It’s no big surprise that junk food is not good for us. Why else would it be called ‘junk’? We know sugar and refined foods can make us fat. Have you ever wondered about the mechanism inside us that makes this happen? Hopefully this post will shed some light on what our bodies are doing when we eat those sweets and encourage you to cut back or eliminate refined foods completely.
Refined carbohydrates are essentially no different than pouring pure sugar down our throats. When refined, the vast majority of the fiber is removed, which means the carbohydrate is broken down to simple sugars and assimilated much quicker than unrefined complex carbs. Since the simple sugars are assimilated so quickly, our blood sugar levels experiences a rapid spike. It’s this spike that gives us a false sense of energy.
When our body senses this spike, it immediately responds with an attempt to re-establish homeostasis (i.e. bring the blood sugar back down). Insulin is the hormone released by our pancreas which stimulates our liver to increase its uptake and conversion of glucose in our blood to glycogen. Basically, this means the liver is triggered to remove sugar from our blood.
Although this process occurs whenever we eat, a problem arises with refined foods. The spike in blood sugar I mentioned before will trigger such a dramatic release of insulin that our bodies essentially over-compensate. Our blood sugar level plummets below a normal level. This may make you feel tried, shaky, and worst of all hungry. So the natural reaction is to grab something to eat that will spike your blood sugar again. You can see how the cycle perpetuates itself.
Unfortunately, lowering blood sugar is not the only effect insulin has on our body. An elevated insulin level tells our body to store the sugar as fat and burn muscle for energy instead. So our body will keep and increase the amount of fat, even if the number of calories are lowered.
If that’s not bad enough, insulin also inhibits various other hormones in the body, such as glucagon and HGH (Human Growth hormone). Gucagon is another hormone normally released by the pancreas, but has the opposite effect to insulin. It triggers the body to burn fat and raise blood sugar. HGH not only tells our body to burn fat, but it also stimulates lean muscle mass growth, which in turn creates higher metabolism and additional fat burning.
Now that you have a basic understanding of what goes on inside us when we eat sugar and refined foods, what’s the next step? Breaking this vicious sugar cycle I just described can be difficult. There are a few things you can do make it easier to eliminate refined foods from your diet:
Include some healthy fats with your food – Consuming a bit of good fat with your food will help slow down digestion and stabilize blood sugar levels. Some great sources include organic butter from grass-fed animals, unrefined virgin coconut oil and organic raw milk cheese. We also need fat for the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
Increase your fiber intake – Fiber slows the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates into the blood stream. This means you will get a more gradual release of sugar so your body can process it effectively. It also helps by increasing insulin sensitivity. This means your pancreas will not need to secrete as much insulin, thereby reducing your chances of having the crash afterward.
Include protein in your meals – Protein will also help to slow digestion and stabilize blood sugar levels. Whether you’re looking for a snack, or a full meal, there are plenty of excellent protein sources, such as almonds, whole grains like quinoa and millet, pasture-raised organic chicken eggs, and of course organic, grass-fed meats.
Eat unrefined, whole complex carbohydrates – unrefined, whole foods will not only contain the fiber and benefits as mentioned above, but complex carbs require more steps to be broken down into simple sugars. This slower process means your energy will be more gradual and sustainable.
Vitamins and Minerals – Although I believe you can get the proper vitamins and minerals from dietary sources, it may be necessary to temporarily supplement your diet with various nutrients that are known to help regulate blood sugar levels. Some of the key nutrients include chromium, Vitamin C & E, potassium and zinc.
So if you’re looking to shed some pounds, don’t focus so much attention on your caloric intake. Work on cutting out the refined, simple sugars and boosting your energy naturally. Healthy, sustainable weight loss is a gradual process.
Do you need support breaking this cycle? Call me.