Grow Younger, Live Longer
In a nutshell
- Maintaining stable blood sugar levels throughout the day is one of the fundamental approaches for improving healthspan and promoting longevity.
- Elevated blood glucose spikes that occur after meals have been linked to a higher risk of various illnesses that shorten the lifespan.
- Drawing inspiration from Jessie Inchauspe’s enlightening book “Glucose Revolution,” we’ve synthesized eight easy-to-follow strategies to curb glucose spikes and foster consistent blood sugar control throughout your day.
- Incorporating these steps usually don’t require major modifications to your regular diet.
Blood sugar levels, also referred to as blood glucose levels are a significant indicator of overall health. These levels usually fluctuate within the normal range throughout the day due to various factors, such as diet (type, quantity, and timing of meals), physical activity, stress, dehydration, and illness. However, minimizing these fluctuations is essential for maintaining good health in the long run.
Unregulated surges in blood glucose levels serve as the underpinning for a myriad of health concerns. These extend beyond the expected metabolic disorders, permeating into less immediately apparent outcomes. The ripple effect of these glucose spikes can influence a spectrum of health conditions, including, but not limited to, an increased risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, gastrointestinal complications, infertility, and heart diseases. Furthermore, they can also manifest in dermatological issues such as acne and other skin conditions.
With these eight simple hacks, you can reduce glucose spikes after meals and stabilize your glucose levels throughout the day.
1. Eat your food during the meals in the correct order
One of the insightful strategies presented in Jessie Inchauspe’s “Glucose Revolution” involves the sequencing of food consumption during meals.1 “Glucose Revolution: The life-changing power of balancing your blood sugar” by Jessie Inchauspe, March 31, 2022
This tactic holds the potential to significantly lower the glucose and insulin spikes that follow a meal.
Consuming foods in the right order can decrease your post-meal glucose spike by up to 70%, and your insulin spike by almost 50%. The optimal sequence begins with fiber-rich foods, such as vegetables and lentils, followed by proteins and fats, and finally, starches and sugars.
Why does this order matter? Fiber-rich foods slow down the process of digestion and absorption, thereby slowing the release of glucose into the bloodstream. This ‘buffer’ effect of fiber is carried forward when proteins and fats are consumed next, as they further slow the digestion process. When you finally eat starches and sugars, the presence of fiber, proteins, and fats in the stomach reduces the speed and extent of sugar absorption, resulting in a more gradual rise in blood glucose and insulin levels.
The impact of this simple adjustment to your eating routine can be profound. Without changing the components of your diet, but merely being conscious of the sequence in which you consume them, you can create substantial positive effects on your glucose management. In fact, the benefits can be comparable to the effects of certain diabetes medications.
Remember that fiber-rich foods are not limited to just vegetables and lentils. Legumes (including beans), nuts, and seeds are all excellent sources of dietary fiber. Any starches or sugars you consume after these fiber-rich foods have a diminished impact on your blood glucose levels, contributing to better overall blood sugar control.
2. If you have breakfast in the morning, go with a savory one
Breakfast, often deemed the most important meal of the day, can set the tone for your metabolic functions, and thus, your overall well-being.
The ‘glucose curve’ refers to how your blood sugar levels rise and fall in response to the food you eat. If your breakfast leads to a sharp glucose spike and subsequent crash, it’s likely to leave you feeling sluggish and hungry again shortly after eating. Conversely, a breakfast that results in a slow, steady rise and fall in blood sugar levels can help you maintain sustained energy and stave off hunger for longer.
In the field of longevity, many experts do advocate for skipping breakfast as part of an intermittent fasting routine, as this can help maintain insulin sensitivity and promote other health benefits. However, this approach might not be feasible or desirable for everyone, and it’s essential to remember that individual nutritional needs can vary widely.
For those who prefer to start their day with a meal, it’s crucial to consider the composition of the breakfast. A breakfast rich in protein, healthy fats, and fiber, as opposed to one high in refined carbohydrates and sugars, can help create a favorable glucose curve. This could mean opting for options like eggs and avocado on whole grain toast, or a bowl of Greek yogurt topped with nuts and seeds, rather than sugary cereals or pastries. Alternatively, try a high-protein breakfast, like Dr. Hyman’s protein shake, in the morning.
3. If you can’t resist having a dessert, have it after the meal
When we eat sweet foods on an empty stomach, sugar gets absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, causing a spike in blood glucose levels. This rapid surge and subsequent fall can lead to energy crashes, increased hunger, and even potential long-term health issues if frequently repeated.
Instead of reaching for a sweet snack when hunger strikes between meals, consider opting for a savory snack. Savory foods, particularly those rich in protein and fiber, tend to have less of an impact on blood sugar levels. They can also help you feel fuller for longer, reducing the likelihood of overeating.
If you’re craving something sweet and find it hard to resist, pair it with some fiber or fat. We delve into an in-depth discussion in Point Number 6.
4. Vinegar combats high glucose spikes in your blood
Consuming about four teaspoons of vinegar diluted in water prior to indulging in a high-sugar dessert or a high-carbohydrate meal can be incredibly beneficial. But remember to use a straw while drinking this mixture, as vinegar can potentially erode tooth enamel over time.
The magic lies in vinegar’s ability to lower the glycemic load of a meal, thereby reducing post-meal blood glucose levels by as much as 20 percent 2Johnston, Carol S et al. “Vinegar improves insulin sensitivity to a high-carbohydrate meal in subjects with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes care vol. 27,1 (2004): 281-2. PubMed Source This particular practice acts as a glucose-level moderator, which can help prevent a rapid rise in blood sugar after meals.
If the idea of drinking vinegar doesn’t appeal to you, there’s an alternative. Consuming a salad dressed with vinegar before a high-carb meal can serve the same purpose. Not only does this add an extra serving of vegetables to your meal, but the vinegar in the dressing also helps to ‘clothe’ the carbs in your meal, thereby slowing down their digestion and sugar absorption process.
5. Use your muscles
Engaging your muscles in the period following a meal aids in the quicker uptake of glucose from the bloodstream, thereby reducing a potential glucose spike.3 Erickson, Melissa L et al. “Exercise after You Eat: Hitting the Postprandial Glucose Target.” Frontiers in endocrinology vol. 8 228. 19 Sep. 2017, doi:10.3389/fendo.2017.00228 PubMed Source
Ideally, this physical activity should take place after you finish eating but not more than 70 minutes post-meal. It doesn’t require an intense workout; something as simple as a walk, washing dishes, cycling, or light weight-lifting exercises like push-ups, squats, or planks would suffice. This practice can also serve as an antidote to the post-meal sleepiness that many people experience, as it stimulates the body and mind, thereby preventing an energy slump.
Even 10 to 20 minutes of walking or 10 minutes of strength or resistance training post-meal can significantly curb glucose peaks. It’s a testament to how small, manageable changes in our routine can have a profound impact on our overall health and well-being.
6. Accompany carbs with fiber, protein, or fat
One of Jessie Inchauspe’s intriguing health hacks involves the phrase, “put some clothes on your carbs.” It may sound peculiar at first, but it carries a profound and healthful meaning.
At its core, this hack encourages us to pair carbohydrates with other nutrients, namely proteins, fats, and fiber. Why? Because these ‘clothing’ nutrients slow down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, which leads to a more gradual rise in blood glucose levels instead of a rapid spike.
To ‘put clothes on your carbs’, you can practice these few steps:
- Protein Pairing. Protein helps slow down the rate at which sugar is absorbed into your bloodstream. So, if you’re eating a piece of fruit (carbs), pair it with some nuts (protein and healthy fats).
- Fiber Forward. Fiber, like that found in whole grains, vegetables, and legumes, slows down the digestion of carbs and helps prevent blood sugar spikes. If you’re having a bowl of rice (carbs), include some beans (fiber and protein) and vegetables (fiber).
- Fat Friends. Healthy fats, like those in avocados, olive oil, and seeds, slow the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream. Including these in your meals can help prevent rapid rises in blood sugar. If you’re eating a slice of bread (carbs), add some avocado (healthy fats and fiber) or almond butter (healthy fats and protein).
- Non-starchy vegetables. These provide volume and nutrients to meals without significantly impacting blood sugar levels. They can ‘dilute’ the effect of carbs on blood sugar.
Through the practice of ‘dressing’ your carbs in this manner, you can enhance your overall health and sustainably maintain your energy levels throughout the day
7. Sugars are everywhere
It’s crucial to remember that “natural” juices and smoothies, although often marketed as healthy alternatives, are significant sources of glucose in your bloodstream, much like refined sugars. Despite their fresh and wholesome appeal, these beverages can cause similar spikes in glucose levels as other less healthful foods. Ultimately, sugar remains sugar, regardless of its source.
The main issue arises from the rapid absorption of sugars when consuming juices and smoothies. In contrast, when you eat whole fruit, the digestion process is slower, which leads to a more gradual increase in blood sugar. This is primarily because whole fruits contain fiber that slows down the process of sugar absorption.
So, next time you crave a glass of fruit juice, consider reaching for the whole fruit instead. The slower consumption process and the additional fiber intake can better regulate your blood sugar levels, aligning perfectly with the principles of Inchauspe’s “Glucose Revolution”.
However, if you still prefer to sip on some juice, opt for options that contain extra pulp. The presence of pulp is a good sign that the juice contains some fiber. This fiber can help moderate the glucose spike, making the juice a bit more blood-sugar friendly. Thus, even in your choice of beverages, you can make wise decisions that support your journey towards balanced glucose levels and improved overall health.
8. Measure it
Embracing the use of continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) could be a transformative step on your journey to superior health. CGMs are innovative devices that track glucose levels in your body in real time throughout the day and night. This information is invaluable as it allows you to learn about your body’s unique responses to different types of food and lifestyle factors such as sleep and physical activity.
Let’s dive a little deeper into how this works:
- Understanding Food Responses. Everyone’s body responds differently to various foods. While a particular food might cause a sharp increase in blood sugar levels for one person, it might trigger a lesser response in another. Using a CGM enables you to understand how your body uniquely responds to different types of food, which helps you make more informed dietary choices. For example, if you notice that a specific fruit causes a rapid rise in your blood sugar levels, you may choose to consume it less frequently or pair it with a protein or fat to slow the absorption of sugar.
- Insights into Lifestyle Factors. Your glucose levels aren’t just affected by what you eat, but also by how much you sleep, how often and how much you exercise, and your stress levels. CGMs can help you observe how these factors influence your glucose levels. For instance, you might notice that your glucose levels are higher on days when you have had less sleep or after intense exercise sessions. These insights can guide you in making lifestyle changes that balance your glucose levels, such as prioritizing quality sleep and regular moderate exercise.
- Real-Time Feedback. Unlike traditional glucose meters that provide a single moment’s reading, CGMs offer continuous, real-time monitoring. This can help you catch spikes or dips in your blood sugar levels promptly, allowing for quicker adjustments in your diet or activity to mitigate those changes.
- Data-Driven Health Decisions. CGMs provide data that can be tracked and analyzed over time. This could help you, alongside healthcare professionals, to observe patterns and trends, evaluate the effectiveness of dietary changes, and adjust your approach if necessary.
In essence, using a CGM could empower you to better understand your body’s unique glucose responses.
Recap and final thoughts
The negative health effects associated with glucose spikes are numerous, including increased risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s, dementia, gut issues, infertility, heart disease, acne, skin conditions, and more. However, implementing these eight straightforward strategies can help you lower glucose spikes after meals and maintain stable glucose levels throughout the day.
- 1“Glucose Revolution: The life-changing power of balancing your blood sugar” by Jessie Inchauspe, March 31, 2022
- 2Johnston, Carol S et al. “Vinegar improves insulin sensitivity to a high-carbohydrate meal in subjects with insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.” Diabetes care vol. 27,1 (2004): 281-2. PubMed Source
- 3Erickson, Melissa L et al. “Exercise after You Eat: Hitting the Postprandial Glucose Target.” Frontiers in endocrinology vol. 8 228. 19 Sep. 2017, doi:10.3389/fendo.2017.00228 PubMed Source