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Optimizing Your Blood Sugar

By Greg Samples


Originally published in Everything Knoxville in August, 2014

It is popular today to blame carbohydrates for much of America’s health woes, especially obesity. Diet plans with little or no carbohydrates have gained a profusion of followers and carbohydrates have been demonized. However, the reality is that carbohydrates are a basic human nutritional need. Unless there is a malfunction, the body will regulate the amount of sugar in the blood to an optimum level, and either too low or too high can cause serious problems.

The body needs all three major nutrients, carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Carbohydrate’s major function is to provide the energy needed by the cells. Although there are many variations, we can break them down into two major components, simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are the sugars found in table sugar, fruit, milk, and other sources such as maple syrup. Complex carbohydrates are found in sources such as beans, grains, and vegetables. Proteins are necessary for the cell-building process, body maintenance, growth, and regulation. They are found most abundant in animal food, beans, and grains. Fat can be stored in the body and provides a reserve source of energy in the event that carbohydrates are not readily available. It provides insulation from heat loss and is also a part of the structure of cell membranes.

We need all three in varying degrees. The most important thing about carbohydrates is their source, which determines whether they are in simple or complex form. Simple carbohydrates enter into the bloodstream quickly, causing blood sugar levels to spike and then to drop below the normal range. On the other hand, complex carbohydrates are slowly broken down by the digestive process and supply a steady supply of fuel for the body. If we have an abundant amount as a part of each meal we are provided with lasting energy that allows us to avoid cravings for snacks between meals and the experience of precipitous energy drops.

In macrobiotics, like traditional Chinese medicine, late summer is the time when the sweet taste is most predominant in our daily fare. Now is a great time to naturally get your sugar levels and consumption under control. Start by including a whole grain, preferably unprocessed, at every meal. Millet is the grain that is most amenable to late summer and is excellent for nourishing the pancreas which regulates blood sugar levels. It is also a good idea to include sweet vegetables that are available during this time such as squashes, onions, and cabbages.

By nourishing yourself with good quality carbohydrates such as these, you may find that your blood sugar level becomes stable, and your cravings for snacks and sweets will recede. Weight stabilization will be more easily achieved, and you can stop worrying about it and just concentrate on enjoying life.

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