The fruit of your labor

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, is a Certified Health Coach and a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. 

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

If you happen to know any endurance athletes, such as runners or cyclists, you are already aware that much of their training table contains carbohydrates.  These are the foods that will fuel the body, keep the glycogen levels appropriate, and are usually quite readily available. Strength-training athletes also make use of carbohydrates, both complex and simple. Yet I have encountered several clients who profess to being “carb-sensitive”.  

How our bodies process sugars and starches is in part a determining factor in whether we build fat easily or burn fat easily. Carbohydrate-sensitive people find that they have an exaggerated response to sugars and starches, typically leading to an increased appetite, carbohydrate cravings, fatigue and unfortunately, very efficient fat storage. 

While all of this is happening as a response to spiked levels of insulin, and not to a lack of gym dedication, controlling that “science part” must begin with kitchen management.  Since most individuals would find sacrificing all carbohydrates a bit on the drastic side, replacing sweets and white flour with low-glycemic fruits and vegetables is a lot easier to, well, swallow…yes, pardon the pun.

When clients are curious as to the most appropriate foods to choose, in an effort to manage their body’s insulin response, one of the easiest recommendations is a shiny red apple!  Chemicals called phytonutrients, which are present in abundance in apples, can help regulate blood sugar. Recent research has shown that apple polyphenols can help prevent spikes in blood sugar through a variety of mechanisms. Flavonoids such as quercetin can inhibit enzymes such as alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase. Since these enzymes are involved in the breakdown of complex carbohydrates into simple sugars, the inhibition of their release into the bloodstream means there are fewer simple carbs with which to contend.  

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For a true carb-sensitive individual, eliminating sugars from the bloodstream is extremely important.  This process often requires the help of insulin, a hormone produced by the beta cells of the pancreas. Those same powerful polyphenols referenced above signal the beta cells to produce more insulin, helping to clear additional sugar from the bloodstream. All of this culinary science keeps blood sugar levels in a more effective balance.

An apple is just one example of many foods that can be added to one’s diet in an effort to manage the side effects of carbohydrate sensitivity.  Just as healthy exercise never goes out of style, apples are almost always in season.