You’ve just sat down in front of the TV – work’s finished, dinner’s done, and the washing-up can wait. You’re 15 minutes into the latest episode of your favourite series, sleeve of cookies or bag of crisps within arm’s reach. Before you’ve hit the first commercial break half the bag’s gone and the crumbs on your hands and lips the only proof they were ever there. “How’d that happen?” you might think or “I didn’t even realise what I was doing”.
Case in point, the effect of sugar on body and brain. Since humans discovered its pleasurable source and ability to stimulate the deepest rewards centres of our brain, we haven’t been able to get enough of the stuff – figuring out ways to use it, refine it, find new sources of it; how to fake it, how to bake it, how to manipulate it – all the while as our bodies try to figure out how to process the overload.
As the sedentary lifestyle and prodigious diet of our 21st century jolts our pancreases into overdrive, so too do rates of Type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome (abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, blood glucose, and cholesterol/lipids).
Foods high in sugar (glucose) trigger reward responses in the brain and invoke greater sensations of hunger as compared to low-glycaemic alternatives. This in turn produces high blood sugar which drives an addictive response in the brain which can lead to further over-eating. And, much like drug addiction, over time greater amounts of glucose are needed to generate the same pleasure response in our brain’s reward centre. On top of that, high-glycemic foods are also generally associated with high fat and/or salt content.
To make it simple, all foods fall along the spectrum of a glycemic index – meaning how much glucose (or sugar) they contain. To reduce the harmful effects of high-blood sugar in those with diabetes or pre-diabetes, following a low-glycemic diet is key. If you think you might be at-risk of falling into one of these categories, reducing your intake of dietary sugar and going low-glycemic may be worth considering. Here’s what you should know.
Foods that turn to sugar in the body
Try these easy trade-offs to help kick-start your journey towards low-glycemic eating.
Chickpea curry with pumpkin and baby spinach
This savoury crowd-pleaser is light on sweetness and lush on spice.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes