Unless you have diabetes, you’ve probably never given your blood glucose—the amount of sugar in your blood—a second thought. But researchers now know that a diet loaded with foods that send blood glucose on a roller-coaster ride of highs and lows can increase your risk of heart disease by damaging blood vessels and raising cholesterol. It can even chip away at your memory and increase the risk of certain cancers. While you may not notice a problem, that doesn’t mean there isn’t one; you may actually be on a path that shaves years off your life.
Fortunately, none of this damage happens overnight, and even modest changes to the foods you eat every day can start you on a healthier routine and make you feel more alert and energized immediately.
What Blood Sugar Does
When you need a quick pick-me-up, do you reach for a handful of candy or a couple of cookies? These “fast-acting” foods are handy and the simple sugars they contain take no time at all to dissolve in your stomach. They race into your bloodstream, flooding your body with blood glucose and temporarily boosting energy. The trouble is that the surge doesn’t last long, and when the crash comes, you may feel listless, headachy, and ravenously, must-eat-something-sugary-this-minute hungry.
Why Controlling Blood Glucose Matters
Our diets are full of foods that send us for a ride on the glucose roller coaster. So it’s no wonder many of us have less energy than we’d like. For most people, even when blood glucose skyrockets after a large meal, the body can bring it back to normal in a few hours with no problem. Those with untreated diabetes have blood glucose levels that stay quite high most of the time. For a long time, doctors thought that only diabetics needed to be concerned about the effect of food on their blood glucose levels. Now we know that even in healthy people, high levels after meals can, over time, damage the body, even if diabetes never develops.
May 2010 issue of Best Health magazine