I owe the past 20 years as a cancer survivor mostly to learning that sugar is a growth food for cancer cells. The standard American diet, high in added sugars, is basically chemical fertilizers for tumor growth. This one simple change—eliminating added sugars from my diet—not only helped me survive and heal from cancer, but it helps every other system in my body thrive.
The good news is, we’ll soon know exactly how much added sugar is in most of our foods, as you'll see a new line for added sugar on food labels and hopefully way more of the term "no added sugar." Doctors and nutritionists have been pushing for years to see more truthful and transparent food labeling, and it seems that we are finally making progress. The actual grams of added sugar—not the real sugars that are naturally found in foods—will be listed on the label separately. This is a major step in reducing the rising epidemic of type 2 diabetes, which is projected to affect more than 30 percent of all Americans.
In my latest book, The Dr. Sears T5 Wellness Plan: Transform Your Mind and Body, 5 Changes in 5 Weeks—co-authored with my daughter, Erin Sears Basile—I want readers to know the importance of three simple words: Avoid sugar spikes! Persistent high blood sugar, mostly because of eating high-sugar foods, is the root cause of many illnesses. Therefore, it's important to live a blood-sugar-friendly lifestyle. Here's where to start:
1. Eat spike-less foods.
Spike-less foods include vegetables, high-fiber fruits, healthy fats and proteins, and wheat-free grains, such as quinoa. Avoid foods that cause sugar spikes like artificially sugar-sweetened beverages, fiberless foods, and packaged food, which have most of the fiber processed out.
2. Eat the right carbs.
The right kind of carbohydrate diet is really a "slow-carb" diet, meaning the natural sugars in the foods are very slowly absorbed into the bloodstream so they don’t cause sugar spikes. Some good examples are vegetables, legumes, fruit, and whole, unprocessed grains; basically, a plant-based diet. Another great tip is to remember the saying "A good carb always plays with two or three friends, like fiber, protein, or healthy fats." The best example of this is an avocado, which is one of the healthiest fruits because the carbs are partnered with protein, fiber, and fat—slowing down the absorption of the carbs and preventing sugar spikes. On the flip side, a bad carb has no friends. It plays alone because the fiber and protein and fat have all been processed out, allowing the carb to move fast into the bloodstream, absorb too quickly, and cause blood sugar to get too high too fast.
3. Eat mindfully and graze all you want.
Some other great tips to keep blood sugar levels in check are to slow down your eating by taking smaller bites, chewing longer and more slowly, or even using chopsticks. Having a big salad with every meal is a great way to fill up on high-quality foods that won't cause weight gain. I like to say that salads are a free food, so you can eat all you want.
4. Move your body more often.
Take a nice long walk after meals. Walking after you’ve eaten not only improves digestion, but it can help balance your blood sugar by burning some of it off. Any type of exercise works!
5. Don't go hungry if you know you'll binge.
Although intermittent fasting is all the rage right now, going hungry for too long can prompt you to binge on simple carbs. Intense hunger can also push you into mindlessly eating way too much way too fast. It's important to plan ahead and always think about the nutrition of a food before you eat it. Will it cause a blood sugar spike? Is it processed? Carbs and added sugars clog your arteries and slow blood flow to your vital organs, especially the brain. Every organ of the body is only as healthy as the blood supplied to it. My overall best advice for patients who want to make quick and lasting changes in their health is: Cut out added sugar from packaged foods and change your carbs.