A key factor in maintaining a healthy lifestyle is controlling levels of blood glucose, or blood sugar.
Insulin: The Regulator of Blood Glucose
The main regulator of glucose in the bloodstream is insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is produced by beta cells and steadily released into the bloodstream. The beta cells that produce insulin are located in the pancreas. Levels of insulin are calibrated in order to maintain appropriate blood glucose levels. When the level of insulin is high, glucose is driven out of the bloodstream and into fat, muscle, and liver cells and stored for use in the future. When the level of insulin is low, glucose and fats are released into the bloodstream.
How is Glucose Produced?
Between meals and during sleep insulin levels drop and remain consistent. The low level of insulin aid the body in using up stored energy sources (e.g., fat and glycogen), while also releasing glucose from the liver. This process is known as basal insulin. When you haven’t consumed a meal for a substantial period of time, glucose levels should be approximately 60 to 100mg/dl. After a meal, the level of insulin that is released from the pancreas increases rapidly. The burst of insulin produced after consuming food is known as bolus insulin. After eating, levels of blood glucose peak at approximately less than 140mg/dl and later taper to the range that was present before the meal, or the baseline range. The high levels of insulin that are produced after a meal aid removal of blood glucose in the blood stream in order to be stored for use in the future.
How to Maintain Healthy Levels of Blood Glucose
One method to control blood glucose is to consume a diet that is healthy. This means eating foods and drinking beverages that are digested slowly, as they do not lead to spikes in blood glucose. Using the glycemic index to measure the effects that certain foods have on blood glucose levels can be helpful. Foods that are helpful in controlling blood glucose typically have a low or medium score on the glycemic index.
Examples of foods that have low to medium scores on the glycemic index include:
- Whole wheat breads
- Sweet Potatoes
Other methods to control blood glucose levels include:
- Maintaining hydration
- Eating smaller portions
- Avoiding skipping meals
- Reducing stress levels
- Losing weight