These Healthy Foods Can Disrupt Blood Sugar & Prevent You From Burning Fat
Our bodies rely on our metabolism for energy to get us through our days. The process by which this happens is complex, taking the food that we eat and deciding whether to store it or use it as fuel and turning that food into usable energy. When this process goes awry, metabolic disorders such as insulin resistance and diabetes can occur.
It's thought that close to 50 percent of the population has some sort of insulin-resistance-fueled blood sugar issue, like pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes. There's no doubt our society has a metabolic problem. As a functional medicine practitioner, I see firsthand how out of control blood sugar can wreck our normal metabolic processes through an overload of sugar and increased inflammation.
However, it's not as simple as just avoiding sugar. Many foods that we would even consider "healthy" can be contributing to metabolic disorders by spiking blood sugar. Even my most well-intentioned patients unknowingly contribute to this through the foods they are eating on a daily basis—ones they were told are as healthy as can be! These are the top five foods I see most often as the worst offenders:
1. Too many starchy vegetables
Carbohydrates are your body's go-to source for energy. The carbs you eat are converted to glucose in your body and, when eaten in excess, can seriously affect blood sugar. While you may be avoiding obvious carb-rich sources such as pasta and bread, too many starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes can push your blood sugar over the edge. Instead, opt for nonstarchy vegetables like dark leafy greens and Brussels sprouts, which work to lower inflammation, decrease blood sugar, and maintain a healthier metabolic state.
2. Low-fat everything
Growing up you may have heard more than once that too much fat will leave you at risk for heart disease, clogged arteries, and on the path to an early death. However, research has shown us that is simply not the case. In fact, fats are an essential tool for achieving a healthy metabolism. By transitioning your body from a sugar-burner through limiting carbs, to a fat-burner through increasing your consumption of healthy fats—the key concept in a ketogenic diet—your blood sugar will begin to stabilize, and inflammation will start to decrease along with other markers of metabolic disorders. Chances are that your low-fat options are loaded with more sugar or unhealthy additives to make up for the lack of flavor. Instead, reach for wild-caught fish or plant-based sources of fats like coconuts, olives, and avocados, which I utilize in my book Ketotarian. Not to mention, these healthy fats also work to keep cravings at bay to help you avoid other metabolism-busting junk food.
3. Sugar (in all forms)
We all know to avoid white sugar by now, but people aren't always as sensitive as they should be to other sugars like agave and other natural alternatives, which although a better choice than white sugar, can still raise your blood sugar.
For example, agave nectar is considered low-glycemic and a popular replacement for sugar at coffee shops and in various food products. But labeling something as low-glycemic and calling it a day is in my clinical opinion, overly simplistic. Although this sweetener raises your blood sugar slower than other options, it still raises your blood sugar just over a longer period of time due to its fructose content which is actually harder on your liver and can contribute to fatty liver disease and insulin resistance.
Additionally, other natural sweeteners are heavily processed and contain unhealthy additives which also contributes to insulin resistance as well as increased inflammation. Monk fruit extract and stevia are some of the best options in their organic, unprocessed forms—but all of them are best used in moderation! My sugar guide gives my full rankings on all of the natural sweeteners.
4. Gluten-free grains
For years we've been hearing about gluten's impact on our overall health, leaving gluten-free grains like quinoa, barley, and rice to fill the void left behind by our beloved gluten. However, these options still have similar proteins to gluten and are high in amylose sugars that can still increase blood sugar and contribute to insulin resistance. It's a good idea to limit them as much as possible in honor of your blood sugar balance and metabolism.
5. Too much fruit
Even though fruit contains natural sugar in the form of fructose, sugar is still sugar to your body— regardless of where it's coming from. Fruits are a great source of antioxidants and other nutrients, but it's easy to overlook this common source of blood sugar spikes and overdo it. Make sure to choose low-fructose options such as blueberries, lemons, limes, and melons to satisfy your sweet tooth and eat fruit mindfully.
Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C., is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He has holds a level 2 Doctor of Natural Medicine (DNM) certification. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Cole specializes in clinically investigating underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is also the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and bestselling author of Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum, and the New York Times bestseller Intuitive Fasting.