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Satiety. One of the simple keys to weight management. How can we eat strategically to feel full while still managing our caloric intake?
Understanding how your body utilizes carbohydrates is important for everyone  – not just people with diabetes.
Why Pay Attention to Carbohydrates?
Carbohydrates are one of three macronutrients (along with fat and protein) that make up the food we eat. Carbohydrates are the first nutrient we utilize for energy. All carbohydrates are metabolized to sugar once they reach the bloodstream, which is why they cause a spike in our blood sugars (fat and protein don’t cause that same spike). Carbohydrate rich foods include fruits, vegetables, milk products and grains. However, it is important to remember that not all foods that fall into these categories are created equal.

High Sugar Foods
In general, grain products that are a whole grain don’t impact your blood sugar as much as refined grains will. With fruits and vegetables, the difference lies in the sugar content.  Low-sugar fruits consist of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit. The high-sugar fruits that spike our blood sugar levels the most include bananas, apples, peaches, pineapple and pears. Vegetables can also be broken into two categories: the “starchy” ones that have a greater effect on blood sugar levels and the “non-starchy” ones that don’t. Starchy vegetables like peas, corn, beets and sweet potatoes raise your blood sugars the most. The “non-starchy’ ones that don’t impact blood sugar levels nearly as much are your salad vegetables like spinach, kale, cucumbers, peppers, broccoli and cauliflower.

How Does This Play Into the ‘Blood Sugar Roller Coaster’?
Any time you eat a carbohydrate by itself, you are going to get a spike in your blood sugar levels.As discussed above, the higher the sugar content/the more refined the food is, the faster your body is going to burn through the food and the faster the spike in blood sugar is going to come down – this is when hunger pangs and craving set in. These large spikes in blood sugar can be detrimental. This leads to imbalances in hormones such as insulin and glucagon, which can lead to weight gain, inflammation and insulin resistance over time. How do we manage this? Two strategies. 1) Focus on consuming less starchy/fruits with a lower sugar/whole grains more often. 2) Always consume protein and a fat source with your carbohydrates. This will soften the effect the carbs have on your blood sugar levels. Basically, my rule is to never eat a carbohydrate alone. Instead of having a whole banana for a snack, have half of a banana with a couple tablespoons of peanut butter and a hard boiled egg.  Better yet, ditch the banana for a low-sugar fruit choice, and have some raspberries (Carb) with your grilled chicken (Protein) topped with sliced avocado (Fat.). 

Bottom- Line:
Avoiding blood sugar spikes is important for everyone as is plays into not only managing satiety, but also has implications for avoiding weight gain, insulin resistance and inflammation. No need to completely avoid carbohydrates though.The positive verdict is that you can still have your fruit! It’s just a matter of balancing it out with the two other important macronutrients.

Written by Nicole Osinga, RD, MAN, BASc

I'm a Registered Dietitian who works with clients in the Durham Region! I use evidence-based recommendations to help you achieve your nutrition goals. I have many hearty and delicious recipes to share! My office is in Courtice, ON. I regularly work with clients from Oshawa, Whitby, Ajax, Pickering, Newcastle, Bowmanville and Courtice.

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