Tag Archives: blood sugar

Tired? Irritable? Food Cravings?

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Blood sugar audio

Oh, the words “blood sugar.”

Does it conjure up visions of restrictive eating, diabetes medications, or insulin injections?

Blood sugar is the measure of the amount of sugar in your blood. You need the right balance of sugar in your blood to fuel your brain and muscles.

The thing is, it can fluctuate. A lot.

This fluctuation is the natural balance between things that increase it; and things that decrease it. When you eat food with sugars or starches (“carbs”), then your digestive system absorbs sugar into your blood. When carbs are ingested and broken down into simple sugars, your body keeps blood sugar levels stable by secreting insulin. Insulin allows excess sugar to get it out of your bloodstream and into your muscle cells and other tissues for energy.

The two main hormones that regulate blood sugar and keep it within a narrow range are insulin and glucagon. Both are secreted by the pancreas and while insulin reduces blood sugar, when blood sugar levels drop, for example, you miss a meal, glucagon signals the body to increase blood sugar.

 Why keep my blood sugar stable?

Your body wants your blood sugar to be at an optimal level. It should be high enough, so you’re not light-headed, fatigued, and irritable. It should be low enough that your body isn’t scrambling to remove excess from the blood.

When blood sugar is too low, this is referred to as “hypoglycemia.”

When blood sugar is too high, it is referred to as hyperglycemia.  Prolonged periods of elevated blood sugar levels (chronic hyperglycemia) can lead to “insulin resistance.”

Insulin resistance is when your cells are just so bored of the excess insulin that they start ignoring (resisting) it, and that keeps your blood sugar levels too high.

Insulin resistance and chronic hyperglycemia can eventually lead to diabetes. Prediabetes refers to blood sugar levels that are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. According to Diabetes Canada almost 6 million Canadians have pre-diabetes and if left unmanaged can develop into type 2  diabetes

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Our food and lifestyle choices have a big impact on keeping our blood sugar stable.

Food for stable blood sugar

The simplest thing to do to balance your blood sugar is to reduce the number of refined sugars, processed foods and starches you eat.  To do this, you can start by dumping sweet drinks and having smaller portions of dessert.

Eating more fiber is helpful too. Fiber helps to slow down the amount of sugar absorbed from your meal; it reduces the “spike” in your blood sugar level.  Fiber is found in plant-based foods (as long as they are eaten in their natural state, processing foods removes fiber). 

Eating nuts, seeds, and whole fruits and veggies (definitely not juiced) is a great way to increase your fiber intake.

Eating a diet rich in legumes helps stabilize blood sugar and provides protection from type 2 diabetes. If you are concerned about lectins in legumes, keep in mind that when beans are cooked lectins are deactivated. The last time I checked we don’t eat raw beans, but following proper soaking and cooking methods is important to deactivating the lectins.

Beans in cans are already cooked, rinse the beans in fresh cool water prior to eating.

For a guide on the glucose raising potential of foods, aka glycemic index/load go here.

FUN FACT: Cinnamon has been shown to help cells increase insulin sensitivity. Not to mention it’s a delicious spice that can be used in place of sugar. (HINT: It’s in the recipe below)

Lifestyle for stable blood sugar

Reduce visceral fat aka as belly fat. As we age extra fat tends to park itself around the mid section and there is growing evidence that abdominal fat is linked with increased health risk. That includes blood sugar disturbances and a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

You can read more about visceral fat and what to do about it in this updated post.

Exercise also helps to improve your insulin sensitivity; this means that your cells don’t ignore insulin’s call to get excess sugar out of the blood.  Not to mention, when you exercise, your muscles are using up that sugar they absorbed from your blood. But you already knew that exercise is healthy, didn’t you?

Would you believe that stress affects your blood sugar levels? Yup! Stress hormones increase your blood sugar levels. If you think about the “fight or flight” stress response, what fuel do your brain and muscles need to “fight” or “flee”? Sugar! When you are stressed signals are sent to release stored forms of sugar back into the bloodstream, increasing blood sugar levels.  So, try to reduce the stress you’re under and manage it more effectively. Simple tips are meditation, deep breathing, or gentle movement.

Sleep goes hand-in-hand with stress. When you don’t get enough quality sleep, you tend to release stress hormones, have a higher appetite, and even get sugar cravings. Sleep is crucial, often overlooked, factor when it comes to keeping your blood sugar stable. Make sleep more of a priority – it will do your blood sugar (and the rest of your physical and mental health) good.

Conclusion

Your body is on a constant 24-hour quest to keep your blood sugar stable. The body has mechanisms in place to do this, but those mechanisms can get tired (resistant).  Long-term blood sugar issues can spell trouble.

There are many nutrition and lifestyle approaches you can take to help keep your blood sugar stable. Minimizing sugar and simple carbs, and eating more fiber, exercising, reducing stress, and improving sleep are all key to having stable blood sugar (and overall good health).

Recipe (blood sugar balancing): Cinnamon Apples

Serves 4

2 apples, chopped

1 tbsp coconut oil
½ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp vanilla extract

Place chopped apples into a small saucepan with 2 tbsp water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After about 5 minutes the apples will become slightly soft, and water will be absorbed.

Add 1 tbsp coconut oil. Stir apples and oil together.

Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so.

Add cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Stir well.

Cook for another few minutes, stirring until the apples reach your desired softness!


Serve and enjoy!


Tip: Keeping the peel on increases the fiber, which is even better for stabilizing your blood sugar.

References:

https://authoritynutrition.com/15-ways-to-lower-blood-sugar/

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-review-blood-sugar

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/abdominal-fat-and-what-to-do-about-it

Medical Disclaimer

The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your diet, taking supplements or making any changes to your health care regimen.

Need a mood boost?

mental health

No question that what you eat can affect how you feel, right?

Mental health and brain health are complex. So are the foods we eat, and the ways our bodies interact with those foods.  While, we don’t know the exact mechanisms how food and nutrition help, we know a few ways food impacts our moods. The Metabolic Balance Reset method develops a personalized meal plan that balances hormones and hormones influence mood swings.

Book a 30 minute complimentary discovery call here to learn more about the Metabolic Balance reset method.

First, what we eat becomes the raw materials for our neurotransmitters. “Neurotransmitters” are biochemical messengers that allow our nerve cells to communicate (ever heard of serotonin?). They are important not just for thinking and memory, but also for mental health.

Second, what we eat affects our blood sugar. And having unstable blood sugar levels can contribute to mood swings.

Let’s talk about mood-boosting and mood-busting foods.

Listen to the post here

Mood-boosting foods

Some nutrient deficiencies look like mental health problems; this includes deficiencies in B-vitamins, vitamin D, and the mineral selenium. So, getting enough vitamins, minerals, (and other things like antioxidants) are key. These nutrients not only reduce inflammation but also fuel the biochemical reactions in our bodies. Including those that create neurotransmitters. So make sure you’re eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, studies show that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables are the happiest.

Also pay special attention to vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin), as it’s not naturally occurring in too many foods. Selenium is an essential mineral found in Brazil nuts, walnuts, cod, and poultry. Try to add some of those to your weekly diet.

Second, make sure you get enough protein. Protein is your body’s main supply of amino acids. Amino acids are very important for mood issues because they are the building blocks of neurotransmitters. Protein also helps to regulate blood sugar. I recommend eating protein with every meal; this includes dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, poultry, and meat.

Third, complex carbohydrates like sweet potato and quinoa are great too. They allow better absorption of key amino acids like tryptophan. Tryptophan is used by your body to make serotonin (your “happy hormone”) and melatonin (your “sleepy” hormone). So, if you want to relax, try these in the evening.

Fourth, fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids (nuts, seeds, and algae) are also mood-boosting. Omega-3s are definitely “brain food” and may help to ease some symptoms.

FUN FACT: One study showed that giving one multi-vitamin and one omega-3  fish oil tablet per day to prison inmates reduced the incidence of violent behavior by 50%!

Last but not least, make sure you’re hydrated. Mild dehydration can cause mood issues as well.

Mood-busting foods

You won’t be surprised to hear me say processed foods are mood-busters, right? One study suggests that eating a lot of processed foods devoid of nutrients can increase your chances of becoming depressed by as much as 60 percent! This is on top of the research that shows nutrient deficiencies can look like mental health problems.

“But it makes me feel good!”

Yes, some of these mood busters can make you feel better temporarily. Some big food companies study how to maximize the “pleasure” centers with the perfect amount of sugar, salt, and fat. Not to mention the color, texture, and taste; they can light up our taste buds and make us feel good… for now.

A few other things to avoid are:

  • Alcohol (nervous system depressant)
  • Caffeine (may worsen anxious feelings and ability to sleep)
  • Sugar (messes with your blood sugar and can worsen inflammation).

Conclusion

Bad moods can lead to bad eating habits; and, bad eating habits can lead to bad moods. If you need a mood boost, stick to minimally processed nutrient-dense whole foods. Things like fresh fruit and vegetables (including leafy greens), nuts and seeds, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat. Avoid common mood-busting foods like alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.

And remember, sometimes “feel good” junk foods, only make you feel good temporarily. So, try my newest recipe for fruit salad, below.

Recipe (mood boosting): Fruit Salad

Serves 6-8

1-2 cups watermelon, cubed

1-2 cups cantaloupe, cubed

1-2 cups blueberries, fresh

1-2 cups blackberries, fresh

1-2 cups green grapes

Instructions

Place all fruit in a large bowl and gently toss.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Substitute or add any ready-to-eat fruit, like chopped peaches, or raspberries.

References:

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/food-and-mood

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/how-to-fight-depression-naturally-with-nutrition

https://nutritionfacts.org/video/foods-increase-happiness/

Medical Disclaimer

The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your diet, taking supplements or making any changes to your health care regimen.

The Truth Behind Artificial Sweeteners

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Do you know how artificial sweeteners act in your body? Nobody really does! Here are some thoughts as to how they affect your body, it may inspire you to reduce the sweetness in your food and drinks.

You probably know the negative health effects of eating too much sugar, especially “added sugars” like in soda pop, candy, baked goods, and many commercially-available cereals, salad dressings, marinades and sauces, just to name a few.  Added sugar is hiding just about everywhere in the grocery store.

Yes, ingesting refined sugar spikes your blood sugar and insulin, and increases your risk for a whole host of issues.

 A while ago, one of the food industry’s responses to the demand for lower-calorie foods that still taste great, was artificial sweeteners.

The idea behind them is that you can still get the sweetness, without the calories; like when you have a “diet pop” versus a regular one. Theoretically, this was going to help people maintain a healthy body weight, and hopefully not increase anyone’s risk of heart disease, diabetes, or obesity.

But, it doesn’t always work out the way we think it will…

Types of artificial sweeteners

Sugar substitutes fall into several categories, but what they all have in common is that they have a sweet taste and fewer calories than plain sugar.

Today we’ll specifically discuss “artificial sweeteners,” which are synthetic chemicals where a tiny bit tastes very sweet.

They’re also known as “non-nutritive sweeteners,” and include things like:

  • Saccharin (Sweet & Low),
  • Acesulfame potassium,
  • Aspartame (Equal & NutraSweet), and
  • Sucralose (Splenda).

Health effects of artificial sweeteners

Negative health effects from artificial sweeteners are cited all over the place, and while many studies show effects, others don’t. Cancer? Maybe yes, maybe no. Heart disease? Maybe yes, maybe no. Not to mention that much of the research has been on animals, which may or may not translate to people.

I did want to point out one ironic thing to do with artificial sweeteners and weight.

One study found that people who tend to drink diet sodas have double the risk of gaining weight than those who didn’t.

Another study has shown an increased risk for metabolic syndrome and diabetes for those who consume diet drinks every day.

While these results don’t apply equally to everyone, they do somehow seem ironic, don’t they?

How do artificial sweeteners affect our bodies?

Now that’s a million-dollar question!

There are so many ideas out there to try to explain it, but the reality is we don’t know for sure; plus, it might play out differently in different people.

  • Is it because people feel that they can eat cake because they’ve switched to diet soda?
  • Perhaps it’s because the sweeteners change the taste preferences so that fruit starts to taste worse, and veggies taste terrible?
  • Maybe artificial sweeteners increase our cravings for more (real) sweets?
  • It can be that the sweet taste of these sweeteners signals to our body to release insulin to lower our blood sugar; but, because we didn’t actually ingest sugar, our blood sugar levels get too low, to the point where we get sugar cravings.
  • Some even say (and at least one animal study suggests) that saccharin may inspire addictive tendencies toward it. Addictive like eating behavior involves a lot more than just a lack of will power.  There are biochemical reasons why some people lose control over certain foods.  It has been linked to processed foods.  Processed foods are usually engineered to be “hyperpalatable” – so they taste super good.  They also contain high amounts of empty calories  (including artificial sugars), and cause major blood sugar imbalances
  • Maybe there is even a more complex response that involves our gut microbes and how they help to regulate our blood sugar levels.

Conclusion:

Understand that added sugar is not good for you, but the solution may not be to replace them all with artificial sweeteners.

I highly recommend reducing your sugar intake, so you naturally re-train your palate and start enjoying the taste of real food that isn’t overly sweet.  This way you’re reducing your intake of added sugar, as well as not needing to replace it with artificial sweeteners.

Try having ½ teaspoon less of sugar in your hot morning drink. Try reducing a ¼ cup of the sugar called for in some recipes. Try diluting juice with water.

 Your body will thank you!

Recipe (naturally sweetened): Sweet Enough Matcha Latte

Serves 1

1 teaspoon matcha powder

1.5 cup almond milk, unsweetened

1-2 teaspoons maple syrup or honey (optional)

1. Heat almond milk and maple syrup/honey (if using) in a small pot.

2. Add matcha powder to cup.

3. When almond milk is hot, add about a ¼ cup to matcha and stir to combine.

4. Add rest of the milk to cup.

 Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can steep a chai tea bag in the milk if you prefer chai tea over matcha.

References

https://chriskresser.com/the-unbiased-truth-about-artificial-sweeteners/

Disclaimer:

The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.

Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load. Is there a difference?

Have you ever had your blood sugar levels tested or heard about eating to balance blood sugar? Have you wondered about the science behind how foods affect blood sugar? Or more importantly, which foods affect your blood sugar more than others?

If so, this post is for you.

It’s all about the glycemic index and glycemic load. And it’s not boring, promise!

Have a read because you may want to pay attention to foods that are high on the glycemic index or high glycemic load. If you want to lose weight, blood sugar management is critical to control appetite, food binges and manage those crazy food cravings.

And if you’re at risk of blood sugar issues, pancreas conditions, or even diabetes this is IMPORTANT for you to know.

What is the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load?

Glycemic this and glycemic that. Does it matter?

You’ll notice that they both begin with “glycemic.” That’s one tip that they have to do with sugars and carbs. Not only how much sugar is in foods, but more importantly, how it affects your blood sugar levels.

In general, diets that are high on the glycemic index (GI) and high in glycemic load (GL), tend to increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

FUN FACT: Starches like those in potatoes and grains are digested into sugar; this is because starch is just a bunch of sugars linked together. Digestive enzymes break those bonds so that the sugars become free. Then those sugars affect your body the same way that eating sugary foods do.

Glycemic Index (“how fast”)

The most common of the two terms is “glycemic index” (GI).

As the name suggests, it “indexes” (or compares) the effect that different foods have on your blood sugar level. Then each food is given a score from 0 (no effect on blood sugar) to 100 (big effect on blood sugar). Foods that cause a fast increase in blood sugar have a high GI. That is because the sugar in them is quickly processed by your digestive system and absorbed into your blood. They cause a “spike” in your blood sugar.

So, you can probably guess that pure glucose is given a GI rating of 100. On the other hand, chickpeas are right down there at a GI of 10.

Regarding GI: low is anything under 55; moderate is 56-69, and 70+ is considered a high GI food.

Remember, this is a measure of how fast a carbohydrate containing food is digested and raised your blood sugar. It’s not a measure of the sugar content of the food.

How the carbohydrates in food affect your blood sugar level depend on other components of the food. Things like fiber and protein can slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream, and this can make even a high-sugar food, low on the GI scale.

So, lower GI foods are better at keeping your blood sugar levels stable because they don’t increase your blood sugar level as fast.

With the Metabolic Balance® plan, low GL carbohydrates alongside sufficient protein and fat reduce blood sugar spikes, helping with appetite control and resulting in the desired weight loss. Read more here.**

FUN FACT: Can you guess which food has a GI of higher than 100? (Think of something super-starchy) White potatoes! They have a GI of 111.

Glycemic Load (“how much”)

The glycemic load is different.

Glycemic load (GL) doesn’t take into account how quickly your blood sugar “spikes”, but it looks at how high that spike is. Basically, how much the food increases your blood sugar.

GL depends on two things. First, how much sugar is actually in the food. Second, how much of the food is typically eaten.

Low GL would be 0-10,  moderate GL would be 10-20, and high GL would 20+.

Example of GL and GI

 So, let’s compare average (120 g) servings of bananas and oranges:

Food GI Serving size (g) GL per serving
Banana, average 48 120 11
Oranges, average 45 120 5

Excerpt from: Harvard Health Publications, Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods

As you can see, the banana and orange have almost the same glycemic index.; this means they both raise your blood sugar in about the same amount of time.

But, the average banana raises the blood sugar twice as high (11) as the orange does (5). So, it contains more overall sugar than the same amount (120 g) of orange.

Of course, this is all relative. A GL of 11 is not high at all. Please keep eating whole fruits. 🙂

What does this all mean for your health?

Certain people should be aware of the effects that foods have on their blood sugar. People who have diabetes or pre-diabetes conditions like insulin resistance need to be aware of the glycemic index and glycemic load of foods they are eating regularly.

The GI and GL are just two factors to consider when it comes to blood sugar. Some high GI foods are pretty good for you but if you want to reduce the impact on your blood sugar, have them with a high-fiber or high-protein food.

Conclusion

If you have blood sugar imbalances or diabetes, you should probably be aware of the GI and GL of your food.

If you are at risk of diabetes or heart disease, you might try swapping out some higher GI/GL foods and replacing with lower GI/GL foods.

References:

http://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/glycemic_index_and_glycemic_load_for_100_foods

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/glycemic-index-glycemic-load

**Dr. Wolf Funfack, MD Metabolic Balance® Your Personalized Nutrition Roadmap-a natural approach to reaching your perfect body weight

the small print:

Disclaimer

The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.

Why your waist circumference matters.

appetite apple close up delicious
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You totally want to ditch your scale, don’t you?

You may have this weird kind of relationship with your “weight”.

I mean, it doesn’t define you (obviously).

What you weigh can matter but only to a certain extent.

Let’s look at your waist circumference (well…you look at yours and I’ll look at mine).

Just like my friend did and was pretty upset to learn that her waist circumference put her at higher risk of some serious health issues.  “But how can that be” she said to me, “my weight is within the normal range?”

Waist Circumference (AKA “Belly Fat”):

Do you remember the fruity body shape descriptions being like an “apple” or a “pear”?  The apple is round around the middle (you know – belly fat-ish, beer belly-ish) and the pear is rounder around the hips/thighs.

THAT is what we’re talking about here.

Do you know which shape is associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea, blood sugar issues (e.g. insulin resistance and diabetes), and heart issues (high blood pressure, blood fat, and arterial diseases).

Yup – that apple!

And it’s not because of the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat that you may refer to as a “muffin top”.  The health risk is actually due to the fat inside the abdomen covering the liver, intestines and other organs there.

This internal fat is called “visceral fat” and that’s where a lot of the problem actually is.  It’s this “un-pinchable” fat.

The reason the visceral fat can be a health issue is because it releases fatty acids, inflammatory compounds, and hormones that can negatively affect your blood fats, blood sugars, and blood pressure.

According to an article written by Silvia Burkle, Food Technologist and co-developer of the Metabolic Balance® nutritional concept, excess visceral abdominal fat puts us at higher risk of chronic inflammatory diseases.

Ms. Burkle goes on to say that the cause of to much abdominal fat is not an uneven energy balance alone, in other words it’s not necessarily about the number of calories ingested exceeding the calories that are expended.  A study published in the Journal of Nutrition, for example, showed that a diet with a very high proportion of carbohydrates and a simultaneous reduction of the protein content, especially the essential amino acids, may lead to more abdominal fat¹.

And the apple-shaped people tend to have a lot more of this hidden visceral fat than the pear-shaped people do.

So as you can see where your fat is stored is more important than how much you weigh.

Am I an apple or a pear?

It’s pretty simple to find out if you’re in the higher risk category or not. The easiest way is to just measure your waist circumference with a measuring tape.  You can do it right now.

Women, if your waist is 35” (88cm) or more you could be considered to have “abdominal obesity” and be in the higher risk category.  Pregnant ladies are exempt, of course.

For men the number is 40” (102cm).

Of course this isn’t a diagnostic tool.  There are lots of risk factors for chronic diseases.  Waist circumference is just one of them.

If you have concerns definitely see your doctor.

Tips for helping reduce some belly fat:

  • Eat more fiber. Fiber can help reduce belly fat in a few ways.  First of all it helps you feel full and also helps to reduce the amount of calories you absorb from your food.  Some examples of high-fiber foods are brussel sprouts, flax and chia seeds, avocado, and blackberries.
  • Add more protein to your day. Protein reduces your appetite and makes you feel fuller longer.  It also has a high TEF (thermic effect of food) compared with fats and carbs and ensures you have enough of the amino acid building blocks for your muscles. If you are unsure about how much protein to eat contact me at tessanp@shaw.ca for more information, I can help.
  • Nix added sugars. This means ditch the processed sweetened foods especially those sweet drinks (even 100% pure juice).
  • Move more. Get some aerobic exercise.  Lift some weights.  Walk and take the stairs.  It all adds up.
  • Stress less. Seriously!  Elevated levels in the stress hormone cortisol have been shown to increase appetite and drive abdominal fat.
  • Get more sleep. Try making this a priority and seeing how much better you feel (and look). 

 

 

 

References

¹Donald K. Layman et al.: A reduced ratio of Dietary carbohydrate to Protein improves Body composition and blood lipid profiles during weight loss in adult women. Journal of Nutrition 2003; vol. 133 no 2 411-417

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/research-abdominal-fat-and-risk

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/visceral-fat-location

http://www.drsharma.ca/inspiring-my-interest-in-visceral-fat

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention-source/obesity-definition/abdominal-obesity/

http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/nutrition/weights-poids/guide-ld-adult/qa-qr-pub-eng.php#a4

https://authoritynutrition.com/6-proven-ways-to-lose-belly-fat/

https://authoritynutrition.com/20-tips-to-lose-belly-fat/

 

 

Important small print you must read:
Disclaimer
The information contained herein is NOT intended as medical advice, nor is it intended to replace the care of a qualified health professional. Always consult your doctor for all diagnoses, treatments, and cures for any diseases or conditions, as well as before changing your health care regimen.