Hey, Sugar!

All foods, healthy or not, affect our blood sugar levels in some way, Our preferred energy source for our brain is glucose, so sugar is an important component of any diet. In terms of energy, a Medjool date vs a teaspoon of table sugar perform in similar ways in the body, albeit that the date contains fibre and some other trace nutrients that can be beneficial to our body and gut health.

Any time we consume sugar (known as glucose fructose, lactose, maltose and galactose), our blood sugar levels rise, which sends a message to our brains to release insulin, a hormone to control blood sugar secretions. What is somewhat less common knowledge is that every time insulin rises in the body, Cortisol, our main stress hormone, is released concurrently. In short, eating and snacking is a ‘stressor’ on our bodies and our bodies respond physiologically and hormonally in this way.

Whilst this is a natural healthy process, (our bodies have lots of ways to self-regulate and establish ‘homeostasis’), if this process occurs too frequently, we can have too much insulin and cortisol circulating in our blood stream, which over an extended time can mean our bodies become less sensitive to it. That is where insulin resistance, obesity and even type 2 diabetes can become a diagnosis and a problem to be managed by medication.

A simple ‘hack’ to stop this process is to try and move away from the ‘cultural norm’ of snacking and to increase the portion size of your three meals a day with a four hour fasting gap between. As all sugars are quickly digested in our bodies, (in around two hours vs four hours for proteins and fats), we can ‘style’ our starches by adding a protein or fat source. For example, eating an apple with a handful of walnuts or spreading peanut butter on our jam and toast. This has less of an impact on your blood sugar levels, reducing the associated release of insulin and cortisol.

Another way to reduce blood sugar spikes is by consuming food in its natural state eating an orange, rather than orange juice. This increases the fibre content of the meal, which slows digestion and also adds nutrients.

The impact of fasting and restricted interval eating on blood sugar has had a lot of press coverage by people such as Michael Mosley. A relaxed version involves fasting overnight from say 7pm until 7am and has been shown to have anti-aging and anti-glycaemic properties short-term, according to current studies.

According to recent research, reducing our sugar consumption is not only good for our waistlines, but also our longevity. When we consume processed foods such as HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), our bodies produce something called AGE’s as they are metabolized (anti-glycaemic end-products), which show up as lines on our face and under our eyes. Over-consumption of sugar also leads to shortening of telomeres in our brains, a marker of diminished longevity.

Long term healthy eating approaches have been studied by looking at the Blue Zones around the world (areas of the world with the slowest aging population). Consuming a mediterranean diet full of healthy fats (olive oil, avocados and oily fish), diversity of vegetables (full of health-giving phytonutrients) and limited red wine (contains resveratrol and antioxidants) have been shown to be beneficial to good health. As is, a traditional Japanese diet full of sashimi, limited rice, nori seaweed and fermented miso broth.

All nutrition shown be personalised to a person’s cultural heritage, gender, religious beliefs, life stage and other factors.