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Just a Spoonful of Sugar...

How much sugar (well, glucose, if you want to be more precise) is floating around in your blood right now? A normal, healthy, average sized adult has about a teaspoon of glucose dissolved in his or her blood. ONE TEASPOON-- a little more, perhaps even double, after a carbohydrate-rich meal. Blood sugar levels are closely monitored by your body. You need some, or you fall into a coma...  but too much blood sugar damages tissues. This is why diabetics, whose bodies are struggling to keep blood sugar levels in check, have serious troubles with circulation, vision, and kidney function.

If you have not yet heard the news, we are in the midst of a startling epidemic -- about 45% of adults are either pre-diabetic or diabetic... So, since blood glucose levels are at the center of this disease, perhaps we should consider how much glucose we are shoveling into our stomachs. Table sugar is half glucose, so that is an important source. But starch, such as grains and potatoes, tend to be an even bigger source of glucose. And starch is broken down into glucose in a flash in your stomach... just minutes after a starchy meal or snack, your blood glucose levels will be on the rise.

For example, consider your breakfast of 1/2 cup Grape Nuts, 1/2 cup skim milk, and a banana. How many teaspoons of glucose might be in your breakfast? A lot. After those digestive enzymes do their thing, roughly 54 grams of glucose gets absorbed into your blood.  That's ELEVEN TEASPOONS. Wow. Your body scrambles to get that glucose out of your bloodstream and into storage, (either in your liver, your muscles, or your fat cells), because all that glucose in your blood would be toxic. This 'fire drill' -- this scramble to get glucose out of your bloodstream, becomes a struggle for pre-diabetics. 

ELEVEN TEASPOONS. For context, a 12oz Coke has 39 grams of sugar, but only roughly half ~ 20 grams is glucose.  That is about 4 teaspoons. 

Hmmmm... For breakfast, if we reduced the starch and added more fat, we could cut way back on the glucose we ask our body to process. Here are some diets that will help you find a better way eating - Vintage Eating.  Real food. More fat.




Fat is Not Fattening - Weird, But True

The most common reaction to the big news - that saturated fat does not cause heart disease - is one of confusion and doubt. Sort of an, "Are you sure?" But the next thought tends to be along the lines of, "Well, maybe not. But so what? I am not going to eat it anyway because eating fat will make me fat." This is a powerful fear that we need to address if we are ever going to eat our way back to health.

We think we know that fat is fattening. Most of us have lost weight, usually temporarily, on a low-fat diet. And, fat has double the calories per gram of carbohydrates, so it must make us fat, right? And, the word itself: f-a-t... surely there is truth in the name? 

The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn but to unlearn.
— Gloria Steinem

Here are a few reasons to 'unlearn' the idea that eating fat makes you fat. Hunger is a powerful force, especially over the course of a few years, not just a couple of weeks. You want hunger on your side. And, it turns out that fat can tame hunger in ways that carbohydrates can't. After you eat, fat receptors in the stomach and intestine dial down hunger, so fat is going to do a great job of keeping you feeling full between meals. It is uniquely satiating... probably why we think of fatty food as 'comfort food.' Secondly, insulin is your fat storing hormone, and is required for managing carbohydrates, and to a lesser degree, protein. But not fat. So if you eat more fat and fewer carbohydrates, your body will produce less insulin and spend less time in fat storing mode. (More on this here.) Moreover, insulin tends to mess with another hormone, leptin. Leptin makes us feel full and satisfied. But in an insulin-rich environment, leptin signals don't always get through. So, again, keeping insulin levels in check will make your natural appetite suppressor, leptin, kick in. It is always easier to have nature working for you, not against you.

Perhaps this is why, when you look to the science, high-fat diets out-perform low-fat diets for weight loss over and over and over again. Yes, even in this 2014 NIH funded clinical trial

Bottom line -- yes, when you dig into the details, it is extremely complicated. Way beyond our pay-grade. But simple calories-in-calories-out ignores the intricate, hormone-intensive balancing act that goes on in your body. A low-fat, calorie restricted diet can send a signal of 'lean times' throughout your body, turning down your metabolism so you burn fewer calories each day. And it makes you really hungry, which just sucks, doesn't it? So eat ample fat, without counting calories and starving yourself, and help keep your metabolism in a higher gear. And reduce refined carbs. Yes, even the whole grains. Why not check out these real-food-more-fat vintage diets...




A Universal Law

Most of us would rather buy a used car from the little old lady down the street than the 24-year-old drag racing dude from around the corner. Why? Because we know that the drag racer has been slamming his foot on the accelerator every chance he gets... and the little old lady? She has been using her car with great care. So her car will last longer.

When you wake each morning and consume a carb-heavy breakfast, low in protein and fat, YOU are that dude slamming your foot on the accelerator. Your blood is quickly flooded with the glucose from the sugar and starch in your fruit, breakfast cereal, and skim milk (or your oversized bagel, low-fat cream cheese, and orange juice), so your pancreas scrambles to pump out insulin to keep you from slipping into a hyperglycemic haze. Your blood sugar spikes, your insulin levels spike, and you begin a roller coaster of a day, slamming on the accelerator and the brake from a blood sugar perspective. This is not easy on your body - your pancreas, your tissues, your teeth - high blood sugar and high insulin levels are just not good for any part of you.

Look here for a graph of blood sugar levels after two very different breakfasts...  eggs vs. cereal.

Take it easy on your body. It is your home. Use it gently.  Eat real food.  Eat more fat.