Humans were not designed to eat a carbohydrate-heavy diet as big food companies and the government would have you believe. Today, the so much of the Standard Australian Diet (SAD) is made up of carbohydrates that our blood sugar is constantly too high. Our human bodies are actually breaking under the pressure!
As a result we are seeing metabolic diseases such as obesity, Type-2 diabetes becoming the norm. And these are just the diseases that are obviously linked to diet and obesity. But what is even scarier is the rampant increase in so-called Type-3 diabetes: Alzheimer’s and dementia.
These neurological conditions can also be linked to toxic high blood sugar. Keep reading to find out how…
Back to basics
Before we delve into why you need to understand that there are six types of nutrients humans need: water, fat, protein and carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. The nutrients that give us energy from food are fat, protein and carbohydrate.
Glucose and blood sugar
Another word to describe carbohydrate in the body is glucose. Glucose is the form of energy that ALL carbohydrate becomes. In essence glucose is sugar. This is the energy our cells run on, but we don’t just get glucose from carbohydrate.
Our bodies also have the ability to turn fat and protein into glucose for energy.
In addition to being able to use fats and proteins as glucose or energy, these two important nutrients serve many other purposes in the body. They are the building blocks of our cells, hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters; inflammation regulators; ingredients for our structural tissue and the essential for our DNA. We get all of the building blocks we need from protein and fat.
For this reason protein and fats are superior energy sources.
However, there are even more reasons, other than being the building blocks for life, that carbohydrate should be limited in the diet. Before we do go on however, I want to emphasise that I do not think you should exclude all carbohydrates from you diet.
DID YOU KNOW: everything that isn’t protein and fat is carbohydrate.
So vegetables and fruits are a great source of carbs. Spinach, carrots, apples – these are all excellent and very healthy carbohydrate sources that contribute to a balanced diet. The problem carbs are the refined carbohydrates like bread, cereal, pasta and rice. These deliver far in excess of the carbohydrate your body needs, and much more than the human body evolved to tolerate.
Australians are inundating their bodies with refined carbohydrates and sugar. We have not evolved to handle this load.
Humans have a very limited capacity to store carbohydrates in the body.
Compared with fats (15%) and protein (18%), carbohydrate only accounts for 2% of our body weight.
This is because when carbohydrate enters the body is all becomes glucose and we don’t really have a place to keep it.
Evolutionarily humans haven’t had access to huge amounts of glucose in one go…until a few hundred years ago
As hunter-gatherers out diets consisted of animal products, leaves and then the occasional lucky berries or honey – not a whole lot of glucose. Now however we have constant, bread, cakes, pasta, rice, oats and beans (yes beans are a carb) on hand. Our bodies actually just don’t know how to cope!
Both high and low blood sugar can be toxic to the body…
Both high blood sugar and low blood sugar aka high blood glucose and low blood glucose can be deadly states for our body. That’s why the body has amazing mechanisms that very tightly regulate blood sugar levels. These mechanisms are controlled by some pretty cool hormones: insulin, glucagon, cortisol and adrenaline.
I am sure that many people have heard of insulin, perhaps in the context of diabetes. Insulin serves many purposes:
- Brings down high blood sugar levels
- Helps the body store glucose in our cells, liver, muscle and fat
- Acts as a satiety hormone by telling our body our cells have been fed.
How our bodies deal with blood sugar: 3 steps
When we eat any kind of carbohydrate our blood glucose levels rise. To counter this our body pumps out insulin which serves as a carrier and takes the glucose to our cells to be used as energy. But because our cells can also get glucose from protein and fat (I will explain how later), our need for cellular glucose isn’t all that high.
Next the insulin will take glucose to the liver and muscles, where very small amounts can be stored for alter. Highlighting just how much our body doesn’t want excess glucose lying around, is the fact that glucose is actually converted to something else (glycogen) for muscle and liver storage.
By the time we have put glucose into the liver and muscles our blood sugar should be dropping. But if you eat carbohydrates in the quantities of a normal Standard Australian Diet, then blood sugar will still be too high than what is safe. The only other place the body can store the leftover sugar is in our fat cells. Great!
Excess blood sugar is directly converted into fat.
There are two ways glucose can be stored as fat, either in our adipose tissue cells – fat cells; or as triglyceride molecules that circulate in the blood. Neither are ideal and high levels of excess fat and high blood triglycerides are markers of ill-health.
Obesity is our body’s protective response to excess glucose
When our bodies store our excess glucose as fat they aren’t working against us. In fact, this is the way in which our bodies protect us from the toxicity of high blood sugar. Obesity is reaching crisis proportions, but we need to view it differently.
Excess weight gain is the result of excess carbohydrate consumption. It is the way our body protects itself. Do your body a favour back and stop overfeeding it with carbs.
Fat and protein provide the building blocks for healthy bodies as well as the energy our cells need to keep us alive. We have plenty of storage capacity for both fats and proteins as these building blocks – not just fat. Because fat does not equal body fat. Remember: Excess carbohydrate equals excess body fat.
There are plenty of other delicious and nourishing food sources you can try instead.
- High quality fats: visit this page to learn why saturated fat is a nourishing, healthy food
- Animal products: nutrient dense, tasty and very satiating
Final words on blood sugar…
This has been a quick look at why how excessive carbohydrate consumption is treated by your body. The end product is usually obesity, but that is just the beginning. In Part II of this post I will look at how chronically high blood sugar leads to diabetes and neurological conditions such as Alzheimers and Dementia.
Very scary stuff.