High blood sugar is the scourge of our times, playing a major role in most all of the chronic degenerative diseases from which we suffer. Elevated blood sugar can be effectively controlled with appropriate diet changes, stress reduction, and moderate exercise.
The most obvious end result of high blood sugar is type II diabetes or insulin resistance. After years of a high stress lifestyle and high carb/high sugar diet, insulin loses its potency, and instead of being shuttled into the cells, sugar remains in the bloodstream where its effects are toxic.
The single most effective treatment approach is to take the fuel away from the fire. The low-carb diet summarized below is one example of how to accomplish this. Carbohydrates are not inherently bad for you; it’s merely a question of amount and quality. Carbs coming from processed foods, a candy bar for example, spike your blood sugar without providing any nutritional value. Their effect is more like a drug than a food and are best avoided. Natural high carb/high sugar sources such as fruit do contain nutrients, though you must be careful not to consume too much at any one time as natural fruit sugars will just as surely also spike your blood sugar.
It is most accurate to define the goal of keeping your blood sugar balanced as opposed to categorically prescribing a low-carb diet. To that end, you can get very scientific about blood sugar management and test the effects of certain foods via a glucometer. You may find that certain foods spike your blood sugar way more than others. An apple may have a negligible effect while a banana might send it through the roof. An ideal fasting blood sugar is in the 80-90 range with the highest being 150 or less when taken an hour or two after a meal. If you are adverse to regular finger pricks, keeping your diet relatively low-carb is advisable. Do listen to your body as some people require more carbs than others, especially if you are very active.
Your ultimate goal is to have a balanced blood sugar while consuming a diet that gives you the most nutrients per calorie possible. With that, you should be able to eat a meal, feel satiated, and go several hours without feeling hungry and without mood swings. If you think of your metabolism like a fire, proteins and fats are the big logs that burn slow and steady and give you sustained energy. Complex carbohydrates are like kindling; they will get your fire started but don’t last very long. Simple and processed carbs are like paper; they burn hot and fast but leave you empty and cranky as your blood sugar dips too low following the quick high. Keeping your diet relatively low-carb keeps your blood sugar from spiking too high or dipping too low.
As you start to navigate the low-carb waters, there are two helpful formulas you can use. One is to keep track of total carbohydrates in grams. Most individuals will notice a difference keeping their carbs under 100 grams. For others, blood sugar will be very balanced with effortless weight loss closer to 50 grams. A lot of this depends on how far along the path to insulin resistance you may be. Type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome can be managed with diet and exercise but you do have to discover how carb sensitive you are.
The other formula is a calculation of total teaspoons of sugar consumed. Some products list sugars in grams on the label, but you can roughly derive teaspoons by taking the total grams of carbohydrates, subtracting grams of fiber, and dividing the result by five. The result will be the teaspoons of sugar for that food product. Your goal is less than fifteen, and ideally, less than ten teaspoons of sugar per day.
As I hope that in addition to lowering total dietary carbs you are also choosing to avoid processed foods and instead select whole foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts) that don’t bear nutrition labels, you can calculate total carbs by consulting any number of online tables.
If you are not the calculating type and prefer visual guidance, you can adopt a fairly low-carb diet by avoiding certain foods and eating more of others.
Foods to avoid:
Wheat products – cereals, pastas, breads, crackers, etc.
Sweets – cookies, cakes, pastries, etc.
Other grains – rice, corn, oatmeal, buckwheat, etc.
Fats – margarine, hydrogenated oils, vegetable oils including soy, corn and canola oil
Dairy – all skim milk products including low-fat or non-fat cheese, yogurt, etc.
Vegetables – potatoes
Sweeteners – sugar, artificial sweeteners
Foods to eat:
Meats – beef, poultry, lamb, seafood, wild game, organ meats etc.
Fats – butter, olive oil, coconut oil, sesame oil, lard, tallow
Dairy – if tolerated, whole raw milk and whole milk cheese, yogurt, etc.
Vegetables – all except potatoes, emphasizing leafy greens over root vegetables
Fruits (sparingly) – any and all, though a rough guideline is to eat twice as many vegetables as fruits
Sweeteners (VERY sparingly) – raw honey, maple syrup, stevia
One clear advantage to maintaining balanced blood sugar is weight loss. The key mechanism behind the success of a low-carb diet is the reduction of dietary carbohydrates to the point when one’s body shifts into burning stored fat. To this end, weight loss can be very scientific. As you lower total daily carbohydrate intake, at some point your body will switch into fat-burning mode by going into ketosis. The natural byproduct of fat metabolism is ketones which can be detected in the urine with test strips that you can purchase at your local pharmacy. Although there are other factors underlying obesity, including toxicity and emotional eating, adopting a low-carb diet will result in reliable weight loss for most people.
Finally, if you are of normal weight, don’t be lulled into complacency and ignore this issue. Diseases associated with high blood sugar – including type II diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, strokes, cancer – can all insidiously exist in a thin individual. Attention to diet, exercise, and regular screening of one’s fasting blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c (an average of blood sugar over three months) is the most sensible approach.