21 October 2016
It would be a mistake to assume that one can control the blood sugar level by merely giving up sweets and chocolates. Photo: Bloomberg
It would be a mistake to assume that one can control the blood sugar level by merely giving up sweets and chocolates. Photo: Bloomberg

Five tips for keeping blood sugar level under control

It would be a mistake to think that a person can control his or her blood sugar level by merely staying away from desserts and any food or drink that carries a distinct taste of sweetness.

There is, in fact, much more that needs to be done.

While it is true that monosaccharides (e.g. glucose) and disaccharides (e.g. sucrose) from food of sweet taste can easily end up in the bloodstream, one should bear in mind that starch-containing items are also broken down into simple sugar units after digestion.

The first and foremost tip to control blood glucose level is to ensure an even and limited intake of carbohydrates such as bread, potatoes, pasta and rice in a day.

Second, it is better to eat smaller meals more frequently, rather than larger meals less frequently.

Insulin and glucagon are two hormones that work in partnership with each other to keep body blood glucose level balanced.

The former facilitates the absorption of sugar by the body while the latter causes the liver to convert stored glycogen into glucose, which is then released into the bloodstream.

Whenever a high level of glucose in the bloodstream is detected, insulin is released to stimulate the uptake of glucose from blood by body cells. However, if it occurs too frequently over years, the corresponding cells might become less sensitive or even resistant to this hormone.

In simple words, the effectiveness of the system to be able to regulate or keep blood glucose levels in balance would turn worse in the long run.

Eating smaller portions frequently is aimed at reducing the amount of carbohydrate intake in each meal so that the body can take time to handle the increased blood glucose, which in turn would keep glucose and insulin levels more stable.

The third step that one should take to control blood sugar is to do more exercise.

Apart from helping maintain body weight and reducing the body fat, regular exercise will aid in boosting the body cells’ sensitivity to insulin.

During sport, body cells readily take up glucose from blood for rapid energy production. That ensures that blood glucose level is instantly brought down.

If you can’t manage to spare 30 minutes for sport every day, you might consider doing some physical activity of moderate or vigorous intensity, which will help use up carbohydrates from a high-carb meal you have just had.

Fourth, you should pay attention to the glycemic index (GI) of foods, which can be classified into low-GI (with a range of 55 or less), medium-GI (56-69) and high-GI (70 and above).

High-GI food can cause a more rapid rise in blood glucose level, and vice versa. In Cantonese cuisine, there are a few notable high-GI items that you should watch out for. The list includes congee, slow-cooked soup ingredients, slow-stewed dishes containing mashed chestnuts, potatoes or taros.

Lastly, you should try to increase the fiber in the diet.

High-fiber foods are rich in cellulose, a complex form of sugar that requires multiple processes to be broken down. That will ensure that the system cannot extract sugar from it easily.

Edible fungi such as “wood ear” and “silver ear” are rich in soluble dietary fiber, making them also excellent choices for controlling blood glucose level.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 5.

Translation by Darlie Yiu

[Chinese version 中文版]

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