By Doc Mok
Sugar is abundant in the American diet. The evolutionary drive to consume sugar is strong. For our ancestors, the drive to seek sugar was vital to survival. Glucose (sugar) allowed our ancestors to generate energy quickly to escape predators and to store energy in fat cells ready for use in times of low glucose intake. This week 5 Sugar Saving Strategies to Combat Insulin Resistance
Our bodies are easily capable of turning glucose into energy. We crave sweet treats not only for taste but also for the survival benefits ingrained in our DNA. As the need for glucose for survival has decreased, our access to glucose has increased. These changes have created excess glucose in the American diet and increased storage of glucose in our bodies. We see the result of excess storage on a daily basis in the obesity epidemic.
The Main Hormone: Insulin
There are two primary hormones that regulate glucose (sugar) in the body. Insulin causes storage of glucose in cells for later use as energy. Glucagon allows the body to mobilize glucose out of cells for energy production.
Insulin is made in the pancreas and is used throughout the body to manage the glucose we take into our bodies. After a meal including carbohydrates, the pancreas makes insulin to allow the body to store glucose so that cells can perform vital functions. In times of excess glucose, the energy is stored for later use.
With diabetes, there is a problem with insulin function. Type I diabetes, the insulin making cells are destroyed and the body is unable to produce insulin. Versus type II diabetes, the body makes insulin but it does not work properly. This is called insulin resistance. As a result of poor insulin function, the body overproduces insulin leading to excess glucose storage. Excess storage increases belly fat and fat around vital organs. While most of us are aware of our belly fat, the fat around our vital organs is much more dangerous as it can lead to organ damage and cancer development.
How is insulin resistance treated? Physicians use medications to help the body cope with diabetes. However, there are choices we can make to help decrease insulin resistance in the case of diabetes or to decrease risk of developing insulin resistance.
Steps to Improving Insulin Resistance
- Eliminate added sugar and limit overall sugar intake to 25-50 grams per day
- Choose low glycemic index foods
- Consider mobilizing ketones for energy
- Intermittent fasting
Manage Your Sugar Intake To Lower Insulin
With some simple changes, you can decrease glucose intake. The most obvious way is to eliminate sugary beverages like soda. Diet drinks are not a better alternative as the body will still store the excess energy as fat. Sugar can hide in other beverages as well. Fruit juices have high sugar content. Added sugar to tea and coffee can be reduced or eliminated to decrease sugar intake. Honey is somewhat healthier than adding sugar but remember, the body cannot discriminate from cane sugar and sugar from natural sources like honey or fruit. Though fruit contains cancer-fighting phytochemicals and micronutrients they also contain sugar. If you are having sugar, fruits are the best source.
Aim to limit your sugar intake to 25-50 grams per day, which is NOT MUCH! Be sure to read labels and think about portion sizes when you are allocating your sugar budget each day.
Choosing Low Glycemic Index Foods Reduce Insulin Response
The glycemic index of a food indicates how much insulin is produced in response to consumption of that food. Simple carbohydrates cause an increase in insulin, examples of high glycemic index foods: soda, white rice, pasta, breads. Low glycemic index foods cause a much smaller insulin release and include vegetables.
Mobilizing Ketones to Combat Insulin Resistance
Another consideration is switching the energy workforce. Instead of using glucose for energy, you can mobilize fat stores for energy in the form of ketones. This is the basis for the ketogenic diet. The body uses ketones for energy only if carbohydrate intake is low: 50-100 grams per day. It is important to understand the ketogenic diet entirely before trying it out, it is not for everyone!
Improve Insulin Resistance with Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is another classic method for lowering insulin resistance and has been around for centuries. Giving the cells a periodic break in the need to respond to glucose and insulin will help to decrease energy storage and help to mobilize energy stores during fasting. See our post: INTERMITTENT FASTING.
Exercise Away Insulin Resistance
Another important way to manage the body’s energy storage and insulin function is through exercise. By using the energy that the body takes in, there is a decreased need for insulin to move that energy into storage. The best way to do this is with high intensity interval training (HIIT) and with moderate-intensity walking. These types of exercise help balance hormones and burn fuel (in addition to many other health benefits)!
Our bodies crave glucose (sugar) to provide energy for daily activities and are very efficient at storing energy (in the form of fat) for later use. The obesity epidemic is related to easy access to glucose and decreased physical activity. When glucose intake and physical activity are not balanced, insulin resistance can develop. To prevent or reduce insulin resistance, limit sugar intake, avoid added sugars, choose low glycemic index foods (like vegetables), get regular exercise, and consider ketosis and intermittent fasting.