Insulin is a hormone at the heart of some of our most common chronic health conditions, and a huge contributor to the rise in obesity.
It is a hormone that is connected to what and how we eat, sleep and move. Insulin works to control our blood sugar levels by providing fuel for all cells in the body so they can do their work. However, the role it plays in fat storage is one that maybe unfamiliar.
Insulin is made in the pancreas and released when our blood sugar levels rise, after we eat carbohydrate foods. Its top job is to get those circulating blood sugar levels back to normal. When circulating blood sugar levels remain high over time, this can damage blood vessels, nerves, organs and lead to chronic health conditions.
The food and insulin connection.
We have three macronutrients, (nutrients needed in big amounts), which provide the energy that our bodies require to carry on all the activities of daily life. They are protein, fat and carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the group of foods that contain sugars and starches that further break down into glucose, which we call blood sugar. Glucose is the fuel that the cells use to do their job, kind of like gas for our cars.
The connection works like this. You eat carbohydrates either alone, or in a meal. They break down and are sent into blood circulation as glucose. The pancreas is signaled to release insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin works to escort glucose into the cells and if the cells are full, the rest is stored as fat. In healthy bodies blood sugar levels return to normal over a period of hours.
What are carbohydrate containing foods and are they all the same?
Carbohydrates are mostly found in plants and in milk. Plants containing starches and sugars are responsible for blood sugar rise when they break down into glucose. Milk has naturally occurring sugars which also break down into glucose.
These are foods grown on the farm and are the healthiest options:
Starchy carbohydrate whole food examples include:
Sugar as carbohydrate whole food examples include:
Non-Starchy carbohydrate whole food examples include:
These are foods made in a “Pharm” which are manufactured, highly processed carbohydrates and are the unhealthy options that contribute to making you both sick and fat.
Is insulin bad?
Absolutely not! Without insulin we die. Insulin is essential to life!
Things start to go wrong with our insulin function in most cases because of poor nutrition habits, poor sleep habits and sedentary lifestyles. High reliance on processed foods, eating out, overeating, and grazing all day long can be part of unhealthy patterns with negative impact on insulin output.
Over time we develop something called insulin resistance. This resistance causes us to make ever-higher amounts of insulin because the cells begin to resist allowing sugar into them. This creates a detrimental cycle of constant hunger and cravings, fatigue, foggy brain and increasing body fat. This is the road map toward developing more serious health conditions.
Health-related conditions related to overproduction and poor insulin control:
*(note - Type 1 Diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the pancreas are unable to make insulin and is completely different from Types 2 or 3).
Here at 10 actions you can take immediately to improve your insulin control:
Photo by Yakynina Anastasia on Unsplash
I'm Carmina McGee, MS, RDN, and my mission is to support women to live their happiest, healthiest lives and THRIVE!