We all can get confused with how we should eat. I still do. In an age of near endless information being available twenty four hours a day it is easy to find information that refutes a belief you have. Then there is more information to refute the new idea, and so on and so forth.
This is because we are all such individuals, biochemically speaking. As far as nutrition and biology goes there are not many universal laws. We can all agree that our cells health is important. We can see that DNA is transcribed to RNA, and sent into mitochondria and other areas as instruction. We know that ATP is used as energy. Beyond base level biological functions, it is hard to exactly know how to individualize nutrition and other lifestyle factors for optimal human health.
While knowing the exact inputs necessary to stave off disease and promote perfect health is very challenging, we at this point know what not to do. The most basic thing we can do is to limit spikes in our blood sugar. This single factor is responsible for many of the chronic diseases we face today. A review of many studies was looking at just this. Is post-prandial hypoglycemia (high blood sugar) associated with metabolic disease like cardiovascular disease, obesity, and diabetes? The answer is a resounding yes. The frustrating thing is that although it is acknowledged that we should be limiting our blood glucose response to food as much as possible, we are still operating in the paradigm of conventional wisdom.
The aforementioned study review states that “Carbohydrates are, on a weight basis at least, the most important nutrient of the human diet, after water”. They go through the entire review talking about how managing our insulin and glucose response to food is vital in such factors as satiety and metabolic health. Why would they still recommend the consumption of carbohydrates as the basis of our diet knowing that these foods (even whole grains) are the only foods responsible for rapid rises in blood sugar? We know that fat and protein do not remotely stimulate blood sugar in the same way. Fats and proteins balance it.
How Does Our Blood Sugar Affect Our Health?
If you were raised on the idea that whole grains and plenty of fruit were a good thing to base your diet on, this may come as a shock. The fact of the matter is that these foods, especially grains, are a new addition to our diet. They are a blink in the timeline that is our evolutionary journey. Our bodies have not adapted to eating them. This is evidenced by how our body responds to eating cereal grains like wheat, rye, oats, ect. When a food containing carbohydrates (simple sugars) in digested, our gut digests the food and parces out the nutrients. The three main macro nutrients are sent to where they are needed in the body. Fat and protein (from quality sources) do not spike our blood sugar in any appreciable amount. They do not cause inflammation in the blood stream, unless the fat source is of pour quality and is oxidized. These pour quality fats include seed oils like canola, sunflower, peanut, and cottonseed. Quality fats and protein are sent to the appropriate places and used efficiently as fuel or sent to storage.
Above a certain amount, carbohydrate is a toxin in the blood stream. Our body keeps a level of glucose in the blood that is tightly regulated by the hormone insulin. In healthy individuals who are sensitive to insulin, the pancreas sends out just enough insulin to lower blood sugar. In individuals that are constantly bombarding the blood with carbohydrate, insulin is triggered often. This causes most of the glucose and other nutrients in the blood to be stored as fat and burned to create inflammatory reactive-oxygen-species in the blood Carbohydrate is not a clean burning fuel, nor is it neccesary for human health. This study looked at different types of grains. Whole grains, processed grains, they all raise blood sugar too much. When we are raising our blood sugar dramatically after every meal, inflammation occurs. Enough of this over time and we see chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. The effect of carbohydrate consumption is so inflammatory, that we actually age faster.
Eating For Optimal Health
It is actually quite simple. Eat in a way that balances our blood sugar. Its that easy. The benefits of not spiking our blood sugar are many. How do we do this? Simple. We prioritize protein and fat.
This study showed that our bodies perceive calories from macro nutrients (protein, fat, carbohydrate) differently. In older adults, a higher intake of protein was associated with greater satiety and more lean muscle mass. Older folks have a hard time keeping lean muscle. Guess what? The more lean muscle you have the better you’ll age, and the better you will die. Don’t be scared of protein. Your body needs it to maintain you skeletal muscle and to keep you satiated. I like have .8 or up to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. The more satiated you are, the less likely you will overeat and further elevate blood sugar.
At the far end of the diet spectrum, we have the ketogenic diet. This is the near complete elimination of carbohydrates. The ketogenic diet has been historically used as a medical intervention for those with drug resistant epilepsy. A side effect of “going keto” is a sharp reduction in calories from being satiated from the emphasis on fat and protein. People all over are using this as a tool for weight loss and maintenance of metabolic health. We are even seeing a ketogenic diet being given to the sickest of the sick, those with cancer. Eating only fat and proteins and a very small amount of carbohydrate (under 50 grams a day) produces a shift in our body from glucose to fat metabolism. This has profound anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects. One of the main reasons a sharp reduction in carbohydrates is beneficial? We no longer are inflamed from high glucose spikes in the blood.
You don’t have to go full on keto to reduce your blood sugar spikes. Just eliminate the big offenders from your everyday meals. Things like cereals, whole grains, high fructose fruit like bananas, and any sugar-sweetened foods simply serve no part in a daily diet plan. Every once in a while, sure, but only once your body has become sensitive to insulin and can deal with the spike in blood sugar. Prioritize fats and proteins, and you will be much more satiated in between meals. Your energy will be steady. Eggs, meat, bacon, avocados, low sugar veggies and fruits, it’s all on the table. Don’t eliminate everything, you still need to make it sustainable and enjoy life. Just make about 90% of the food you eat have a blood sugar balancing effect, and you will be doing better than most of the population.
Thats it this for this week. Thanks for reading everyone, and leave any comments below. Make sure to sign up for our newsletter to get a free copy of our ebook, 3 Elements To Lifelong Health!
Elliot Steele is a Primal Health Coach based in Chelan WA. He strives to empower those looking to regain their health after a lifetime of misinformed practices. This is the essence of Steele Back Your Health, to truly learn how to be healthy with sustainable habits. Check out the coaching and blog page for more info!