Are those Gummy Bear Candies really THAT bad? Let’s ask your Blood Glucose and Insulin Levels.
We know sugar has been given a bad name. Being deemed ‘the root of all evil, when it comes to food’, often referred to as the worst thing you could be eating. If we were to post an Instagram poll, most of us would likely agree; we believe continuous sugar consumption to be harmful health-wise, long-term.
We know we should be avoiding sugar in excess, and we’ve probably heard this from health professionals, friends, family, and possibly from the lady at the health food store. We already know too much can cause harm.
I am a believer that as part of optimal health, we need to ensure optimized blood glucose and insulin control. Even if you’ve been told ‘your blood sugar is fine’, that might not be enough, if you have lack of blood sugar control symptoms, and fasting insulin has not been tested – which it isn’t routinely done on most blood work. Let’s dive into this further.
How are your carb cravings?
One of the first things I often ask my patients when talking about diet, is regarding the intensity of their perceived sugar cravings, if present. Do you find yourself craving bread, bagels, baked-goods? Or chocolate, ice cream or cookies? What about needing that diet coke, or sugar in your coffee? If so, my follow-up question to that asks how they feel 20-30 minutes after eating their typical meal or snack. I find that for those patients who are hungry again after that 20-30 minutes post-meal, that we could probably take a guess and say that their insulin sensitivity is likely not ideal; meaning, there could be some type of insulin resistance going on.
Why is this an issue?
It’s an issue if we start having glucose hanging around in our blood vessels, rather that being absorbed by our cells, as elevated glucose in our blood vessels over time, can start to cause structural micro-damage to our vessel lining, thus initiating an inflammatory cascade. And we do want to stay clear of any event that triggers unnecessary inflammation, as several chronic health concerns have links to this chronic inflammatory cascade. It can be argued that this process is one of the major reasons for today’s top health concerns, and that by simply optimizing blood sugar control, we can help to reverse some of these major disease processes, such as cardiovascular disease, some cancers, obesity, and even insulin-resistant PCOS.
We want our cells to be VERY sensitive to insulin, and we do this by tightening our sugar intake, and being able to do so long-term.
How can we help to stabilize our insulin levels?
Intermittent fasting has been shown to stabilize blood glucose, simply because we are eating within a shortened eating window, subsequently allowing our insulin receptors to become more sensitive to insulin, with time. Unless you’re a type I diabetic requiring tight glucose control, the average person should not need to be on a regimented eating interval pattern (Ie. eating every hour, or two) to stabilize your blood sugar levels. We stabilize blood sugar by AVOIDING this constant snacking of glucose-based foods.
Let your first meal of the day be low glycemic. This is a concept I heavily preach. What I am often telling my patients in most causes, is that I would prefer they skip that first meal of the day, rather than eat something sweet that would spike blood sugar – say, if you’re at a conference and only have hotel continental cereal bar available to you. Eating cereal at 8am, with nothing else, will leave you hungry again within a couple hours, if not 20-30 minutes later. We do not want this.
If we’re suspecting insulin resistance, make sure you are also getting fasting insulin levels tested, in conjunction with fasting glucose and/or HbA1c.
I like to measure fasting insulin and fasting glucose on blood work, if we suspect insulin resistance, and to see the severity of that resistance. Once we get those two scores, we’re calculating something called the HOMA-IR. This is a measurement often used with diabetes, but also for the insulin-resistant types of PCOS. We want the number to be under – or close to – 1. If its not, then we know we have work to do.
In terms of food adjustments, there are several impactful ones to be made. When we add in fibre, fats and protein to something that tends to be carbohydrate-heavy, such as with higher glycemic fruits, what we’re doing is actually helping to slow the absorption of sugar into the blood stream. Why is this important? We get less of a drastic and a less immediate spike in blood glucose, and subsequently, insulin. We want that sustained release if we’re having something sweeter. For this reason, I often suggest pairing fruits with nuts, nut butters or seeds. Examples would be apples and almond butter, grapes and walnuts, plantain chips and guacamole, or soaked chia seed pudding topped raspberries.
In response to the question in the title; long-term consumption of gummy bears is where my big concern with sugar often lays, as both insulin resistance and inflammation are both chronic health concerns. How do we address chronic health concerns? We make adjustments to our daily lives, continuing those habits over the long term.
Have a question? I’d love to hear from you.
Dr. Alison Gottschalk, ND