“Everything I know about healthy food is wrong.” That’s how I felt in 2010. From my early twenties to early thirties I ate lots of lean meat, “healthy” grains and starches, fruit, and a little bit of vegetables. Then, I got a glucose sensor. It shows blood sugar readings taken every 5 minutes plotted over a 24-hour period and mine were similar to the graph below. After that I stopped eating oatmeal.
Why did I stop eating oatmeal? Oatmeal was not healthy for me. The graph above shows a representation of what my blood sugar looked like from eating oatmeal and other “ healthy” grains and starches over the course of a day. The green up and down lines are not good. They represent blood sugar swings that feel like a wild, rollercoaster ride for your body and mind in the worst possible way. Hungry, dizzy, sweaty, moody, shaky, foggy, tingly – the Seven Low-Blood-Sugar-Dwarf-Symptoms appeared every few hours.
As a non-diabetic you will not see the same wild, blood sugar swings. Your body automatically mitigates blood sugar peaks more quickly than in a diabetic, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have peaks and valleys. After consuming 50 g of carbohydrate a diabetic’s typical peak glucose peak would be 175-200 mg/dL, while your typical peak might range from 120-150 mg/dL (graph for non-diabetics). You’ll still feel the rollercoaster ride when eating heavy starches or grains, but your symptoms won’t be as severe.
Experiment – If you want to learn how you’re impacted by high-carb meals, set a timer for two hours the next time you consume more than 50 grams of carbs (ex. 2 slices of bread and a banana) and notice how you feel the next hour. If you feel hungry, tired, or foggy you’re probably experiencing the low blood sugar end of the rollercoaster. Replace some of those carbs with vegetables with this habit or eat more fat.
If you hate the thought of eating vegetables, I understand. Vegetables tasted awful when I was a kid. My parents didn’t know how to cook any veg except peas and corn. After branching outside of Delco I’ve seen most cultures appreciate food and many non-Delco cultures eat a much higher ratio of vegetables than in the standard American diet. Vegetable-loving cultures have the same basic DNA as you and me. Somewhere, someone has cracked the code on how to make vegetables appetizing. As you eat more vegetables over several months, you’ll develop a stronger palate for them. Just like training in sports, you have to learn techniques to make your vegetables tasty through practice.
I began my practice by gradually replacing some of my grains and starches with vegetables. That’s harder than it seems. Sugar is intoxicating. Grains merely taste better than vegetables, but that will still drive your choice. Which do you prefer: mashed potatoes or cauliflower? For most people raised on the standard American diet, potatoes win the battle. To make this habit change easier I didn’t eliminate grains and starches, but cut them in half. Instead of a whole potato, I split it in two. I replaced the rest of the potato with more vegetables.
My blood sugars stabilized and flattened out as shown in the graph below. No more extreme rollercoaster rides. My energy levels and mood felt more stable throughout the day. My regular three-hour cravings for food subsided. I gained more control over my body and mind. To read more about how to implement this habit, read part two.