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A few posts ago, when talking about gluten free foods and lectin, I mentioned that perhaps a better way to control your weight and stay healthy would be to pay particular attention to the insulin index associated with foods.
Today I would like to dive a little deeper into that subject.
Let’s get started!
What is Insulin?
This blood glucose level control occurs when the liver and muscles and fat cells receive a signal from the insulin to take in glucose from the blood.
If the body has enough energy, then insulin sends a signal to the liver to take up glucose and store it as glycogen. Our bodies then use glycogen as energy when the need arises.
So, insulin is a good thing for our bodies to produce, as it allows the carbohydrates we eat to be converted to energy.
A problem arises when we have too much insulin. Too much insulin in the body has been linked to obesity, heart disease, and cancer. Also, high levels of insulin in your body cause your cells to be resistant to the effects of insulin.
When you become insulin resistant, your pancreas produces even more insulin, and a vicious cycle is produced in the body, with terrible results.
So, insulin is a good thing. Just ask a person with diabetes. Their bodies either don’t make enough insulin, or can’t use the insulin they produce effectively, so they must constantly monitor their blood sugar levels and take appropriate amounts of insulin to regulate the levels of blood sugar to avoid possibly fatal consequences of high (or low) blood sugar.
This is something our bodies do all the time, on their own, thank goodness. We need to ensure that we look after our bodies to maintain this function of insulin.
Allowing our bodies to produce too much insulin can lead to a variety of problems that we should avoid. General well-being can be achieved by paying attention to what we eat, and limiting the production of insulin, allowing it to do its job in our bodies.
Knowing how our bodies react to certain foods is a good place to start.
Every food that we put in to our bodies elicits a rise in sugar in our bodies, and therefore an increase in the amount of insulin produced by the pancreas to deal with the sugar appropriately.
Remember, all the excess sugar that is not needed for energy is stored as fat for use at a later time.
Allow me to digress for a moment to speak of our ancestors, those who foraged for food. When food was plentiful, they ate it, without regard for the storage of fat. They did this because there was always an uncertainty about food availability in the future. They ate when food was available; their bodies used the stores of glycogen and fat for energy when food was not available.
Well, we don’t have that issue. Food is always available. If we eat too much, our bodies will store the excess sugar as fat for use at a later time. When that time arrives, that is we feel hungry, instead of using the excess energy we have stored as glycogen or fat, we eat more food. Voila, we have more energy.
The problem is, we have that extra store of fat we were supposed to use as energy. It just stays there. Then if we eat more energy than we need, the storage occurs again…and again…and again…and the fat starts to accumulate.
We really need to pay attention to what we are eating, both the quality and the quantity. Also, we need to ensure that we are eating the correct quantities of the macro nutrients: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Our bodies deal with these macros in different ways. Remember, carbohydrates are turned in to sugars that we then need insulin to process into energy.
This is where our understanding of the insulin index comes into play
Just a reminder here that eating healthy fats will not make you fat. Your body will process everything you eat into energy. The fat you consume is turned into energy very easily by the body. So as long as you are eating the healthy fats, they will not cause you to store fat. Read this article for the details.
Protein is the third macro. I have gone into great detail on protein and its many uses in the body in this article.
So for now, lets concentrate on carbohydrates, since they are the food that the body must produce insulin to deal with.
Every food that enters our body causes our blood sugar to rise. The insulin index of food represents the elevation of insulin concentration in the blood during the two-hour period after we eat the food.
We eat the food. Our blood sugar increases. Our pancreas sends insulin out to do its job. We measure the increase in insulin to determine the insulin index of the food.
Remember, insulin is good; too much insulin is harmful.
Knowing the insulin index of food can assist you in your food choices, keeping in mind that we need energy, we will get energy from our food, and we don’t eat any of our food in isolation. That is, we combine foods when we eat. So the combination of foods we put in our bodies will elicit a different insulin response than the index below gives.
Just some thoughts to keep in mind. Also, the insulin index is based on an amount of food equivalent to 1000kj (or 250kca) of energy.
Some foods that are high on the insulin index are sugary drinks (soda, juice, sports drinks), processed foods (baked goods, white bread, white rice, pasta), breakfast cereals, yogurts with added sugars, honey, and maple syrup.
Some foods that are low on the insulin index are tuna, milk, eggs, cheese, and avocados.
Here is a chart with the insulin index of a variety of foods.
Just a note, the insulin index is different from the glycemic index. The glycemic index measures the impact on the blood sugar levels when certain foods are eaten. Since, once again, foods are not eaten in isolation, the glycemic index will vary depending on the types of foods we eat.
Since blood sugar is controlled by insulin, a better measure of the effects of the food we eat on the body is the insulin index, since a rise in insulin will indicate a rise in blood sugar.
All that being said, should we eat according to indexes?
Perhaps the question we should be asking ourselves about the food we eat is: Does it control my hunger?
If we can help a person control their hunger, we will help them control their weight over their lifetime.
This is the key for all of us. We need to find a way of eating that satiates us and gives us enough energy to complete our days’ activities. That being said, our society has become much less active. This means we need fewer calories to maintain that activity level.
It can probably be said that most of us consume too much food for the activity level of our lives. The more active we become, the more calories we need.
If we want to lose weight, we need to increase our activity level so our calorie burning is greater than our calorie consumption. This increase in activity along with a decrease in calorie consumption, with expedite the weight loss process.
Keep in mind that consuming sugary foods, carbohydrates included, increases the amount of insulin in our blood to lower the blood sugar, and lower blood sugar triggers the hunger response, causing us to eat more.
We need to find the foods that satiate us (make us feel full), so we can break this cycle.
So there you have it.
All you ever wanted to know about the insulin index of foods. Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor, and the opinions expressed in this article are just that, my opinions.
You will need to read some more and learn some more and then find a pattern of eating and exercise that will allow you to be at your ideal body weight. It is all up to you!
I can only make suggestions. The keto lifestyle will benefit your fat loss journey, and lifting weights will benefit your fitness journey.
But ultimately, you decide, with expert advice, what is best for you!
Thanks for listening.
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.
See you in the next post. Stay Safe.
Have a great day!