We have covered both Physical Activity and Rest in this series. Following the PRIMEpathway
™ wellness model, we now turn to “Intake”, my term for nutrition. We’ll begin by looking at your body’s blood sugar levels and the glycemic roller coaster most Americans are on.
Your blood sugar naturally fluctuates over the course of the day. Meals cause a natural rise in blood sugar as your body converts carbohydrates to sugar molecules for energy. You can picture your blood sugar chart looking like rolling hills throughout the day. The key is to minimize your highs and lows so as to avoid a chart that looks like the world’s scariest roller coaster.
All foods affect your blood sugar (blood glucose) levels differently. Scientists have developed a system to measure this response: glycemic index. The glycemic index rates foods on a scale from 0 to 100, with 100 equaling the same response as consuming pure glucose. An even more accurate measurement is the glycemic load, which accounts for the serving size of a food. So if a food has a high glycemic load (above 70), your blood sugar will see a corresponding spike.
So what’s the big deal with a spike in blood sugar?
Problems arise from the associated hormone response. Insulin surges and cortisol follows right behind. Elevated insulin and cortisol levels can lead to a host of degenerative diseases. Studies have shown links between high glycemic diets and increased risk for prostate, colorectal, pancreatic, and breast cancer and increased risk for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
And if long-term effects don’t scare you, elevated cortisol levels can also contribute to weight gain, visceral fat storage (in the abdomen around the organs), a suppressed immune system, gastrointestinal problems, insomnia, fertility problems, chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid disorders, and depression. And since we just finished talking about sleep quality
, cortisol levels also affect that. In fact, Dr. Pauline Harding
For individuals who start the day with a normal cortisol level, starchy or sugary breakfast food choices can cause the cortisol to overshoot the normal range. The cortisol will likely remain elevated all day – and all night. If the cortisol level is high during the night, an individual will have disrupted rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and will wake up non-refreshed, no matter how many hours of sleep the individual appeared to have.
I could add a few more risks, but that should suffice. What you need to know is eating a high glycemic diet on a continual basis will have a negative impact on your health.
Now that you know the problem, tomorrow we’ll talk about the solution.