By: Pamela Egan, FNP-C CDE
A Balanced Diet is Key to Good Nutrition and Health
“One should eat to live not live to eat.”
Your diet provides nutrients that are needed to produce hormones and enzymes that control the role of every cell in your body. Food supplies more than just fuel your body to function. It provides nutrients to your skin, hair, muscle, bone, tissue and cells. Cancer is often times caused by nutritional or hormone deficiencies.
Nutrients enable the body to make neurotransmitters that regulate how you think and feel. Proper nutritional balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fat is essential to health. To take it a step further, good quality vitamins and minerals are more important than ever, due to the depletion of these micronutrients in our foods today.
It has been documented that approximately 33% of the American population is resistant to the action of insulin. In other words, their bodies have to produce more insulin than is healthy just to maintain normal blood sugar levels.
Insulin is a hormone that responds directly to what you eat. Among its many roles in the body, insulin regulates fat metabolism and controls blood sugar levels. Blood sugar is the basic fuel that all cells in the body use to make energy. Too much sugar leads to diabetes. Too little sugar leads to hypoglycemia. Insulin is the fat storage hormone so the higher your insulin level, the fatter you get.
This extremely common condition is called insulin resistance. People diagnosed with insulin resistance have high insulin levels, are usually overweight, often have low energy levels, difficulty losing weight, mood swings, and increased muscle loss. In addition, it has been shown that people who have insulin resistance are at an increased risk of developing certain chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. Insulin causes inflammation in the body. So it makes sense that hyperinsulinemia (too much insulin in the blood) would lead to these inflammatory degenerative diseases.
It is important to control your insulin levels. There are several ways of accomplishing this. Emphasize your intake of low Glycemic Index foods. These foods support normal blood sugar levels and an optimal insulin response: apples, berries, barley, grapefruit, legumes (beans, peanuts), nuts (almonds, walnuts, soynuts), oatmeal (unsweetened), green peas, tomatoes, unsweetened plain yogurt.
Avoid high glycemic index foods: candy, cookies, juices with added sugar, white potatoes, chips, sugar, most breakfast cereals, sweetened soda, sweet snacks, white bread and bagels. If you eat these foods occasionally, keep portions small and try to eat with a protein to keep insulin levels low.
Take nutritional supplements to increase your intake of specific vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids that beneficially modify your sensitivity to insulin.
Exercise. Walking at a brisk pace works just as well to help maintain healthy insulin levels. But you must exercise. Exercise reduces insulin resistance, lowering insulin levels and helping your body to burn, instead of store fat.