Food Pharmacy (Skyhorse Publishing, 2017), by Lina Nertby Aurell and Mia Clase, invites readers to understand the correspondence between food, gut-bacteria and inflammation. Learn how to prepare new recipes and improve overall health. Find this excerpt in Chapter 4, “Prescription 1.”
What Effect Does Sugar Have On the Body?
We will not delve too deeply into molecular biology in this book, but there are two important things to know if you want to stay healthy and free of inflammation. Those two things are 1) blood sugar, and 2) the blood sugar-lowering hormone insulin.
If raw vegetables are yummy for the good bacteria in the colon, then sugar is an absolute delicacy for the nasty bacteria.
Breaking it down, we can say that sugar assists nasty bacteria in encouraging our desire to vacuum up every trace of sugar that comes our way. The more sugar we eat, the louder bad bacteria shouts to our brain that they want more sugar. At this point we need Jane Fonda-like strength and discipline to resist all the candy bowls, sweetened yogurts, office-meeting pastries, sugary drinks, and frequent coffee breaks that are part of our everyday lives.
Unlike fiber, which is processed by the good, protective bacteria in the colon, sugar will head straight into the bloodstream from the small intestine, leaving our army of hungry, good bacteria in the colon in a lurch. Blood sugar levels will spike, which causes the pancreas to begin pumping out more insulin than necessary. When the level of insulin in the body rises, the immune system goes into overdrive, which in turn exhausts the intestinal flora, resulting in inflammation in the body.
Does that mean that the body doesn’t need any sugar at all, ever? Not quite. The body needs sugar, but it depends entirely on which area of the intestine it is being absorbed from, what kind of sugar we’re talking about, and what types of foods we’re getting it from. When common white table sugar ends up in the body, half of it is broken down into what is called fructose and the other half into glucose. Studies show that it is primarily fructose that is instrumental to poor health. We can summarize it this way: fructose (found in abundance in soft drinks and candy, among other things) is anything but good for us, while glucose (also plentiful in soft drinks and candy, but in vegetables, too) is something we need to ensure good health.
In the right amount, glucose is the body’s most important source of energy — not least for the proper working of the brain — so long as you make sure to get it from vegetables and not from sweet rolls. What is important here is how quickly the glucose is processed by the body. Glucose that is absorbed in the small intestine washes over our inner organs and the body like a tsunami, while glucose that is processed by the colon flows like a calm stream in the time it takes the bacteria to break it down.
Leafy greens and other vegetables are good sources of glucose. In spinach, for instance, the level of sugar is low while the level of fiber is high. This is close to being optimal, since the small intestine lacks enzymes to break down the fibers and release the sugar. In contrast to sugar from a cinnamon roll, spinach will continue to make its way all the way down into the colon, unobstructed, where the good bacteria will break it down, and mete out the glucose slowly, which protects the internal organs from receiving more sugar than they can cope with, all at once and at the same time. The body gleans energy from the sugar without a dramatic spike in blood sugar.
• 4/5 cup (200 milileters) mixed summer berries
• 4 tablespoons chia seeds
• 2/5 cup (100 mililters) water
• 4/5 teaspoons (4 milileters) vanilla powder, divided
• 2 cups (500 mililetersl) milk of your choice
• 2 small green bananas
This recipe has everything two sweet-toothed children (and their parents) could wish for: four different types of berries, spiced vanilla, and yummy banana.
Defrost the berries if they are frozen, and blend them with chia seeds, water, and half of the vanilla powder. Blend the milk, bananas, and remaining vanilla powder separately in another container. Divide the chia seed mixture into two glasses, and add in the banana milk. Stir—think “swirl.” Call someone who you believe deserves a milkshake. What—no one’s home? It’s your lucky day, then: they’re both for you.