You know that insulin is something diabetics take (and monitor) to control “blood sugar.”
Understanding how insulin works will give you a good idea about why added sugar is an important consideration in achieving a healthy diet.
Our Sugar Story
“New research shows this non-nutritive calorie source [sugar] has crept into the American diet over the past three decades. The study details an increase in added sugars consumed by American adults by more than 30% (228 calories per day in 1977 to 300 calories in 2009-2010). During that same time period, calories from added sugars consumed by children increased by approximately 20% (277 to 329 calories per day).” Source: Science Daily.
What’s really scary about this statistic? It’s only the average. The top 20% of people studied actually consumed 721 calories from added sugar per day, and children in that group 673 calories!
What Is “Added Sugar” and How Does It Impact Insulin?
Once upon a time, Americans were advised that sugar was not the evil – that sugar is found in a wide variety of foods including fruits, milk, and (to a lesser degree) vegetables.
That is true.
We were also told that no matter the source of sugars in your diet, even from the sugars naturally occurring in foods like produce and dairy, the body treats it all the same.
That is not true.
Added sugars ” are sugars and syrups that are added to foods or beverages when they are processed or prepared. This does not include naturally occurring sugars such as those in milk and fruits. Source: Choosemyplate.gov.
Sugars that occur naturally are combined with vitamins, antioxidants, polyphenols, sometimes protein (especially in dairy), and fiber. Those nutritional components play a role in how your body metabolizes sugar.
Fiber slows down the digestion of fructose (the naturally occurring sugar in produce). This means that the sugar enters your bloodstream at a slower rate than if you ate a processed sugar contained in, say, a sprinkle doughnut. Fiber also makes you feel “full” and helps prevent overeating.
Why is it important to slow the digestion of sugar?
When sugar enters the bloodstream, your pancreas produces the hormone insulin to tell your body’s cells to open up and let the sugar in. The cells use the sugar for energy.
Then, any unused energy is stored as fat in the muscles, fat cells, and liver.
Fiber keeps the entry of natural sugars more “even.” You avoid the blood sugar spike that occurs when you eat processed foods and sugar. Your pancreas and cells are better able to do their job.
But, a body constantly bombarded by blood sugar spikes experiences the opposite effect.
Your pancreas gets overworked, and your body is unable to remove the sugar from your bloodstream efficiently.
This is called “insulin resistance.”
It is the cause of prediabetes.
Probabilities in Diabetes
“Prediabetes means that your blood sugar level is higher than normal but not yet high enough to be type 2 diabetes. Without lifestyle changes, people with prediabetes are very likely to progress to type 2 diabetes. If you have prediabetes, the long-term damage of diabetes — especially to your heart, blood vessels and kidneys — may already be starting.” Source: Mayo Clinic.
The medical community considers the journey from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes “likely.” This means that eventually, your body will be unable to produce insulin and remove sugar from your bloodstream.
You will have to severely limit your sugar intake (from all sources), and/or take insulin, to avoid fatal damage to your organs and body systems.
If you are a student of probability, you know that “likely” means a chance greater than 50%. It does not mean “certain,” which is a chance of 100%.
Beating the Odds by Avoiding Added Sugar
“Progression from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes isn’t inevitable. Eating healthy foods, incorporating physical activity in your daily routine and maintaining a healthy weight can help bring your blood sugar level back to normal.
Prediabetes affects adults and children. The same lifestyle changes that can help prevent progression to diabetes in adults might also help bring children’s blood sugar levels back to normal.” Source: Mayo Clinic.
Make changes now for yourself and your family. Getting sugar under control in your diet isn’t just a good idea, it is key to living a long, productive, and enjoyable life.
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This post is not intended to offer medical advice. Check with your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise plan.
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