In this article, we will discuss what to eat for better metabolic health and how to increase energy levels by changing your diet.
When you eat food, carbohydrates are converted into blood sugar or glucose.
In response, your pancreas secretes insulin, a hormone that tells your cells to take in the glucose floating in your bloodstream. Cell membranes are then activated to allow glucose to enter cells, where it is converted into energy.
In type 2 diabetes and its precursor, metabolic syndrome, cells get the message but they just don’t want to listen. They become less responsive to insulin, known as insulin resistance - and glucose accumulates in the bloodstream.
Untreated, these chronically elevated levels of glucose lead to inflammation that can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys and eyes.
The evidence is clear - America’s love of processed foods is having a significant impact on both waistlines and metabolic health.
One problem with processed foods is their glycemic index, an indication of how rapidly the body digests them and extracts glucose. Too much glucose too fast generates a brief high. In response, insulin levels rise rapidly often precipitating a drastic drop in blood sugar. This results in intense cravings for the foods that made us high in the first place.
These dramatic fluctuations in blood glucose trigger a cascade of other hormones that affect many aspects of our metabolism, including brain chemistry.
For example, low blood sugar causes release of cortisol, one of the body’s stress signals. High cortisol levels prevent weight loss and lead to fat accumulation around the midsection. This ‘spare tire’ fat produces its own chemicals that drive inflammation.
So the first step in fighting insulin resistance is developing a strong diet plan - a completely different approach to eating food:
- Eliminate processed foods - many processed foods are nutritionally inert and deficient. Becoming a label reader will help increase your awareness of the foods you consume daily.
- Reduce sugar - combine sugar with fiber and protein, giving your body more time to adjust. Fresh berries and fruits such as apples, plums, and nectarines are low glycemic fruits with a satisfying sweet taste.
- Eat lean proteins, whole grain foods, green leafy vegetables and drink plenty of water - lentils and beans, nuts and seeds are excellent sources of high quality protein when used in moderation due to their high calorie content. Eat organic when possible, especially meats and dairy products.
- Take care of your beneficial gut bacteria - probiotics introduce friendly microbes that help your body with digestion, nutrition absorption, immune system maintenance and many other aspects of health. On the other hand, unhealthy gut bacteria contribute to weight gain. Yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and kimchi (cultured vegetables) are all good sources of friendly bacteria.
- Use healthy oils such as olive, coconut, avocado, and walnut oils - avoid fried foods, as they contain unhealthy oils that have been damaged by high heat. Also avoid peanut, corn, soybean, and safflower oils that are high in omega-6, as well as any products containing partially hydrogenated oils.