At every meal and snack.time, it is really important to consider food choices in terms of blood sugar balance. Consuming high sugar foods, such as pasta, bread, cereals, sugary snacks and confectionery and crisps, provides a quick burst of energy, but also a spike in blood sugar, because of the negative impact this exerts on insulin. Insulin is a hormone which is responsible for keeping blood sugar levels within the normal range. It functions to open channels on cell membranes, which allows glucose to travel from the bloodstream into the body’s cells.
After carbohydrate rich meals and snacks, insulin is overproduced and levels become high rapidly. Lots of these cell membrane channels open up, which causes blood sugar levels to drop to very low levels. This may cause fatigue, mood swings, weight gain, headaches, as well as cravings for more sugary foods, starting the whole negative cycle all over again. If this carries on for prolonged periods of time, cell membranes may struggle to recognise insulin (this is known as insulin resistance), causing a reduction in cell membranes opening to allow for the transfer of glucose from the blood stream into cells. This causes both insulin and blood sugar levels to remain high, while cells are unable to sufficiently obtain glucose. Cells in the pancreas, the organ in the body where insulin is produce, become exhausted as they are under excessive pressure to overproduce insulin. No longer able to produce adequate amounts of insulin, blood sugar imbalance is further exacerbated. This is, in essence, the story of how type II diabetes develops. Type II diabetes, a serious disease characterised by high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and excessive thirst, urination and hunger, may increase the risk of developing complications such as eye disease, kidney disease, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, gangrene and stroke.
So what can be done, at meal times and snack times, to help to keep blood sugar levels balanced? What steps can we take that may help to protect us from developing type II diabetes?
As previously mentioned, consuming high sugar foods, such as pasta, bread, cereals, sugary snacks and confectionery and crisps all may have a negative effect on blood sugar. It is very common for meals and snacks to be centred around these foods. Quite easily, one could have a bowl of sugary cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch and pasta for dinner, with snacks of confectionery and crisps throughout the day. Reducing these foods as much as possible, while substituting them for healthier alternatives, is a very important step for those who are wishing to achieve more stable blood sugar levels.
Basing meals and snacks around protein foods, such as meat, fish, eggs, pulses, nuts, seeds and legumes, accompanied with salads, vegetables and small portions of fruit, is a wonderful way to improve the nutritional quality of your daily food intake. Additionally, this may help to keep blood sugar levels more balanced, as instead of a sudden blood sugar rush, energy is released more slowly. This may result in increased satiety, energy, and may also help to prevent the development, in the long run, of type II diabetes.
I will be doing a series of posts, exploring meal and snack ideas for an example of a one day food plan, which incorporates these principles in fun and delicious ways.
Today, we will begin with two nourishing and easy to make breakfasts:
Blueberry and Walnut Porridge (Oatmeal)
1 cup of oats or gluten free oats
1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup of walnuts
1/4 cup of pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup of blueberries
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
Put 1 cup of oats or gluten free oats into a bowl
Boil a kettle of hot water and gently pour onto the oats, stirring until the mixture becomes creamy and porridge like. Then add in the almond milk, stirring until the porridge takes on a creamy texture. Then stir in the cinnamon, and add the walnuts and blueberries.
*note: the method I use to make porridge is perhaps a little different from the norm, but it tastes great this way and takes half the time.
Poached Egg and Avocado
1 ripe avocado
Poach the eggs. Cut avocado in half and remove outer shell and stone. Chop the avocado into slices. Serve with the poached eggs for a protein rich and filling breakfast.