Insulin is a major hormone made in the pancreas. It plays many roles in the body, one of which is to determine whether blood sugar (glucose) will be burned or stored as fat. So for anyone who wants to lose weight and avoid diabetes, cutting down on sugar and the foods the body converts to sugar is paramount. Foods that contain sugar or convert to sugar promote excessive insulin secretion, and include such foods as those made with processed grains, and starchy vegetables. By identifying and avoiding those foods, we can control our insulin levels and reach our ideal weight.
How it works
When foods containing sugar or processed carbohydrates are eaten, blood sugar levels become elevated. In the optimally functioning body, the pancreas then secretes a small amount of insulin into the bloodstream, and the sugar and insulin travel to the liver. At that point, the decision is made as to whether the insulin will facilitate the uptake of sugar into the cells where it will be burned off immediately as fuel, or stored as fat.
Anyone who has consumed a lot of processed carbohydrates for a long period of time may have become insulin resistant. If this is the case, cells will not accept any additional sugar and therefore cannot burn it off. When the cells cannot accept any more sugar for energy, this initiates a further release of insulin from the pancreas, leading to even higher insulin levels.
Prolonged high insulin levels lead to weight gain that starts around the mid-section. Women get thickening in the waist, thighs and stomach. Men get pot bellies. The midsection of the body can be thought of as an insulin meter that lets you know how you are doing. Whether you are overweight or not, if you are thickening up in the midsection, your insulin levels are elevated.
Aging increases the tendency to become insulin resistant, especially if we are low on other hormones. Hormone imbalance leads to weight gain as well as to degenerative diseases, the first of which for many people is diabetes. Overproduction of insulin can also lead to plaque in the arteries and spurs the growth and division of cancerous cells. Breast, colon and prostate cancers have been found to grow more rapidly when stimulated by excessive insulin.
High levels of insulin lead to a deficiency of potassium and therefore an inability to process salt. More fluid held in cells means higher blood pressure. Insulin over-stimulates the nervous system, and this increases blood pressure too. With high blood pressure, the amount of blood pumped out by each contraction of the heart is increased, stretching the wall of the arteries and making them stiffer.
The oestrogen connection
It is important for women to know that when oestrogen levels are low, craving for carbohydrates sets in. This is why women notoriously crave sweets, especially baked goods and chocolate. Low oestrogen makes it impossible for women not to crave carbohydrates because oestrogen is one of the hormones necessary for serotonin production. This begins the vicious cycle of consuming sweets, having your insulin levels zoom up, and craving more sugar and more sweets in turn. Falling into this vicious cycle means that you will age faster, since insulin levels are one of the causes of accelerated metabolic aging. This means that the best way to lower your insulin level is to maintain a hormonal balance, eat real foods with real fats, sleep eight hours a night, and get a good bit of exercise on a daily basis.
Both unprocessed and processed carbohydrates should never be eaten alone, but always in conjunction with protein foods and fats. Foods in their raw state do not produce the high level of insulin response that is produced from cooked foods.
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