4 Simple Simple Suggestions
By Joel Thuna
I’ve written a second article on blood sugar because it is such a serious yet misunderstood topic. Last time we went into the health impacts of high blood sugar and both the lifestyle changes and the supplements to help control high blood sugar including fibre, vitamins D and K2, chromium, berberine, magnesium, cinnamon and green tea. I would suggest looking back on the tonic site for that information. Here, I’ll delve deeper into how diet affects blood sugar and how you can work to shift your diet to gain better control of your blood sugar.
The typical Western diet runs polar opposite to the recommendations of every health agency, medical organization and government. What we eat affects everything about us. It impacts our mood, weight, disease risk, energy levels, complexion, mobility and the list can go on and on. So why are we eating so poorly?
A recent poll found that more than half of us feel it’s easier to do our taxes than to figure out how to eat healthy. Doing taxes is dreadful so this means that eating healthy is really, really tricky. As a country in a battle with obesity, it is clear that healthy eating isn’t easy. Over a quarter of us are obese, with 10% of children being obese. Unfortunately these numbers are rising fast.
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing a number of serious health conditions including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes (blood sugar intolerance), coronary heart disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer.
Much of the blame can rest with the media and our obsession with headline news. Every website, news program, pundit and expert likes to quote the flashy headlines. With nutrition they read a headline for food “A” as being healthy today and a week later as unhealthy. This situation perpetuates the problem and only increases confusion.
Forget the headlines. Science is your friend. I am not talking about the latest and greatest unproven theory but the science that we have known for generations – tried and true, proven and tested again and again.
Calories are the energy your body needs. The foods you consume contain calories. This is how your body gets energy. Your body converts these calories into blood sugar. Ideally you want to keep your blood sugar level relatively stable, within a narrow range, and your body tries to help you accomplish this. In healthy people when blood sugar level dips, they feel a little sluggish and slightly hungry. A quick snack, their blood sugar rises and they are ready to go. The issues arise when blood sugar gets out of the narrow range and goes really high or really low.
Excessively high blood sugar leads to hyperglycemia, or diabetes. Eventually your body loses its sensitivity to blood sugar with many negative health implications. Excessive low blood sugar is hypoglycemia. This is when you don’t have enough blood sugar to function and can lead to dizziness, fainting, confusion, vision issues, seizures and, if left untreated, death.
A key piece to discuss here is macronutrients. These are the big 3 nutrients: proteins, fats and carbohydrates. They are called macronutrients because we need a lot of them each day to function. Each macronutrient contains calories. You can find the exact calories of every packaged food (along with the amount of macronutrients) printed right on the package label.
- Carbohydrates (carbs) contain 4 kcal per gram
- Proteins contain 4 kcal per gram
- Fats contain 9 kcal per gram
Despite what marketers, brand owners, spokespeople and influencers tell you, these values are constant for all macronutrients. There are no magical fats, carbohydrates or proteins that contain fewer calories.
Calories are good things. They provide your body with the energy it requires to enable you to do everything you do. The problems lie with a couple of aspects of how you get your calories; namely how many calories, the mix of calories and the speed of calorie absorption.
Calorie requirements are based on sex, age and activity level. This makes sense, because the more activity you do, the more energy and calories you need. Let’s look at the 51+ age group. Average men need 2000 calories and average women need 1600 calories each day. At that level you are using virtually all the calories you take in. However, when asked, men reported 2,640 calories and women reported 1,785 calories. When their actual consumption was reviewed researchers found underreporting by 25%! These additional calories get turned into fat, increasing weight and increasing risk of many diseases including high blood sugar.
The mix of calories you consume affects blood sugar. Your body prefers to use carbohydrates for energy. It can use proteins and fats, but it’s easier to use carbohydrates. This is because sugar is a carbohydrate and blood sugar is a specific carbohydrate called glucose. When you consume food (or drinks) they are typically a mix of nutrients. The carbohydrates, if there is enough, will get absorbed and converted to blood sugar; the protein will be used for muscles and fats are used to make lipids and cell structures. Excess of any of these will be used for energy storage, which is stored as fat.
The rate at which you consume calories has a profound effect on blood sugar. If you have 6 or 9 small healthy snacks (or mini meals) through the day, odds are your blood sugar will stay in the narrow healthy range. As blood sugar dips, you have a small snack raising blood sugar a bit, only to repeat the cycle. This is good. However if you are like most people you have 2 or 3 big meals (higher calorie) a day. Here you keep on going past the little dip in blood sugar and then you make up for it with a big meal. Under this scenario you are spiking blood sugar outside your narrow healthy range on both sides, too high and then too low.
Another factor is the speed at which you digest your calories. Carbohydrates (in general) are digested faster than proteins or fats. If you eat just carbohydrates (e.g., a piece of plain bread) it will be digested faster (leading to a higher blood sugar spike) than if you had a mix of carbohydrates, protein and fat. Add to this the type of carbohydrates you consume. Simple carbohydrates (white carbohydrates) are known as quick carbs because they are digested really fast leading to high sugar spikes. Complex carbohydrates (those that contain a significant amount of fibre) are digested more slowly.
Here are FOUR simple ways to get your blood sugar tamed:
- Try eating more small mini-meals throughout the day. Reteach your body to trigger your hunger when your blood sugar dips, but don’t go wild and spike high.
- Start using more of the calories you consume by moving more. By burning calories, you are reducing blood sugar and increasing your sensitivity to it
- Change your nutrient mix. Swap out carbohydrates for protein. They have the same calorie count but don’t have the same impact on blood sugar. Try swapping a meal out and replacing it with a protein shake. There are new ones out there that are natural, incredibly low carbohydrate, and taste amazing. In fact I brought one here for you to try. This is just for you, Pure-le Lemonade protein.
- Move from eating simple carbohydrates to more complex ones. Whole grains are even better as they offer so much more nutrition than processed carbohydrates. Add fibre to as many meals as possible. I recommend Fiberrific as it goes into everything and has no taste or texture.
Getting your blood sugar under control is no magic act and is a lot easier than your taxes. A little bit of planning ahead and willpower is all you need. Moderation and listening to your body are key. Don’t overdo it when eating and stop listening to the nutritional hype.
Joel Thuna, MH, is a master herbalist with over 30 years of experience. www.globalbotanical.com