It affects nearly 105 million Americans… more than a third of our population.
I’m talking about out-of-control blood sugar. It’s largely caused by the way we eat. But you may be surprised when you discover some of the worst culprits behind this epidemic.
Because it’s such a big problem, let’s look at high blood sugar – and some easy ways you can cut your risk of future trouble.
Your body converts sugars and carbohydrates into glucose, your body’s main fuel. Blood vessels act like fuel lines, carrying glucose where it’s needed.
Your body tries to keep its blood sugar levels steady. But some foods cause glucose levels to spike. These spikes tax your coping mechanisms. Eventually, your body can’t handle the flood any more. And that’s where your health problems begin.
Since the problem is caused by food, which foods should you avoid? To help you decide, scientists developed a scale – called the glycemic index (GI). Any food with a score of 70 or above is “high.” These foods cause serious spikes in blood sugar.
White bread scores a 70. Eat a couple of sandwiches, and your blood sugar could go through the roof. With a score of 71, whole wheat bread is no better. Compare those numbers to a serving of honey. It only scores 55 on the glycemic index.
Most people probably think of corn flakes as part of a good breakfast. But they carry a GI score of 81. And that “healthy” baked potato clocks in at a whopping 85. That’s more than double the score of a serving of premium ice cream (37 on the GI).
Cutting down on foods loaded with carbohydrates – like sweet treats, grains and potatoes – is the easiest way to start getting your blood sugar under control. In fact, eating a lo-carb diet could have a healthy impact on your blood sugar levels in as little as 10 days.(1)
The second step is to cut out fructose. And that can be a challenge, because high fructose corn syrup is used to sweeten everything from soda to “fruit juice” drinks to baked goods.
But numerous studies show that people who eat or drink a lot of fructose have a higher risk of health problems – including blood sugar trouble.(2, 3)
The small amounts of fructose naturally found in fruit aren’t a problem. But a single can of cola may contain fructose equivalent to 12 teaspoons of sugar. That’s a quarter-cup!
And it’s a good reason to stay away from sodas.
But avoiding the bad is only half the equation. The second half is to make sure you’re getting enough of key nutrients.
For example, recent studies link low levels of vitamin D to blood sugar problems. A team in the UK found that people with the lowest vitamin D levels have the highest risk of developing blood sugar trouble.(4)
Getting 10 – 15 minutes of summer sun on your arms and face each day is enough to keep most people’s vitamin D levels up. In the winter, taking a vitamin D3 (the natural form of vitamin D) supplement can help make up for having less sunshine.
Another critical nutrient is the mineral magnesium. It plays an important part in heart and immune system health… bone strength… and controlling blood sugar levels. Fortunately, like vitamin D, it’s not hard to ensure you’re getting enough.
Magnesium is found in many foods. A medium banana has about 10% of your daily minimum. And a half-cup of cooked spinach contains more than twice as much. Peanuts, Swiss chard and almonds are other rich sources.
Coenzyme Q10 – also called CoQ10 – is another nutrient that supports healthful blood sugar levels.(5)
Your body can make CoQ10. But you begin to lose the ability to make it by the time you’re 40. And there isn’t much CoQ10 in most foods.
A serving of beef, for instance, only has about 2.5 mg of CoQ10. And beef is one of Nature’s richest sources of this nutrient. So I often recommend CoQ10 supplements to my patients.
Together, these three simple steps could help you avoid blood sugar trouble… along with the many other health problems it can lead to.
1 Frassetto LA, et al. Metabolic and physiologic improvements from consuming a paleolithic, hunter-gatherer type diet. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2009 Aug;63(8):947-55. Epub 2009 Feb 11.
2 Bray GA. Soft drink consumption and obesity: it is all about fructose. Curr Opin Lipidol. 2009 Dec 2. [Epub ahead of print]
3 Perez-Pozo SE, et al. Excessive fructose intake induces the features of metabolic syndrome in healthy adult men: role of uric acid in the hypertensive response. Int J Obes (Lond). 2009 Dec 22. [Epub ahead of print]
4 Forouhi NG, et al. Baseline Serum 25-Hydroxy Vitamin D Is Predictive of Future Glycemic Status and Insulin Resistance: The Medical Research Council Ely Prospective Study 1990–2000. Diabetes. 2008 October; 57(10): 2619–2625.