Saturday, May 22, 2010

Insulin, Sugar + Fat.

(Top: It's not a party favor- it's insulin!
BL: Sugar Ills BR: Fat)

What is the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear "insulin"? I would be surprised if you didn't say "diabetes". Insulin is an important pancreatic endocrine hormone necessary in the human body for blood sugar level regulation, as well as producing energy for the body as glucose.

Tsunami of sugar = Tsunami of insulin.
Too much insulin blocks receptor sites.

The amount of sugar you eat directly affects your insulin levels, because the body releases insulin based on the amount of sugar you ingest. Insulin's main function is to carry sugar, with the help of chromium and magnesium to the receptor sites. There is another route into the cells known as the GLUT4 Vesicle with the help of biotin and alpha lipoic acid. Most people greatly lack chromium, magnesium, biotin and alpha lipoic acid, which are necessary to carry out this very important function. I should mention that magnesium alone aids in sugar getting into the cells. If sugar is unable to get into the cells the body will turn it into a triglyceride- storing the energy as fat.

(Image found HERE)

Insulin is needed and necessary for the cells to receive the proper amount of sugar they need to burn for energy. However, an overload of insulin wears out the pancreas and shuts off the insulin receptor sites. With this excess insulin and shut off receptor sites results in extra storage of sugar as Fat. Additionally, excess insulin ages you, as it increases levels of cortisol while lowering levels of serotonin.

Diabetes Type I: not having enough insulin.
Diabetes Type II: lacking working receptor sites.

Sugar upsets your gut flora (can lead to yeast and fungus), taxes the liver, affects the adrenals, burns protein (know as glycosylation of your protein), and so on. Too much sugar will also tire out your pancreas, which then may no longer respond to the body's needs correctly. See more about sugar in my post: Sugar Ills.

(dates, figs + bananas)

1. Watch What You Eat.
Many don't realize how much sugar they are ingesting and what harm it does. Yes- this includes those of us claiming to be the "healthiest of eaters". For the most part, we can agree that if a food is natural it is better for us especially in comparison to processed foods. However, even if you follow a strict au natural diet- you still need to carefully watch your sugar intake. Do you eat a ton of fruit??? Fruit though au natural is full of sugar! Dates, bananas, and figs for example are HIGH in sugar and are best eaten with a green salad. They all have a very high glycemic index rating and greatly increase insulin levels!

2. Know Your Blood Sugar Level.
There are two blood tests available to find out just how much sugar is in your blood.
An optimal blood sugar level is 80. Pre-diabetic is 90.

: this test reflects your average blood sugar level for the past two to three months. Specifically, the A1C test measures what percentage of your hemoglobin — a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen — is coated with sugar (glycated). The higher your A1C level, the poorer your blood sugar control.

Fructosamine Test
: this test is also used to measure the during of glycosylation of protein, which is the burning of protein by sugar. The difference is that the fructosamine test measures levels over a period of two to three weeks, rather than two or three months.

(Image found HERE)

3. Learn About the Different Types of Sugar.
Sugars, also known as glucids or carbohydrates, are fundamental components of all living matter and are nutrients, just like proteins and lipids. Sugars can be categorized as either simple or complex depending on their chemical structure, in other words the number of saccharides (glucids) they are composed of. There are complex and simple sugars.

For a long time, complex and simple sugars were classified according to their chemical structure. Simple sugars were considered to be quick, rapidly absorbed sugars, while complex sugars were thought to be slow sugars. But that theory couldn't be more wrong! It is not the sugar's chemical structure that determines whether it is a complex sugar or a simple sugar, but rather how fast the rise in blood glucose is triggered by its ingestion.

Let's take the example of fructose. Despite its simple chemical structure, it does not trigger a rapid increase in blood insulin content. It is therefore considered to be a sugar with a low glycemic index. Potatoes or rice, on the other hand, despite their complex chemical structure, cause a rapid increase in blood insulin content, and are therefore considered to be food with a high glycemic index.

Let's further define sugar. It is an informal term for a class of edible crystalline substances, mainly sucrose, lactose, and fructose characterized by a sweet flavor. In food, sugar almost exclusively refers to sucrose, which primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet. In both cases, the plants are crushed to exude their sweet juices, and the juice is allowed to crystallize into a loose crumble. This crumble can be sold as-is, but it is usually washed, allowed to crystallize, and then sold or refined as needed. Please note: not all sugars are listed. As it is I think I listed too many, but if you are interested in finding out more- do your due diligence and research further. :)
  • Raw Cane Sugar/Sugar Cane: from the sugarcane plant. It has been minimally processed and at the first stage of the sugar cane refining process. It has all it's minerals intact.
  • Turbinado Sugar: Unlike granulated sugar, turbinado sugar crystals are much larger and made at an earlier period in the sugar cane processing method. It retains some of the flavor of molasses, a natural byproduct of the sugar process. It also is considered by some to be “healthier” since it receives less processing than does white sugar.
  • White Sugar: is the same as raw cane sugar plus it's further processed. Multiple washings are used, with some sugar refineries even bleaching their sugar to get it as white as possible. After the sugar has been sufficiently refined, it can be allowed to dry before it is packaged. It is without it's natural minerals. It's an irritant and not good for the body.
  • Brown Sugar: Same as above- just blended with molasses.

Sugar Alcohols
Sugar alcohols are carbohydrates- also called "polyols". Part of their chemical structure resembles sugar, and part of it resembles alcohol -- hence the confusing name. Sugar alcohols occur naturally in plants. Some of them are extracted from plants (sorbitol from corn syrup and mannitol from seaweed), but they are mostly manufactured from sugars and starches. Sugar alcohols are like sugar in some ways, but they are not completely absorbed by the body. Because of this, the blood sugar impact of sugar alcohols is less and they provide fewer calories per gram.
  • Xylitol: Originally came from only Birch trees. Non-metabolized. Antibacterial properties- very good use is in dental hygiene.
  • Inositol: is a naturally occurring nutrient. In the human body, it plays a major role in preventing the collection of fats in the liver, as well as promoting healthy hair growth. The presence of the nutrient also aids in efficient processing of nutrients into the conversion of energy, which in turn helps the body to maintain a healthy metabolism. Inositol also can be considered brain food, as the nutrient is necessary to properly nourish the brain.
  • Sorbitol: Quicken the bowels, though I have heard some experience the same with xylitol. I chew a natural gum containing xylitol and haven't any problems... though I don't chew lots of gum.

Natural Sweeteners
  • Stevia: (STEE-vee-uh) is a South American shrub whose leaves have been used for centuries by native peoples in Paraguay and Brazil to sweeten their beverages. It is non-metabolized and has an acquired sweet taste. However, there are questions that have arisen about it's affect on reproduction, cancer and energy metabolism.
  • Date Sugar: Is ground up from dehydrated dates, therefore is more a food than a sweetener- though dates as previously mentioned are HIGH on the glycemic index.
  • Honey: Look for organic and raw.

Man-Made Sweeteners
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup: is a highly refined, artificial product. It is created through an intricate process that transforms cornstarch into a thick, clear liquid. White sugar and "high-fructose corn syrup" are not the same. Industry advocates for corn growers say that they are the same, but nutritional science studies say that there is a big difference between the two. They say that "high-fructose corn syrup is worse than sugar.

4. Check out the Glycemic Index of Foods.
There is a bit of controversy over this- how it's done and if you look on different sites it varies. However I think it gives a good rough idea of foods to be a little wary of your intake. Generally by how sweet things are I think you should be able to make a good decision for yourself. Bitter just might be better.

5. Supplement your diet.
Take chromium, biotin, magnesium and alpha lipoic acid (all of which most people greatly lack) to help ensure sugar is getting into your cells.

Are you confused? These days... in order to eat a well balanced diet we need to be aware of many facets... natural, organic, GMO, knowing thy farmer, if it's local, processed, sugar/sweeteners, the glycemic index, food combinations, etc. But it can be done. And this is not to add stress, rather it's just a good reminder that there is no one rule for all. We just need to be smart.

I am forever fascinated, in awe and grateful when I think about how complex and wonderful our bodies are and how they take care of us. We need to take care of our bodies too!

p.s. I must confess as I began writing this post I had a mad craving for a decadent coconut cupcake, which I most likely will indulge in one day very soon. It won't kill me, but will I eat one every day? Definitely not. Will I make sure I eat other really good things for me that day? Most definitely yes.

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