By: Leanne Ely
You hear it all the time-avoid foods that cause a high blood sugar spike. Blood sugar (or blood glucose) is one of the hottest topics in health these days for an important reason. Diabetes is on the rise, and this disease is directly connected to blood sugar levels.
But diabetes is only one of the possibly harmful side effects of high blood sugar. Many Americans are actually living with prediabetes-a condition where blood sugars are high, but not high enough to be diagnosed with diabetes-, putting them at risk of not only developing Type 2 diabetes, but a whole slew of health problems as well.
Science of Blood Sugar
When your blood sugar levels rise, your pancreas produces the hormone insulin, telling your cells to absorb blood sugar for storage or energy. As your cells absorb that blood sugar, levels of blood sugar in your bloodstream decrease. This drop of blood sugar triggers the pancreas to make glucagon, a hormone that tells the liver to release stored sugar.
That back and forth between glucagon and insulin results in a good steady supply of blood sugar in the body.
Eventually your cells may stop responding, resulting in insulin resistance, causing blood sugar and insulin levels to remain high. This puts demands on those insulin-making cells, wearing them out until they quit all together. (At this stage, a person could be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.)
Without insulin, your cells don’t absorb the blood sugar; instead, the blood sugar starts coating your red blood cells causing the cells to stiffen.
Sticky stiff cells are terrible for blood circulation, and they cause a buildup of cholesterol inside our blood vessels. The blood vessels in your kidneys, eyes and feet are fragile and susceptible to problems due to high blood sugar-problems may appear in these areas of the body first.
Risks of high blood sugar
In addition to blood vessel damage, high blood sugar increases your risk of:
• heart attack
• nerve damage in hands and feet
• kidney failure
• gum disease
• tooth loss
• fertility issues
• memory difficulties
Repeated spikes in blood sugar also put a great deal of stress on your organs. When you put too much stress on your system, it isn’t going to operate properly.
How do you avoid high blood sugar spikes?
Start by sticking to foods low on the glycemic index.
The glycemic index rates foods according to how likely they are to affect your blood sugar.
Some foods cause a greater blood sugar spike than others. The higher the glycemic index (or GI) of a food, the higher its glucose response in our blood. Foods that are classified as low have a GI of 55 or less. Foods over 70 are considered to be high GI.
You can research which foods are high on the glycemic index, but to give you an idea, eating pure glucose is given a ranking of 100. All other foods are rated in relation to this. A food with a glycemic index of 95, for example, will spike your blood sugar just about as much as eating pure sugar would. But a food with a glycemic index of 20 won’t do much to raise your blood sugar. Cashews have a GI of 22, while Pop Tarts have a GI of 70. Grains and processed foods are very high on the index, while vegetables and fruits (in most cases) are relatively low.
Paleo and blood sugars
The best way, in my opinion, to keep your blood sugars level is by adopting a Paleo diet. The Paleo diet works because it is based on avoiding most high GI foods.
Eating a diet based on protein and organic, local vegetables and fruits forces you to fill up on good healthy foods, and you automatically eliminate all of the processed junk. That being said, even when we eat a Paleo diet based on good, whole foods, we should still constantly be aware of limiting foods high on the glycemic index, even if our ancestors would have eaten them (dates=103, parsnips=97).
Along with maintaining your blood sugar levels, eating a Paleo diet will also help you reduce many health risks, reduce inflammation in the body, lose weight, increase your overall energy and make you feel generally amazing!
If you’re interested in starting 2014 with a new Paleo lifestyle, consider taking our 30 Day Paleo Challenge. Find out all the info here.