WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES FOR OUR HORMONES, OUR WEIGHT AND OUR BRAIN
Carbohydrates now have a negative connotation for many people. More and more people are opting for low-carbohydrate diets. Yet carbohydrates are important suppliers of energy. It is not without reason that they are in so many foods: fruit, vegetables, potatoes, bread, pasta, legumes, soft drinks, cookies, desserts, juices, alcohol, etc. Across the board, however, we eat way too many FAST carbohydrates. Slow carbohydrates have completely different properties.
I hardly eat any sugar
Perhaps you are now thinking ‘that will be fine with me, I eat almost no sugar’. Then realize that we eat an average of 44 kilos of sugar per year, mostly from foods that we do not recognize as sugar at all. Do you recognize baked potatoes or a pizza as a quick sugar? Or a can of tomato soup? A glass of orange juice? Or a bag of instant cappuccino? For many people, many of their meals or snacks contain unrecognizable fast carbohydrates that can have many consequences. We often understand that sweets, cookies, ice cream, chocolate, etc. contain sugars. This article is therefore mainly about carbohydrates that can have a disruptive effect without you being aware of it. Many people check labels to see how much sugar is in them. But if you don’t expect it to contain sugars/fast carbs, why check?
Carbohydrates can make or break you
Balanced blood sugar levels are vital not only for your energy, but also for your weight, mood and overall well-being. Over time, more and more ‘fast carbohydrates’ have crept into our diet. With dramatic consequences for our total vitality, our weight, our immune system, etc. Your energy production is optimal if your diet is a balanced mix of whole, unprocessed foods. This ideally consists of healthy fat, protein and slow carbohydrates.
Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose (popularly known as sugar) in your digestive system. Glucose is a primary raw material for the production of energy or let’s say dollars. But only a constant, balanced supply of glucose in your cells ensures stability and a healthy bank account in your body. If this balance threatens to be derailed, regulatory processes are used to bring the blood glucose level back to a healthy level as quickly as possible. If this happens once, no problem. You can certainly do without the energy-dollars that are needed for this – it is an expensive process. But what if this happens again and again? Suppose your blood sugars are too high 6 to 8 times a day, every time you eat something? Because you are not aware of the fact that there are fast (loss-making) carbohydrates and slow ones. Which in most cases do provide vitality and energy.
Back to the primal man
In fact, we have to go back to the ancient world to understand why fast carbohydrates can disrupt so much. And then we actually first have to understand how the process works; digest carbohydrates into simple sugars that are converted into energy.
In a nutshell, it goes like this: All carbohydrates are broken down in your digestive system into simple sugars and then absorbed from your intestines into the bloodstream. The amount and speed at which they are absorbed into your blood determines the level of glucose (popularly called blood sugar level). Insulin and glucagon are pancreatic hormones responsible for stable glucose levels. Insulin is the hormone that ensures, among other things, that glucose (along with fat, protein and other nutrients) is ’emptied’ from the bloodstream and absorbed into your cells, so that they can convert it into energy. Some of the glucose is stored as ‘reserve’ (glycogen) in your muscles and liver, to bridge the time between eating moments. If there is still glucose left after the depots of your liver and muscles are filled, it is converted/stored into fat. Especially in the liver and abdominal region. Glucagon is the hormone that converts glycogen back into glucose when there is a shortage of glucose. This way you and your brain have stable access to glucose. But … that only works if you move. Only then can you convert your muscle glycogen back into glucose. And that’s the problem for a large part of the people: we sit on average 10 hours a day.
The control center in your brain is extremely alert to balanced glucose levels. They should absolutely not be too low, but also not too high. Both too high and too low are seen as a stress situation that must be resolved as soon as possible. Fast carbohydrates in particular can be broken down into simple sugars very quickly in your intestines and quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. The higher the glucose level in your blood, the more insulin (but also stress hormones) are produced. The result is that the sugars are quickly eliminated from the bloodstream and a rapid drop in blood sugar levels occurs. See how that works in the paragraph above. This creates a trough within a few hours after the peak, with a shortage of glucose. This also triggers a stress response.
Get rid of grip of the fast carbohydrates
Typical symptoms that may occur and/or are characteristic of an unstable blood sugar level are:
• Craving sweets after meals
• You ‘should’ simply eat sugar and/or fast carbohydrates (at the end of the morning and the end of the afternoon this urge is often greatest)
• Energy dips after eating (cold, sleepy, yawning)
• Snitch attacks/tastes (while you may have intended not to)
• Headache, sweaty, shaky, cranky, unstable, nervous/bum-up/angry if you don’t eat on time
• Need to eat every few hours
• Cotton wool feeling in your head
• Your mood can change from one moment to the next (“Johnny cries, Johnny laughs”)
• Sudden loss of concentration
• Blurred vision at times
• Sudden loss of energy (‘porridge in your legs’)
• You only make yourself happy with sweets, bread, chocolate et cetera. Savory food is not your preference.
These complaints are often combated by eating ‘fast carbohydrates’ again, which makes you feel better (temporarily) again. People who recognize this will rarely leave the house without ‘reserve food’ in their bag. After all, you never know…
Rest in your body and brain
Getting out of the ban on fast carbohydrates is for many people a very effective and also simple way for a ‘quick win’ if you want more (or more stable) energy. Important for anyone who wants to get the best out of themselves. Whether you want better fat burning (fast carbohydrates can boycott this considerably), want to work on a better muscle / fat mass or a more stable mood or energy. With a stable blood sugar level, there is less appetite and then for snacks
In which products do you find fast carbohydrates?
1. Almost all soft drinks and fruit juices
2. All sugar-containing foods, increasingly referred to as glucose-fructose, HFCS, etc. See below under which names sugars can appear on the packaging
3. Wheat products such as bread, pasta, snacks, crackers, cookies, muesli and cruesli (the less fiber it contains, the faster it is converted into sugar).
4. Rice (both white and whole grain), rice cakes and all other (often gluten-free) foods made from rice.
5. Corn and all (often gluten-free) products made from it.
6. Potato and potato products (especially if they are baked or fried).
7. Ready-made soups, spice mixes, sauces, instant coffee, spreads and processed meats with sugars in them.
8. All fruit (including dried fruit), most vegetables, legumes, etc. These are natural sugars but can also have a disruptive effect in excess.
The many (hidden) names of sugar on the packaging. I’ll name a few:
1. Sugar, granulated sugar, cane sugar, invert sugar, milk sugar, fruit sugar, grape sugar, malt sugar, rock sugar and candy are the names where you at least understand that they are sugar.
2. There are also many names that the average consumer does not know that they contain sugar: sucrose, lactose, fructose, dextrose, maltose, and other ingredients that end in ‘-ose’.
3. All names with syrup, honey, syrup, malt, maltodextrin, maple syrup, molasses, nectar, malt extract, sucanat, ancient sweet and thick juice also indicate the presence of sugar.
4. Finally, don’t be misled by innocent-sounding names such as fruit extract, fruit concentrate, fruit juice concentrate and fruit juice based on extracts or concentrates. These are all sugars.
The consequences of chronically disturbed blood sugar levels
Chronically elevated insulin levels can have far-reaching consequences. Not only does your pancreas become exhausted (which also plays a major role in your digestion) but it also has major consequences for your stress hormones, thyroid, estrogen balance etc.
If there is one organ that benefits from a constant supply of sugars, without peaks and troughs, it is your brain. As described, especially your mood and concentration suffer from unbalanced blood sugar levels.
Potentially healthy gut bacteria thrive on an excess of fast sugars/carbohydrates. Potentially harmful bacteria actually thrive on it! Your healthy ‘friends’ thrive mainly on fiber. They make butyric acid from it. And that is incredibly important for your overall health.
Tips to stabilize your blood sugar level
1. Realize that the fastest sugars are the liquid ones: juices, soft drinks, coffee with sugar, chocolate milk, etc. There is almost no faster absorption of sugars into your bloodstream than via sweet drinks. These therefore have the strongest disruptive effect. This also applies to alcoholic drinks, especially if you drink them on an empty stomach. See my recipe flavored waters for alternatives to soda.
2. It’s good to know that whole grains disrupt your blood sugar much less than flour. Rye bread with whole rye grains therefore has much less effect on your blood sugar level than brown bread.
3. Get daily exercise. The best time is BEFORE your breakfast. This has an incredibly good effect on your so-called ‘metabolic flexibility’. More about that in part 2 of this article.
4. Get fiber in your diet! A large part of our food consists of white flour products from which the fibers have been removed. Furthermore, we still eat too little fiber-rich vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts, etc. While fiber actually slows down the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream.
5. You also really need these fibers for a healthy intestinal flora. What Israeli scientists discovered in recent years: it is not always the Glycemic Load that determines how quickly sugars are absorbed into your bloodstream, it also strongly depends on your gut health.
6. Always add healthy fats and proteins to carbohydrate meals. Both proteins and healthy fats slow the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream.
7. Know that there are beautiful herbs and spices that contribute to a stable blood sugar level. Such as cinnamon and fenugreek, for example. See all the recipes in my books.
8. It is good to realize that chronic stress can also throw your blood sugar level out of balance. Even if you do eat low glycemic.
9. Chronic stress can also deplete your proteins/amino acids, magnesium, zinc, chromium etc. Without these nutrients it is very difficult to have/keep/obtain a stable blood sugar level.
Just bear in mind, nutrition is just one of the pillars through which our health can be influenced. Relaxation, exercise, environment (in the broad sense of the word) and sufficient sleep are equally important pillars. An “Intermittent Living” Lifestyle would be one of the answer to a healthy lifestyle.
This information does not replace any medical or nutritional treatment or advice. It is not intended as therapy, but as support in the broadest sense of the word. The author is not responsible for any complaints and side effects. People who follow this information do so at their own risk. The reader is expressly advised to contact his doctor if he/she has any doubts about his/her personal health situation. Although the information has been compiled with great care and after thorough research, the author is not liable for any damage resulting from any inaccuracies and/or incompleteness in this information. Especially if you are also taking medication. Also consult an expert.