Even though summer brings abundant fresh fruits and vegetables, making it easier to eat healthily, it also brings several added risks.
What could taste better during the lazy, hazy days of summer than fruity cocktails, wet slathered BBQ, and rich ice cream? Unfortunately, these are the foods that can spell danger for your blood sugar level. The few minutes of pleasure you derive from those cold, sugary treats can pave the way for decades of chronic illness.
Blood Sugar Basics
Your blood sugar level is a measure of how much sugar or glucose is circulating in your bloodstream. Too much glucose in your blood is dangerous, so your body works hard to lower the levels. It does this by releasing insulin, a hormone that “drives” excess glucose to the cells that absorb it.
The danger comes when you continue eating too much sugar because your body responds by producing more and more insulin. Too much insulin trains your cells to become resistant to insulin, and this is called insulin resistance.
The net effect then takes more and more insulin to make your cells remove the glucose from your blood. When this happens, your blood sugar levels stay elevated, your insulin levels stay elevated, and you develop pre-diabetes.
Do you still want that ice cream? I know, me, too!
Moderation is the Key
Don’t panic. This doesn’t mean that you can never indulge in a sugary treat again. It means that you need to be smart about the amount you eat and how you eat it.
Have you ever heard of the glycemic index? It is simply a way of categorizing foods according to their effects on glucose levels in your blood. A food with a high glycemic index will cause more of a rapid spike of glucose to build up than foods with a low glycemic index.
To control your blood sugar levels, it is helpful to eat foods with a low glycemic index. Pairing foods with a high glycemic index, with low glycemic foods, particularly healthy fats, can slow the effect on your blood sugar.
High glycemic foods are commonly sugars or starches, especially processed flour, rice, and potatoes. Low glycemic foods are foods that have lots of fiber and protein or healthy fats. These would include beans, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts, and olives.
Simply being aware of the glycemic index will help you eat in a way that reduces the stress on your body. Having an ice cream treat or fruity cocktail isn’t just bad… but be aware of the rest of your diet. Spend time exercising, which can help to “use up” excess glucose before it’s stored, or use stored glucose (glycogen) to make room for the sugars in that treat to be stored as energy and not fat.
So this summer, have an occasional treat, but be sure it is occasional… seriously. ;-b
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