Are all sugars the same?
To our taste buds, sugar from fruit, potatoes or candy all taste the same. Inside, though, our bodies metabolize and use sugars differently based on their type. Today, we will be discussing in very basic terms glucose.
Glucose is by far the most common simple sugar we extract from our diet and one used immediately by our bodies as a fuel source. Many of the foods we eat are broken down into various amounts of glucose. Carbohydrates are by far the biggest contributor to our amount of circulating glucose. Simple carbohydrates such as refined sugars, flours and grains are rapidly digested by our digestive tract and sent quickly into our blood stream. This results in a rapid rise in our blood glucose level. Our body has a strong regulatory process in place to help bring this elevation back under control. The pancreas, sensing this rapid rise in circulating glucose, releases the hormone insulin.
Think of the glucose molecule as a car and insulin as a traffic cop. When our blood glucose is elevated continuously like during rush hour on the interstate things get all jammed up. In comes the traffic cops or insulin to help disperse the cars and get them to where they need to go. Insulin unlocks our cell’s doors to take in glucose. We need glucose to enter our muscle cells and liver cells to fuel our daily processes but we have limited storage capacity in these areas. Once these are filled, the rest goes to fat storage.
Exercising helps to deplete these storage areas quicker so they need to be refilled again. By not choosing your food or fuel wisely, you can short circuit this process over time. By constantly eating a heavy simple carb based diet, you will over work the pancreas causing it to essentially “burn out”. It will not be able to keep up with the chronically high glucose and your cells will become less sensitive to the insulin produced. This is what is known as insulin resistance and leads to diabetes, obesity among other chronic diseases. Being chronically inflamed from our food intake, lack of sleep, stress etc just compounds the situation. It is a very sneaky process and you will not feel this occurring in your body until these chronic diseases present themselves. There are several things you can do to help your body better utilize glucose and prevent these chronic diseases.
Eliminating all processed and refined carbs from your diet will prevent these rapid and high levels of glucose from occurring and placing added stress on the pancreas. Exercising regularly will also help to burn off any extra glucose and empty the storage areas so they need to be refilled more frequently. Keeping tight control on your blood glucose (sugar) will help prevent cravings and help you lose weight. While we do need glucose, we need to be aware of the amount and type we are taking in to help us improve our health and well being.