Celebrity nutritionist Kelly Leveque weighs in on blood sugar, and why you should be thinking about it more than you probably do.
Blood sugar is probably a term you’ve heard thrown around here and there, but do you actually understand what it is, and what effect it has on your body? As it turns out, balancing your blood sugar is the key to maintaining a healthy weight.
Blood sugar, aka glucose, is our main source of energy. It dictates how hungry and energetic we feel. Blood sugar is produced when we break down any carbohydrate—from quinoa to cake. The key idea with respect to blood sugar is balance. We feel our best and lose fat when our blood sugar is balanced: not too high, not too low. Eating the right amount of protein, fat, and fiber at each meal can help you naturally stabilize your own blood sugar to burn fat and have consistent energy throughout the day. It will also help keep any kind of significant insulin spikes at bay.
Our pancreas creates a hormone called insulin that is released into the bloodstream to regulate blood sugar. The normal range for blood sugar is between 80 mg/ml and 120 mg/ml. Insulin is like a small ferryboat: It picks up blood sugar, then transfers it to our bloodstream and into our cells. This then regulates and maintains blood sugar levels within the normal range. When we eat sugar (or other carbohydrate-rich foods that are quickly processed into blood sugar), the pancreas goes into overdrive to produce the insulin necessary for all the new blood sugar to be stored. This insulin surge tells our body that plenty of energy is available, and that it should stop burning fat and start storing it.
Low blood sugar (reactive hypoglycemia) occurs when the insulin surge causes too much blood sugar to be transported out of our blood. This can leave the sufferer feeling tired, hungry, weak, shaky, lightheaded, and anxious. As a result, people crave sugar and carbohydrates, thinking they will pick us back up. In reality, they start the cycle all over again. And, in the process, our body stores more fat. High blood sugar (hyperglycemia) occurs when the insulin is unable to transport enough blood sugar out of our blood.
Weight loss happens between meals—when we have balanced blood sugar and no excess insulin. Thus, understanding blood sugar is a great way to facilitate long-term healthy fat loss. In addition, it can help keep your metabolism high so food is processed quicker.
You can naturally balance your blood sugar by avoiding simple carbohydrates and hidden sugar. Simple carbohydrates include the various forms of sugar (look for words ending in “ose”), such as sucrose (table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), lactose (dairy sugar), and glucose (blood sugar). Hidden sugar is lurking in processed foods, beverages, fat-free foods, and juices. Instead, eat meals rich in fat, protein, and fiber. And don’t starve yourself! Not only does starvation cause the production of stress hormones like cortisol that prevent weight loss, but the resulting low blood sugar causes our body to burn muscle, ultimately lowering our metabolism.
The easiest way to stabilize blood sugar within the normal range is to eat fat, protein, fiber, and greens at each meal. At BeWellByKelly, we call this eating the #fab4.
• Fat: Fat has less impact on blood sugar than carbohydrates. When consumed alone, fats have no effect on circulating blood sugar. When eaten with a meal, fat slows the absorption of your meal, which helps you to avoid steep spikes. (This explains the surge in high-fat, low-carb diets, like ketosis.)
• Protein: Protein keeps blood sugar levels steady. When consumed alone, protein does not generate a rise in blood sugar. However, don't eat protein in excess, otherwise it may be converted into glucose via gluconeogenesis.
• Fiber: Like fat, fiber slows the absorption of nutrients, specifically glucose. Natural sugars found in vegetables and fruit are delivered to us in a natural fiber “package” to slow the absorption of sugar. Because of this, vegetables and fruit are best eaten in their whole state.
• Greens: By adding greens or deep-colored vegetables, you’re adding vitamins and minerals to your diet. Another bonus: Magnesium found in green vegetables has been proven to increase insulin sensitivity, which is good for regulating blood sugar.
Aim to eat 25-35 grams of protein per meal, paired with roughly 2 tablespoons of fat. These metrics will both help you avoid snacking and bridge from one meal to the next without a dip in blood sugar. Also, eat fibrous green vegetables that keep you full and satiated, such as broccoli, asparagus, or mixed greens. Another key is to eat! Don’t starve yourself. Trying to eat less and lose weight only works in the short-term and does more damage to your metabolism. Instead of a mini salad with a tiny portion of protein, go for a grass-fed buffalo burger with avocado wrapped in lettuce. At beWELL, it isn’t about avoiding meals or eating less. Instead, we simply focus on what to eat and ensure each meal contains the #fab4.
Be Well. Be Beautiful. Be YOU!