So how do refined carbs increase your blood sugar? Diets high in sugar and low in fiber can cause some serious swings in your blood glucose levels. Simple carbohydrates act as a quick source of energy for your body, meaning you don’t have to work very hard to get energy from them. When you eat a sugary meal, the energy is released fairly quickly into your bloodstream in the form of glucose. Too much glucose too often can lead to high blood glucose levels or poor blood sugar control. This can lead to energy crashes, poor appetite control, sugar cravings, and mood swings. And is especially critical for anyone trying to manage diabetes.
Many people prefer to use the Glycemic Index (GI scale) to distinguish between complex and simple carbohydrates. The GI scale ranks carbohydrate foods based on how they impact your blood sugar after eating them using a range of 0 to 100 (100 being the largest impact on blood glucose). For an excellent article listing the precise GI for each food, see https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic-index-and-glycemic-load-for-100-foods
But in order to truly understand a food's impact on blood sugar, you must consider how much glucose a food can deliver into the bloodstream in addition to how rapidly. In other words, just because a low-carb food can be absorbed quickly, doesn't mean it contains enough carbohydrates to spike blood sugar levels. Using glycemic load takes into account both and tends to be a stronger measurement of a carbs impact.
Regardless, neither glycemic index nor load considers your overall diet. Eating a high GI/GL food in a mixed dish or on occasion is likely not going to result in uncontrolled blood sugar. Having a donut for breakfast is going to impact your energy levels much more drastically than adding a little honey to your oatmeal.
Eating too many refined carbs will negatively impact your health. High sugar intake is linked to weight gain, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Too much sugar in the diet can lead to increased blood cholesterol, a risk factor for heart disease. Excess sugar intake is also associated with high blood glucose and insulin resistance, which in turn could increase your risk of developing type two diabetes. So if you are concerned about your blood sugar control, scaling back on refined carbohydrates or total carb intake will certainly help, but you should always check with your doctor and get regular blood tests to assess your health status first.
Additionally, because of the impacts on blood sugar and appetite, many argue that refined carbs can lead to overeating and weight gain. And they have been used in association studies to demonize sugar as the cause of the obesity epidemic.
All of these factors are why the American Heart Association recommends limiting your added sugar intake to less than 25 grams of sugar per day.
However, it is crucial to note that sugar alone won't cause you to gain weight, only too many calories can do that. And the occasional sugary food or beverage will not destroy your health.
The bottom line is that weight loss and improving your health go far beyond the type of carbohydrates you eat. However, aiming to get more “good” carbs in the right amounts can support your daily nutritional needs, improve your appetite control, and support better energy levels throughout the day.
If you are looking to cut back on refined carbohydrates, aim to eat more whole grains and high-fiber foods, and limit your intake of empty calories and highly processed foods. But, whatever you do, don't beat yourself up for the occasional splurge. All foods can fit into a healthy lifestyle!
If you’d like more information on nutrition and how to eat the best way that is reasonable and sustainable for you, please contact me at 843-295-9114. My services are complimentary to you as part of Dr. Gigante’s medical practice.
In addition, if anyone would like to see a particular health and wellness issue addressed, please email me your suggestions at LeighanneLakeKubec@gmail.com
Wishing you all a healthy and happy life.