Insulin can be called our ‘fat storage hormone’ - it tells the body to store fat and prevents fat from being broken down and used for energy. When we eat carbohydrates like pasta, bread and cookies, our blood sugar goes up. At the same time our body releases insulin to help balance the level of sugar (or glucose) in our blood. Extra sugar in our blood gets stored as fat. The bigger the spike in blood sugar, the bigger the insulin release, and the more likely our cells are to store fat. This process has the opposite goal if we’re trying to maintain - or lose - fat. Even worse, consistent blood sugar spikes lead to a continuous insulin release. This makes our cells eventually begin to ignore insulin. This is called insulin resistance. Our body has to maintain a specific level of glucose in the blood, so we release more insulin to overcome this resistance leading to, you guessed it, more fat storage. Balancing our spikes in blood sugar balances our insulin, too, and plays a key role in weight management.
Easing Hunger Signals
The insulin released following eating sugar or carbohydrates can cause our blood sugar levels to dramatically drop . This crash is noticeable and usually feels pretty rough. We become tired and hungry - aka ‘hangry’ - and usually crave simple carbohydrates, like breads, pastries, pop, or candy, to bring our blood sugar back up. At that moment, it can feel impossible to pick a healthy option. But, if we can get in the habit of eating more protein, fiber, and healthy fat, and less carbohydrates and sugar, we can ‘get ahead’ of this crash. For example, pairing a palm-sized serving of animal protein, such as chicken, green vegetables (fiber) and avocado (fat), with only a small amount of roasted yam (carbohydrates), for lunch. By doing this, our hunger and cravings are much more manageable, particularly mid-afternoon when we may typically experience a blood sugar crash.
That blood sugar crash we talked about? For some, it leads to feeling “hangry”. For others, it can trigger or make anxiety worse. Why? In our body’s attempt to raise blood sugar back to normal levels, it releases a hormone called adrenaline. This can trigger a ‘fight or flight’ response, which can feel like stress and fear. If we already struggle with anxiety, this drop in blood sugar can turn up the volume on our anxiety level. Chronic low blood sugar also leads to an increase in - our stress hormone- cortisol. If you feel that your stress level is already high, day-to-day blood sugar imbalances can increase your cortisol levels making your stress feel worse.
Consistently spiking blood sugar, and the high levels of insulin it leads to, are considered pro-inflammatory. This means that they lead to long lasting (or chronic) inflammation in the body. We are slowly realizing that chronic inflammation is the root cause of many health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, autoimmune conditions, and neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. No matter what health concerns we have, being able to control inflammation by balancing our blood sugar may be the single greatest lifestyle change we can make. Adopting a way of eating in a way that promotes blood sugar balance can lead to health improvements within just a handful of days.
Keep an eye on our blog to continue to learn about easy ways to balance your blood sugar.