Are you confused if what you are eating is healthy?
Are whole grains good for us?
Do we need to be gluten free?
Should we be eating dairy regularly?
What about fruit?
Let’s face it, there is A LOT of conflicting diet information out there. Where do you even start?
Well it all comes down to one very basic thing…your blood sugar.
It doesn’t have to be complicated.
It doesn’t have to take weeks of diet diaries and calorie counting.
Nor does it require reading endless books, websites, studies, and journals to get the most up-to-date nutrition advice.
It is really quite simple, and it can be tested.
Wouldn’t it be great to know when you eat something how the inside of your body responds? Does it give you the green light or the red light?
Well, you can learn this with a very inexpensive piece of equipment that you can find at any drug store or pharmacy called a glucose meter or glucometer.
Here is one that I recommend.
Click here for a video tutorial on how to test your blood sugar.
So, ask your body what it thinks of the food you are eating by taking your blood sugar.
Here is a quick & very basic break down on how your blood sugar works.
Step 1: You eat a food
Step 2: It gets broken down into two categories: stuff the body will use and stuff that will become waste
Step 3: Glucose, aka blood sugar, is one of the essential breakdown products of food that the body and brain use for fuel
Step 4: Depending on the types of food you just ate, your blood sugar rises. If you just ate a meal high in starch and sugar, your blood sugar rises high over a normal fasting level. If you just had a meal of healthy fats and proteins, your blood sugar does not rise as high.
Having a normal functioning blood sugar is the key to optimal health and the prevention of chronic disease in your life!
The amount of time that your blood sugar spends elevated over 140 mg/dl (7.77 mmol/L) proportionately raises your risk for damage to the pancreas and the nervous system. Studies suggest that elevated blood sugar also correlates to increased rates of diabetes, stroke, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
With an inexpensive glucose meter, you can see the direct effect on your blood sugar of that burger that you just ate.
So what is the best way to test your blood sugar?
First: Test your blood sugar first thing in the morning before you have eaten anything.
This is called your “fasting” blood sugar level. Optimally this level should be between 75-90 mg/dL (4.16-5 mmol/L).
Second: Test your 1-hour post-meal blood sugar.
Your blood sugar will reach its highest point around 1-hour after eating the meal. This reading tells you how high your meal has made your blood sugar. It is important that you are not eating food that consistently raises your blood sugar over 120 mg/dL (6.66 mmol/L).
Third: Test your 2-hour post-meal blood sugar.
This reading tells you how efficient your body is at balancing your blood sugar. Optimally this level should be less than 120 mg/dL (6.66 mmol/L). The closer to 100, the better.
Fourth: Test your 3-hour post-meal blood sugar.
Your glucose level should be back to your fasting level or under 100 mg/dL (5.55 mmol/L). This is a normal healthy response to eating a meal.
Fifth: If your blood sugar has not returned to your fasting level by hour three, continue to test it hourly until you see how long this process takes for your body. A normal response is 3 hours post-meal.
In the beginning, it is a good idea to pick some meals that you eat on a regular basis and take a day to test those.
Record your findings. And as time goes on, you will have a diary of what foods your body likes best.
Now there is one catch.
What does it mean if you eat something clearly unhealthy, like a candy bar, and your blood sugar does not elevate over the 120 mg/dL (6.66 mmol/L) mark?
This means your body is adapting to the rise in blood sugar very well! And this is a good thing. You have a very healthy body. However, if you continue to eat processed foods high in starch and sugars, over time your body will slowly lose this ability to adapt. This is not a good practice.
Want to know some foods that commonly convert quickly to sugar and cause a rapid high spike in blood sugar?
White foods- white rice, white potato, all forms of sugar
Refined grains- breads, pasta, crackers, baked goods, cereals, chips
Candy and sweets
Soda, juice, sweetened drinks
Believe it or not, the American Diabetic Association (ADA) still recommends eating some of these foods, even to those with diabetes. Eating cereal and English muffins for breakfast is a good recipe for developing diabetes!
By familiarizing yourself with the effect that food has on your blood sugar, you will start to learn what foods your body loves and which ones to eat only on special occasions or not at all.
A balanced blood sugar results in feeling healthier, having more energy, preventing the afternoon crash and the “hangrys” (hungry + angry), and getting a better night’s rest.
The next step in learning about what foods are the healthiest for you is nutrient density & bio-availabiliy, but that is a topic for another day.
Now go make yourself your favorite meal and test this out for yourself!
**This post first appeared on Eat, Live, Life. A great site for learning how to live a healthy life.**