the blood sugar levels in your body are stabilized or even lowered.
This happens as the unrefined plant-based foods you are eating release energy much more slowly into your bloodstream.
Certain herbs and supplements can also be of great help. Studies have shown that certain plants can help reduce blood sugar and assist with weight loss. Green Tea has been shown, for example, to be rich in polyphenols that reduce blood sugar. Pu-erh tea (a traditional Chinese fermented tea) helps to lower blood sugar levels by preventing complex sugars from breaking down into glucose.
Bitter Melon, a tropical green vegetable resembling a small cucumber, is another fantastic example of a plant with benefits for assisting with weight loss. Bitter melon lowers and maintains blood sugar levels in your body by stopping the enzyme amylase from breaking down carbohydrates into sugar and storing them as fat. Bitter Melon can also improve your insulin levels by increasing the number of beta cells in your pancreas, (which are involved in the secretion of the hormone insulin). This in turn makes weight loss easier, helping you to burn fat and keep it off.
You can find bitter melon as a fresh ingredient (although it’s definitely something you’ll have to hunt down, depending on where you live). The best way to ingest it is through a supplement such as Amyl Guard.
Amyl Guard is a powerful weight loss and blood sugar support formula that uses the most powerful amylase inhibitors found in nature to stop carbs from turning into fat-storing sugars and then sticking to the body in the form of fat.
Bitter Melon is just one of its ingredients, it’s also made up of white kidney bean extract, another highly effective amylase inhibitor, as well as the mineral chromium picolinate and an ingredient called berberine that also support blood sugar levels as well as your metabolism.
The 4 ingredients work together synergistically to stop carbohydrates from breaking down into fat-storing sugars. This supplement is a wonderful addition to your plant-based, healthy diet and can seriously help your efforts to lose weight as you shift your consumption habits away from refined carbohydrates and towards healthier nutrition, good fats, and low glycemic foods.