Step Two: Avoid eating meals that consist solely of refined carbohydrates, and understand the importance of including protein and fiber in our meals.
Sugar and carbohydrates are plentiful in our meals and snacks. If we eat the foods that make up our Standard American Breakfast (like bagels, muffins, pancakes, toast, and waffles), we are eating pure carbs. When we snack on chips, pretzels, crackers, cookies, and candy, we experience a significant spike in both our blood sugar and insulin, as we are simply consuming foods that breakdown into sugar in our bodies. When our meals revolve around bread, pasta and rice, we are consuming high glycemic foods that will easily and assuredly raise our blood sugar.
Step two in my A Busy Mom’s Guide to Eating Well educates us about and helps us to avoid the inevitable blood sugar spike and subsequent insulin spike that occur after our large carbohydrate meals. The concept is fairly easy to understand and simple to implement in our lives and our diets.
We need to avoid and resist eating meals and snacks that consist only of carbohydrates. First, we need to know what falls under the category of carbohydrates and which carbs are more dangerous in terms of our blood sugar metabolism. Second, we need to understand that adding protein to a carbohydrate meal or snack will help improve the body’s blood sugar response. Third, let us realize that when the carbohydrates we eat have a higher fiber content, our blood sugar does not spike as much. In general, decreasing the amount of refined carbohydrates and increasing the protein, healthy fats and fiber content in our meals will improve how our bodies metabolize sugar and carbs.
For the most part, we understand that eating too much sugar makes us gain weight … but what many of us don’t fully realize is that eating too much sugar actually changes our body and our metabolism and makes it dangerous and a major health risk for us to be consuming THAT sugar. Blood sugar imbalances, high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and type-two diabetes have become major health concerns in the United States. In fact, one study I read stated that 50% of Americans were either diabetic or almost diabetic. We are in trouble when it comes to how our collective bodies are handling the huge amounts of carbohydrates we are consuming. Whether it is refined sugars (candy bars, cookies, and soda), natural sugars (fruit juice, evaporated cane juice, agave nectar), or refined carbohydrates (white breads, pasta and rice), our blood sugar and insulin levels elevate making us prone, over time and after significant consumption of these foods, to develop major dysfunction in the way our bodies manage sugar.
A quick explanation of blood sugar metabolism will help us understand why Step Two is so important. When we eat carbohydrates, they break down into sugar (a source of fuel for our bodies) which builds up in our blood after a meal. Insulin is released by our pancreas and is essential for helping our body use the sugar as fuel. When our body has trouble producing or responding to insulin, sugar builds to dangerous levels in the body. We are also learning today that even individuals with a healthy insulin response can show signs of prolonged, elevated blood sugar simply because of eating a diet very high in sugar and carbs.
Interestingly, even some complex carbohydrates (like brown rice, oatmeal, whole-grain breads, and starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn) can cause a steep rise in blood sugar. There are varying views on the effect of complex carbohydrates on blood sugar and insulin, but all you need to do is ask a pre-diabetic or diabetic individual who checks his/her blood sugar regularly after eating these foods, and they will confirm a significant elevation in their blood sugar.
We know that eating an apple has a much better blood sugar profile than drinking apple juice – as the apple has fiber in it and the juice does not. We know that eating a protein rich breakfast leads to lower spikes in glucose and insulin throughout the day. Studies have shown that when protein is added to carbohydrate meals, the protein has a mitigating or muting effect on blood glucose. In addition, studies show that replacing carbohydrates with healthy fats in a meal has a beneficial impact on blood sugar.
The take home message of Step Two is stop eating meals that consist solely of sugar and carbohydrates. Stop seeing a large bowl of pasta and tomato sauce as a complete dinner or waffles, pancakes and muffins as breakfast. Start incorporating protein, healthy fats, and fiber into your meal. Increasing protein and veggies along with decreasing the amounts of sugar, pasta, bread and rice you consume can have a significant and life-improving impact on the way your body responds to sugar … and your health long term!
The Mommy Tune-up is a blog solely devoted to the busy mom’s pursuit of sanity and good health!