Glucose. What is it, what it does and how it effects you.
Glucose is a health component, which I feel is often overlooked and misunderstood. You may only associate the word glucose with diabetes, this was the case for me for many years. Every time blood sugar was mentioned, I naively didn’t think this applied to me or my health and thought it was only a factor that diabetics had to consider. Glucose education, is few and far between and the emphasis on the impact of glucose levels is not common knowledge. In this section I hope to bring your awareness to the aspect of our glucose levels and show you how to harness this, to contribute to optimal overall wellbeing.
Within this post I hope to share with you a deeper understanding of our glucose and why it matters.
What Is Glucose & It’s Function?
Glucose can simply be translated into being within any food that tastes sweet or starchy. Glucose comes from the Greek word for “sweet.” Glucose can also be referred to as blood sugar. Glucose is a sugar molecule, It’s a type of sugar you get from foods you eat, and your body uses it for energy. Glucose is the main type of sugar in the blood and is the major source of energy for the body’s cells. Glucose comes from the foods we eat or the body can make it from other substances. Glucose is realised and carried to the cells through the bloodstream. Glucose is not only responsible for our energy production but also has an impact on hormones such as including insulin, which control glucose levels in the blood.
The Journey Glucose Makes
As you eat, the food travels down your esophagus and into to your stomach. There, acids and enzymes break it down into tiny pieces. During that process, glucose is released and travels into the blood stream.
Sources Of Glucose
Glucose mainly comes from foods that are rich in carbohydrates, like bread, potatoes, and fruit. The higher the sugar or starch content in a food, the greater impact it will have in raising our glucose levels.
Want to get specific on how a food will raise your glucose levels? This is where the GI index can come in handy.
The Glycemic Index:
The glycemic index (GI) is a rating system for foods containing carbohydrates. It shows how quickly each food affects your blood sugar (glucose) level when that food is eaten on its own.
Foods are classified as low, medium, or high glycemic foods and ranked on a scale of 0–100.
The lower the GI of a specific food, the less it may affect your blood sugar levels.
Here are the three GI ratings:
- Low: 55 or less
- Medium: 56–69
- High: 70 or above
Foods high in refined carbs and sugar are digested more quickly and often have a high GI, while foods high in protein, fat, or fibre typically have a low GI. Foods that contain no carbs are not assigned a GI and include meat, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, and oils.
Why Eat Foods, that are low on the GI index? Low GI foods, which cause your blood sugar levels to rise and fall slowly, this does not send you on a blood sugar rollercoaster but more of a steady stream. This helps hormonal balance and in result you feel fuller for longer, with more sustained energy levels. This helps keep a more calm emotional wave and control your appetite, this may be useful if you’re trying to lose weight.
However, not all foods with a low GI are healthy. Just because a food is low GI or low in carbs does not make it optimal for your health. For example pure forms of alcohol, does not spike your blood sugar however is recognised as a toxin in the body.
Optimal GI Alternatives:
- Instead of buying bakery foods made primarily with white flour, choose grainy breads where you can see the grains, authentic sourdoughs or stoneground wholemeal options.
- If your having a snack, don’t choose a simple starch or sugary snack, opt for a snack filled with a protein or fat.
- Swap simple white pasta with a higher fibre option like a legume or buckwheat flour alternative.
- Purchase unsweetened yogurt, opposed to sugar filled ones.
- Substitute oat milk for a nut or coconut milk or an organic diary option.
- Avoid sugary drinks at all costs.
- Have fruitless juice.
- Skip chips or crisps and choose a vegetable crudites.
- No to jams or chocolate spreads but yes to nut and seed butters (make sure unsweetened).
- Focus on combining high GI foods with low GI options to achieve a moderate GI and GL. Additionally, certain acids help to lower the GI of some foods so add vinegars to salads, have yoghurt with cereal and squeeze lemon juice on vegetables.
What Happens During A Glucose Spike?
When we spike, our mitochondria become overwhelmed and start producing chemicals called free radicals. Free radicals harm our cells, mutate our DNA, lead to oxidative stress and inflammation. Sweet spikes do this even more than starchy spikes. Inflammation is the root cause of most diseases. Three out of five people will die of an inflammation-based disease. When we spike, our body ages. Each glucose spike leads to glycation, which is the process of aging of our body. Glycation leads to many age-related issues, from cataracts to Alzheimer’s. When we slow down glycation, we live a longer, healthier life. When we spike, insulin gets released, and excess glucose gets stored as fat. Fructose gets stored only as fat.
The benefits of flattening your glucose curves
- Lower levels of hunger. Feeling satiated after meals and lower levels of the hormone ghrelin.
- Fewer cravings. Less sugar cravings.
- Better energy and sleep. Deeper and more restful sleep, improved energy and energy production in cells.
- Better immunity. With high glucose spikes, the effect on the dysfunction of the immune response, which fails to control the spread of invading pathogens. Therefore, those with high glucose levels are known to more susceptible to infections.
- Better brain function. High blood sugar over time damages blood vessels in the brain that carry oxygen-rich blood. When your brain receives too little blood, brain cells can die. This is called brain atrophy and can cause problems with memory and thinking and eventually can lead to vascular dementia.
- Clearer, more youthful skin. Glucose and fructose link the amino acids present in the collagen and elastin that support the dermis, producing advanced glycation end products or “AGEs.” This process is accelerated in all body tissues when sugar is elevated and is further stimulated by ultraviolet light in the skin.
- Improved microbiome. A high glucose diet can cause deplenished levels of good bacteria in the gut, by balancing our blood sugar we can foster a healthy microbiome A study of mice found that dietary sugar alters the gut microbiome, setting off a chain of events that leads to metabolic disease, pre-diabetes, and weight gain.
- Optimised fertility. Lowering blood glucose levels improves fertility in females with obesity. Reproductive hormone levels in females with obesity may be partially restored by lowering blood glucose levels, leading to improved fertility.
- Positive impact on mental health. A growing body of evidence suggests a relationship between mood and blood-sugar, or glycemic, highs and lows. Symptoms of poor glycemic regulation have been shown to closely mirror mental health symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety, and worry. This should come as no surprise, as the brain runs optimally on steady glucose levels.
How To Lower Glucose Levels With Ease
Simple switches can lead to lowered glucose levels, some ways are as followed,
- Eat foods in an optimal Order. The order of which we eat our food has a direct impact on glucose levels. By eating fibre first, we create a buffer of fibre to glucose going straight to the blood stream. Next eating protein and then carbohydrates. Consuming carbohydrates post protein, helps to lower excursions of glucose. Use a simple structure of: fibre first, protein second and carbohydrates last.
- Add vegetables to your meals. This has been shown to relish of the beneficial positive effects of dietary fibre and acts as a buffer to glucose.
- Avoid simple sugars at breakfast time. By breaking a fast with simple sugars, that lead to a spike in glucose, a return to hunger will follow and lead to energy crashes and more extreme cravings.
- Eat only whole fruit. By juicing fruit or using fruit extracts, the fibre gets completely striped away and we are left with another form of simple sugar.
- Incorporate vinegar. Vinegar has been shown in multiple studies to lower glucose spikes. Studies suggests vinegar improves insulin sensitivity by 19–34% during a high carb meal and significantly lower blood sugar and insulin response. The magic of vinegar lines in it’s contents. The acetic acid in vinegar slows down the rate at which the stomach empties the food you’ve eaten into the small intestine, which in turn slows the breakdown of carbohydrates and gives the body more time to remove glucose from the blood. This ultimately reduces the spike in blood sugar you’d typically see after eating.
- Avoid eating carbs alone. Carbohydrates are what raises glucose levels. Carbohydrates are not black and white bad for us, however how they respond with our bodies depends on how we consume them. Eating them alone can lead to changes in blood-sugar levels that take your mood and energy on a roller coaster ride. Adding a dose of protein and healthy fats provides sustained energy and stabilises blood-glucose levels.
How To Check Your Levels
You can do blood sugar level check by doing a finger-prick test, or by using an electronic blood sugar monitor called a flash glucose monitor or CGM. You can purchase these online and this allows you to check your levels several times a day.
Be warned checking data, is not for everyone and can become triggering to disordered behaviour and obsession.
Ideal Glucose Range
What should my glucose range be?
Per the American Diabetes Association, a fasting glucose level of < 100 mg/dL is considered normal. But normal may not be optimal. Studies show that <85 mg/dL may be optimal, and that avoiding spikes is important.
By reducing our glucose spikes, we align with a state of being that is optimal for daily functioning. Without peaks and dips, we stay on a steady train of functionality and as result, remain physically and emotionally more in balance.
This post was written by Amelia Crossley