My last few blog posts have talked about flipping your biochemical switch to fat burning mode by avoiding blood sugar spikes and the subsequent release of insulin. In my first post I talked about how the current concept of eating less and exercising more for weight loss is outdated and I suggested the following three rules for balancing blood sugar:
- INCLUDE A SOURCE OF HIGH QUALITY PROTEIN AT EVERY MEAL AND SNACK
- LIMIT SUGAR AND EASILY DIGESTED CARBS
- EAT AS FREQUENTLY AS NECESSARY TO AVOID HYPOGLYCEMIA (ie, low blood sugar)
In my second post I went through the reasoning behind Rule #1 (ie, including protein with every meal and snack) and provided some guidelines for choosing healthy protein. Today I will discuss Rule #2 and offer ways that you can have your cake and eat it too! (Ok, maybe not cake, but something sweet nonetheless)
First it is important to understand how to identify sugar and easily digested carbs. Identifying sugar seems like it should be easy enough but the food industry has become hip to the game of consumers reading labels and has come up with some sneaky ways to make things look good on first glance. Added sugar is listed in ingredients lists in many different ways, including cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, dextrose, fruit juice concentrates, etc. (read more here). Often manufacturers of processed foods will include multiple different forms of added sugars so they are listed separately on ingredients lists and won’t come up as one of the first ingredients (read more here). So we can no longer look to the list of ingredients and quickly check if sugar is listed first. We have to be more savvy!
Easily digested carbs include foods such as refined grains, breads, pastries, crackers, chips, etc and will cause unwanted blood sugar spikes. One quick method for determining whether or not a carb falls into the “easily digested” category is to look at the nutrition facts label (see below). A product with more carbs and less fiber is going to be more easily digested than a food with less carbs and more fiber. Go for low total carbs and high fiber!
An even better way to determine how a carb will affect your blood sugar is to check the glycemic load. The glycemic load takes into account 2 things: 1) the glycemic index, or how much a given amount of food will raise your blood sugar, and 2) the amount typically consumed in a serving (read more about glycemic index and load here). A food with a high glycemic load will cause your blood sugar to spike and a food with a low glycemic load will keep your blood sugar relatively stable (keep in mind the three rules!). Aim for mostly low glycemic load foods (<10) and small portions of moderate glycemic load foods (11-19). You can see in the chart below that processed/packaged foods and those containing refined carbs are typically high glycemic load while “unrefined traditional foods” are typically low or moderate glycemic load.
So in order to have your “cake” and eat it too you have to find recipes for sweet treats that incorporate low glycemic load foods, and/or have high levels or fiber, fat and protein. Here are some examples:
- Cocoroons (find these at Whole Foods)
- Hail Merry Tarts (find these at Whole Foods)
- Chocolate Avocado Pudding
- Cinnamon-Sunflower Truffles
- Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding
- Almond Coconut Bars
Watch for my next post about how to time meals to balance blood sugar while supporting optimal gut health and function.