The First Wealth is Health (Part 1)

May 19, 2021

The blog title is a quote you may have heard before.

The First Wealth is Health


Every culture has similar quotes. This wisdom was probably shared by an elder, parent, teacher or coach. It’s likely, you’re sick and tired of listening to quotes from old people, you’re no different from previous generations. Wise people share their wisdom with you throughout life, most people choose to ignore it. Without your health you’re poor, conserve it through diet and exercise.

Delicious and cheap

This brings us to a series of blogs on eating as a student. The intended outcome of this series of blogs by The Fields is to assist you in making better eating choices. Studying, research and assignments occupies your mind, throw in sport, parties and relationships when do you have time to eat? It’s easy to stop at the garage, Mickey D’s or the canteen and pick up a Coke, a slice of pizza or a Big Mac. We all know that these foods are bad for us – it’s old news, but they taste good and bonus, they’re cheap.

High GI

You know these foods are unhealthy, knowing why will empower you.

This requires getting a little scientific so bear with us. The composition and ingredients in food determine the effect it has on your body and mind. Foods such as hamburger rolls, hot chips, crisps, pizza, cold drinks and biscuits comprise refined carbohydrates, sugar and/or high fructose corn syrup. These ingredients sit at the top of what nutritionists call the GI (Glycemic Index). GI is a measure of how carbohydrates affect blood sugar (glucose) levels. Table sugar ranks highest and is assigned a value of 100. The values assigned to carbohydrates are a determining factor in their effect on your health.

The blood Roller Coaster

So why are high GI carbohydrates bad for you? When you consume high GI carbs, a rapid conversion to glucose takes place. This causes a spike in blood sugar levels. The only way for your body to regulate the sugar levels is with insulin. Your pancreas secretes insulin, which is a hormone that instructs your cells to open and allow the glucose to be absorbed. When your blood sugar levels spike your brain ‘panics’ and sends an urgent message to your pancreas, which then dumps insulin into your bloodstream. This causes the reverse effect, lowering the blood sugar levels causing tiredness or with competitive endurance athletes, “hitting the wall”.

Glucagon, another hormone produced by the pancreas 4-6 hours after eating and signals the liver and muscle cells to convert stored glycogen into glucose and release it into your bloodstream so the other cells can use it for energy between meals. This is a constant process that occurs in your body to stabilize blood sugars.

You know the feeling

Let’s simplify this. Ever heard the Afrikaans quote “magies vol ogies toe”. The literal translation is, when your stomach is full, your eyes close. Who hasn’t experienced that sensation before? We all have. You have a fat white bread sandwich or half a box of your favorite biscuits and 30 minutes later you’re battling to keep your eyes open. This is the effect of the sudden spike and rapid decrease in blood glucose levels.

If you continue to consume large amounts of high GI carbs, you’ll be subject to a combination of:

  • Weight gain
  • Low energy levels
  • Reduced ability to concentrate
  • Increased risk for Type 2 diabetes
  • Increased risk for heart disease
  • Increase in blood pressure
  • Increase in inflammation in your body

We’re just getting started

Now that you are aware why these foods are detrimental to your health, in upcoming blog posts we will delve into specifics about making healthier food choices. We’ll give you tips on how you can lower the GI of certain foods easily and tell you about the addictive properties of high GI carbohydrates.

In the meantime, check out our other blogs for students and see why The Fields in Hatfield is the perfect place to live while you’re studying in Pretoria. Join us now!

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