By: Ruth Holmes
1. Eat more often.
Six to eight small meals a day are better for you than ''three square meals a day.'' When we eat, food is converted to sugar. Sugar in the blood stream provokes an insulin response. A quick increase in blood sugar results in a rapid rise in insulin.
Abnormally high insulin levels have two consequences.
First, they may ''overshoot'' the sugar load and result in a low blood sugar. (This is what happens when you eat a candy bar for energy and then crash soon after.) The low blood sugar can cause fatigue, drowsiness and sometimes confusion.
High insulin levels also cause weight gain; sugar is converted to fat.
Over time, repeated high insulin levels cause blood vessel damage of the type that leads to the complications of diabetes:
- damage in the blood vessels of the eyes that can lead to blindness
- damage in the blood vessels of the heart that can lead to heart disease
- damage in the blood vessels of the kidneys that can lead to kidney failure.
- damage to nerves that can lead to both loss of feeling and pain.
2. Eat smaller meals.
Smaller amounts of food are less likely to cause a rapid rise in blood sugar than a larger meal. This, in turn, leads to more normal insulin levels.
More frequent eating also helps to keep the blood sugar and insulin levels stable.
Eating more often has the additional benefit of keeping the metabolic rate up - more calories are burned if the metabolic rate is higher.
3. Combine fats, proteins and carbohydrates at meals.
Carbohydrates are converted into sugar and released into the blood stream quickly. Simple carbohydrates increase blood sugar more rapidly than complex carbohydrates. Proteins raise blood sugar more slowly and fats are even slower. A meal with a combination of carbohydrates, proteins and fats will result in a slower rise in blood sugar, a more normal insulin level and a correspondingly slower drop in blood sugar.
4. Avoid simple sugars and carbohydrates as snacks (high glycemic index foods).
Simple sugars and simple carbohydrates are quickly converted to blood sugar. The rapid rise in blood sugar provides an energy boost. With a rapid rise in blood sugar, the body may release too much insulin. The insulin will then cause a rapid decrease in blood sugar and may even result in a low blood sugar.
Snacking on simple sugars and carbohydrates will give an immediate energy boost. But, the energy boost is often followed by an energy slump and more hunger.
Instead of a candy bar or a glass of orange juice for energy, try a protein/carbohydrate combination - celery with peanut butter or cream cheese, cheese and crackers, or a protein bar with 5:1 ratio of protein to carbohydrates (5 or more grams of protein for every gram of carbohydrates).
5. Drink more water
Water is essential to life. One can live without food for weeks, but without water for only days.
Water makes up about 72% of the human body. It provides the means to transport food, enzymes, hormones and other substances to the cells and remove waste and toxins from the cells.
Sweetened beverages - fruit drinks, sodas, etc. - are poor substitutes for plain water because of their high carbohydrate content.
6. Make your meals colorful.
Different colors of fruits and vegetables have different vitamin and mineral combinations. For example, dark green vegetables tend to have calcium, B vitamins and iron. Red, yellow and orange vegetables tend to be good sources of carotene, the precursor of Vitamin A.
Even without knowing the vitamin and mineral content of each fruit and vegetable in the meal, one can ''cover the bases'' by combining different colors of fruits and vegetables in the meals.
7. Stay out of the rut - don't eat the same thing day after day
No one food has all the nutrients we need. Even if a food is ''good for you,'' it isn't good if it's the only food in your diet. Variety in meals is healthier than the ''same old thing.''
Make a two-week menu list and try not to repeat a meal.
Try new foods, especially fruits and vegetables, in order to stay out of the rut.
Visit the produce section in your local grocery store (or even try a new grocery store!) and look for different fruits and vegetables.
Buy fruits and vegetables with deep, vibrant colors. Buy a variety of colors. You will also be buying a variety of vitamins and minerals.
About the Author
Ruth Holmes is a retired family practice physician, a mother of six, an "adult onset" runner and triathlete and married to an "adult onset" runner and triathlete,. She firmly believes that it is possible to "prevent or delay the diseases of aging" and has committed herself to providing information to help people make wise lifestyle choices on the websites www.runlongrunstrong.com and www.abcsofaging.com.
Visit Site: http://www.runlongrunstrong.com