With so much information flying around our digital space about sugar, it’s time we took a few minutes to understand how sugar affects us and how we can combat the more negative side effects, through what we eat.
Sugar has been linked to everything negative that you can think of, it’s hidden in countless foods, especially processed foods and is even thought to be addictive; but is it all bad?
When we eat, all the starches and sugar (from foods containing carbohydrates) get converted by our bodies into blood glucose which is a fundamental fuel the body and brain. When we think of carbohydrates (carbs), we think of foods such as bread, pasta, cereals, beans and vegetables.
Glycemic Index is a term which describes how fast our body breaks down these starches and sugars after you’ve eaten a particular food or drink. Your blood essentially behaves like a rollercoaster all day – with repeated ups and downs. How you eat affects how ‘high’ the highs are and how ‘low’ the lows go. The more dramatic the changes, the more likely it is to affect your health.
The Glycemic Index itself is a number, ranging from 1 -100 based on how individual foods affect your blood sugar levels in comparison to pure glucose (the building blocks of sugar). Low is classified as 55 or less; Medium is 56-69 and high is 70 and above. Foods with a high GI are digested and absorbed quickly resulting in marked increases in blood sugar levels. Low-GI foods are digested much more slowly which reduces absorption time therefore producing less gradual rises in blood sugar and also have proven benefits for health. This slower digestion of low GI foods allows you to feel fuller for longer which can aid with weight loss by helping to control your appetite.
It’s worth bearing in mind though, that foods with a high GI aren’t necessarily unhealthy choices and not all foods with a low GI are healthy for you. For example, parsnips, or even watermelon are high GI foods, while chocolate cake or peanut M&M’s both have a lower GI value. Combining foods can also significantly alter the overall GI of the foods in the meal. When a meal includes proteins and fat the impact of the carbohydrate foods will be reduced as the protein and fat slows down the absorption of the carbs. A good example of this are potato crisps; they have a lower GI than potatoes cooked without fat. But we all know that crisps are high in fat and should be eaten in moderation, right?! So, when you combine foods in a single meal the overall impact is to slow down the rate at which your body releases sugar from the individual ingredients. Just focusing on foods with a low GI would mean eating an unbalanced diet most likely high in fat.
Here are a few simple things to consider when choosing what to eat:
- Begin by focusing on eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, fibre, lean meats and healthy fats
- When it comes to choosing your carbohydrates, choose ones with a low GI
- If you are trying to loose weight, keep an eye on your portion sizes because all foods are best in moderation!
Here are a few simple swaps for when choosing your carbohydrates at meal time;
INSTEAD OF THIS EAT THIS
white rice brown / basmati rice
mashed potato / boiled new potatoes in skin
white bread / whole grain bread
instant porridge / rolled oats
white sugar / maple syrup
cornflour to thicken sauces tahini / nut butter to thicken sauces
sweets & biscuits / unsalted nuts, seeds, oatcakes
sugary drinks water / fruit infused water
rice cakes / oat cakes
cream crackers / whole grain crackers or rye crackers
ice cream / frozen yoghurt
Check out some of the delicious recipes on Grokker for easy ways to satisfy your hunger as well as keeping an eye on your blood sugar levels and all round health!
This pose was brought to you by Grokker contributor , Elle Linton. Elle is a personal trainer and wellness warrior on a mission to make the world healthier, one person at a time!
You can find her here;