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Blood Sugar Balance-Brain Fuel

beans_collageWhat is your Diet doing to your Blood Sugar Levels?

One of the main reasons specific food, certain eating patterns or missing meals affect the way you feel is that they have an impact on your blood-sugar levels. So what are the actually do to them?

Eating Slow-releasing carbohydrates Blood sugar rises gradually over a few hours
Eating proteins with carbohydrates Blood sugar rises slowly over a few hours
Eating sugary foods/fast-releasing carbohydrates/sugary drinks blood sugar rises within a few minutes, followed by a slump
Drinking caffeine Blood sugar rises rapidly, followed by a slump
Drinking alcohol Blood sugar rises and falls rapidly
Missing a meal Blood sugar drops. Missing breakfast can have dramatic effects because of the long gap between dinner today and lunch tomorrow

Sugar Surprises

An awareness of which foods perpetuate the blood sugar seesaw allows you to be more in control of how you feel. As we have seen, sweet foods and stimulants make your blood sugar soar and consequently crash. They take with them moods and energy. Avoid them! However, it is not always obvious which foods contain sugar. It is easy to spot sugar in a biscuit, chocolate bars, sweet packet of sweets, milkshake and doughnuts. More insidious though are the hidden quantities of sugar contained in less obviously sweetened foods: bread, baked beans and other canned foods, fruit yogurt, fruit juices, breakfast cereals, ketchup and other sauces or dressings, as well as many ready prepared meals. You can see how the amount of sugar you are eating each day easily creep up without you even realizing it.

If your blood-sugar levels are poorly balanced, even foods that are perfectly good for you, such as fruit juices or dried fruits, can havoc in your body. Although natural, these foods are a very concentrated source of sugar. It is therefore best to dilute juices with 70 per cent water and to eat dried fruits accompanied by some protein, such as a handful of nuts or a yogurt. (This slows down the rate at which the sugar contained in the fruit is released into your bloodstream)

 Glycaemic Index Of Foods

Slow-releasing foods



Very Fast-releasing

fish/seafood whole rye bread all pasta corn flakes
meat/poultry porridge oranges cooked root vegetables
eggs barley peas rice cakes
yogurt basmati rice baked beans white bread
cottage cheese buckwheat potatoes white and brown rice
soya/tofu apples muesli sweet corn
seeds/nuts pears popcorn bananas
tahini/houmous grapes wholemeal bread dried fruit
green vegetables peaches apricots
tomatoes kiwi fruit mangoes
mushrooms carrots honey
raw root vegetables beetroot
grapefruit lentils
plums kidney beans
skimmed milk
low-fat yogurt

Blood Sugar Balance – Brain Fuel

If sugar is so harmful, why do we love it so much? and even crave for it? The brain requires a constant optimum level of fuel and nutrients. One type of fuel is glucose-the smallest molecule of sugar, and the only form of sugar that the brain is able to accept as fuel. When we eat sugar, therefore we are fulfilling the brain’s need to receive a non-stop supply of glucose.

Pure sugar and sugar products are not only the body’s only sources of blood sugar. During digestion, carbohydrates-which are classified as ”simple” or ”complex” depending on their structure can also be turned into sugars. Simple carbohydrates are those found in pure sugar, fruit sugar(fructose) and other sweeteners, such as honey or corn syrup. Complex carbohydrates, sometimes known as starches are less sweet they are broken down into glucose during digestion. Wheat from which (bread and pasta are made), rice, potatoes, and corn are all starches.

Starches that are combined with their naturally occurring fiber, such as brown rice, are digested more slowly and therefore provide the body are a more steady supply of glucose. So it is best to eat unrefined versions of starchy foods whenever possible and steer clear of processed foods as white bread.

The Soar and Slump

Our bodies are very carefully designed to maintain balance otherwise know as homeostasis-for example no more or less water in the blood than is ideal, and no more or less of each given hormone. Blood sugar is no exception; in order to avoid potentially dangerous highs and lows the body rapidly compensates for any changes in blood sugar levels caused by food intake or a skipped meal.

Ideally blood sugar levels should fall slightly a few hours after a meal(thus triggering hunger)and rise as the digested meal passes into the bloodstream. However many people’s blood sugar levels rise and fall dramatically throughout the day. When the blood sugar plummets, lethargy, sleepiness, irritability and cravings set in, perhaps even anxiety, palpitations, a head ache or light-headedness. These symptoms of low blood sugar prompt you to react, you have learned that a cup of coffee, soft drinks and chocolate bars or cigarettes will give you a rapid fix you need. (Although coffee and cigarette do not actually contain sugar, they stimulate the release of sugar stores in the body. Alcohol also raises blood-sugar levels only to send them plummeting again soon afterward). Meanwhile your body is busy taking its urgent steps in order to get blood-sugar levels back within the ideal parameters. It rapidly releases stores of glucose and, at the same time, pumps out adrenaline to make sure the fuel gets around the body as quickly as possible.

However is spite of all these efforts to raise the blood sugar levels, the relief from the slump lasts only for a short while. This is because rather than raising blood sugar levels to within the parameters, our ‘quick fix’ often pushes them beyond the ideal maximum. This is caused by a combination of the means we use-the chocolate, coffee, cigarette-and a by-now confused and over reacting body. In order to deal with the sudden excess in blood sugar, the body sends out the hormone insulin, which helps to get glucose out of the blood and into the cells, where it is used for energy. The sudden release of too much insulin then sends blood-sugar levels crashing, leaving yet another fix.

This article is written based on the information on ‘The Kitchen Shrink, foods and recipes for a healthy mind’ from Natalie Savona a trained nutritionist at the acclaimed Institute for Optimum Nutrition in London. 


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