Do you ever have the feeling that no matter how long you have been following your healthy food plan, you’re just not seeing the results as quickly as you’d like? We live in a world with instant gratification, and need to learn to practice patience, especially when it comes to implementing healthy behaviors. But whether you see the results immediately or not — from the number on your scale to a drop in pants size — your body actually responds the instant you begin to make healthier food choices.
From the moment you consume food, your blood glucose rises. Glucose is a type of sugar used by the body to provide energy. How fast your blood glucose rises, and by how much, depends on how quickly your body can break down the food. One way of measuring the speed at which the foods increase one’s blood glucose is using the glycemic index (GI). Foods low on the glycemic index scale tends to release glucose slowly and steadily, while foods that have a higher glycemic index (think white bread, white potatoes, candy and soda) release glucose rapidly. Why does this matter? Sharper fluctuations in blood glucose can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
Picture your mid-afternoon vending machine run. You choose pretzels and a soda (a snack high in solely carbohydrates). You’ll enjoy a very short-lived spike in blood sugar, followed by its inevitable crash. Instead, choose a combination of foods that will keep your blood sugar in a more consistent range. By choosing a more balanced snack of a carbohydrate plus a protein (say, an apple with a bit of peanut butter), you will buy yourself a few extra hours of sustained energy.
This same physiological process also affects our mental wellbeing. According to research, the way that low-glycemic foods release a slower amount of glucose into your body actually helps to optimize focus! Similarly, when your body is recovering from a high splurge in glucose, it can impair our memory due to inflammation of the brain structure. Inflammation has been recognized as a risk factor for dementia and other degenerative diseases.
While some extreme diets may suggest otherwise, the bottom line is pretty simple — we all need a balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber and vitamins and minerals to sustain optimal health, both physically and mentally.
Courtney Moskal is a Corporate Wellbeing Consultant at Walsh Duffield, she works with the agency’s group benefits clients to implement holistic and effective wellbeing programs. Courtney is a Registered Dietitian and holds a Master’s degree in Exercise Science & Nutrition from James Madison University and a Bachelor’s degree in Business from the University of Richmond. In addition, she is an ACE Certified Health Coach and a member of the Western New York Dietetic Association.