Last month we discussed the abundance of sugar in the Standard American Diet and how that affects your energy levels throughout the day. I would like to continue this discussion and look a little closer at how carbohydrates (e.g. sugar) travel through your body and why that is important to understand.
Let’s say, for instance, you eat a piece of white bread. When it reaches your mouth, your salivary glands begin producing an enzyme called amylase. As amylase is beginning the process of breaking down the bread into its simple sugars, you will notice that the bread will become a sweet tasting glob in your mouth.
Once amylase gets stimulated, it also triggers the lower GI system to start producing other enzymes and hormones to continue this digestive process. The problem with products like white bread is that they become broken down so quickly and with such little effort by the body that the small intestine will quickly allow the simple sugars into the blood stream, causing a rapid increase in the level of sugar in the blood.
The response to this blood sugar increase is the release of the hormone insulin from the pancreas. Insulin’s main job is to grab sugar from the blood and pull it into whatever tissue it can, mainly the liver and muscle tissue. Once the liver and muscle cells are full of this stored “glycogen”, the rest needs to go somewhere, so it mainly gets stored as fat.
The body wants to deal with this rapid sugar increase as quickly as possible. It aims to keep your blood sugar tightly regulated for a reason; that free sugar isn’t very good for your blood vessels. You can picture it like a sticky piece of cotton candy floating around. It can cling onto things and wreak havoc.
As mentioned earlier, over time your cells get tired of responding to the constant signal coming from insulin, and the body will try to protect itself by storing the excess sugar as adipose tissue or in other words body fat.
So what can be done to prevent these issues? As you might have guessed it is to cut down on your intake of excess sugar. The solution is simple but also can be difficult. First look at your beverages; sodas and juices contain enormous amounts of added sugar. Next, keep yourself satiated and energized throughout the day with snacks that contain healthy fats like almonds, avocados or walnuts. This will help you avoid the temptation of sweets throughout the day.
As always, feel free to reach out with questions on this topic. We only scratched the surface today. Or ask about what you can do to incorporate healthy fats into your diet at your next appointment. Call to schedule at 612-562-6694.
Written by: Mitchell Rasmussen, Functional Movement Specialist
Edited by: Hannah Steinmetz, D.C.