Macronutrients and blood sugar regulation


Macronutrients are food particles or nutrients that we turn into energy inside our cells. There are only three macronutrients in our food: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. And most foods will have a combination of all three with usually one that’s most abundant. The picture represents the three macronutrients. First, bread being mostly carbohydrates, second, eggs as mostly protein and, last, oil is fat. We can also use alcohol to produce energy, but as it’s not present in food we are not going to talk about it in this article.

Carbohydrates and blood sugar

When it comes to blood sugar regulation we need to pay careful attention to the carbohydrate portion in our food. We are much less concerned about proteins. Although they can be converted into blood sugar it happens when there is an overabundance of proteins and it does so in a slow and inefficient manner. And finally, fat is the only macronutrient that doesn’t turn into sugar and triggers the smallest insulin response.

When we digest carbohydrates, we brake them down to simple sugar molecules and absorb into the blood stream. As a result, our blood glucose levels goes up and insulin level goes up as well. Whether you eat a potato, a piece of bread or a cake, the result is the same – blood sugar rises rapidly and by a lot as these foods are predominantly carbs.

When you eat high carbohydrate foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner and snack throughout the day you keep you glucose level and insulin level up. Here is a great database of foods and their carbohydrate content. Your cells, when exposed to high insulin level for a long time become less and less sensitive to it. Insulin resistance may result.

Not all carbs have the same effect on blood sugar level

Some foods contain the kind of carbohydrates that are digested and absorbed very quickly. Others are absorbed more slowly. And yet some resist digestion all together. We typically call indigestible carbs fibers. In addition, some foods have lots of carbs in them and others not so much. To help navigate all these different qualities of carbohydrates and choose foods that are right for us scientists came up with Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load. Here is the article that explains what Glycemic Index and Load are.