With more than two thirds of adults in the U.S. being overweight or obese, youth obesity skyrocketing, and the prevalence of type 2 diabetes rising at an alarming rate, we need to be concerned. Diabetes is now the number one health care cost and at this time there is no end in sight. And what’s the cause? Elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance.
But, did you know the same risk factors that cause diabetes causes many other chronic diseases. Diabetes is basically caused by the cell’s insulin receptors becoming resistant to insulin, the “master hormone.” Although insulin has several functions, one of its most important is to regulate carbohydrate and fat metabolism. Insulin enables liver and muscle cells to utilize blood glucose (sugar) for energy production. In addition, insulin also facilitates storing glucose into fat cells in the form of triglycerides when blood glucose levels become too high.
As blood sugar goes up, insulin levels rise to keep blood sugar in check. To lower blood sugar, your body then stores it as fat in your fat cells. When insulin levels are high, your body only stores fat, it doesn’t burn it. Since your body was forced to store the energy before using it, you become hungry again soon and start the cycle over again. (Note: Their are a few other causes of elevated insulin levels other than diet; however, they are very rare.)
Continued elevated insulin levels result in your body becoming insulin resistant. Then your body must produce more insulin to get the same effect. When your body is unable to produce enough insulin to keep your fasting blood glucose level at below 126 mg/dL, you are considered to be type 2 diabetic.
High insulin levels contributes to other diseases
Excess insulin and insulin resistance contribute to a number of degenerative diseases in addition to type 2 diabetes including atherosclerosis, hypertension, chronic inflammation, low HDL, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and obesity. Unfortunately, when level become too high most people go on insulin-augmenting drugs, which lower blood sugar in the short-term, but cause more weight gain and have long-term side effects. They are simply masking the problem. Here is a link to a more detailed article about the impact of consistently high insulin levels on our health. I highly recommend reading it.
Basically, high levels of insulin contributes to disease and speeds up the aging process.
What to do about it
Fortunately, most people are able to address their insulin levels by changing their diets. Simply do not eat foods that cause your blood sugar and insulin levels to increase. Even if you are already insulin resistant and on medication, changing your diet can reverse this over time for most people. Your body is very resilient and will correct itself given the opportunity. This is a time when you need to let “food be thy medicine.” It is unfortunate that many physician do not focus on teaching healthy nutrition, but instead just write a prescription.
It’s not just how much you eat, but what you eat that determines your health and longevity.
Here are the foods you should eat to keep your blood sugar and insulin levels low:
Healthy fats including raw nuts and seeds, avocados, olives, olive oil, coconut oil, MCT oil, grass-fed butter, dark chocolate (in moderation), grass-fed meat, eggs from pasture-raised chickens, and wild caught fatty fish. These natural fats provide long-lasting energy, are nutritious, and satisfy hunger for long periods of time. And, fats do not raise blood sugar levels. Contrary to popular belief, these healthy fats do not raise cholesterol levels either.
Healthy sources of protein included fish, sardines, other seafood, eggs, tofu, chicken, turkey, beef, wild game, cheeses like cottage cheese, ricotta and Swiss, beans in moderation, and veggie burgers.
As for carbohydrates, if you are battling insulin resistance stick with non-starchy, fibrous vegetables such as lettuce and other greens, broccoli and cauliflower, cucumbers, mushrooms, onions, peppers, sprouts, asparagus, seaweed. A diet high in fiber will help slow digestion and moderate the absorption of sugar in your body.
The bottom line is, make healthy food choices, eat real food, and avoid those foods that will raise your blood sugar and insulin such as foods with added sugar and processed foods. And of course, increasing your exercise and activity level can be a tremendous benefit. However, you can’t out-exercise a lousy diet.
If you are battling insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, weight gain, or just need help making healthy food choices, click here and email me for a free phone consultation. I’m happy to help.
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