There are a number of low carb, slow carb and no carb diets out there, and for good reason. They work to not only keep your body healthy, but also your brain! The correlation between dementia risk (specifically Alzheimer’s disease) and diabetes has long been established, but new findings show clearly that blood sugar balance in healthy individuals is the best way to protect your brain from degradation.
To understand why you must understand the science of carbohydrate metabolism. Carbohydrates are metabolized (broken down or digested) into glucose, or blood sugar. Picture a piece of toast, a cookie, crackers or juice floating in your bloodstream as sugar. That glucose needs to be managed by the hormone insulin; insulin is the storage hormone that allows glucose to move from the bloodstream into your cells (liver, muscle or fat cells). It’s up to insulin to deliver appropriate amounts to your cells for energy and keep an appropriate amount of glucose circulating in your bloodstream (the so-called normal range of blood sugar is between 70mg/dl and 120mg/dl). Furthermore, fasting blood sugar refers to the amount of glucose circulating in your blood stream right when you wake up after a night of sleep. A healthy fasting blood glucose number averages around 75-85 mg/dl.
Interestingly, fasting blood sugar numbers are now showing to correlate with your chance of developing dementia. An investigation published in the New England Journal of Medicine followed over 2,000 elderly individuals for almost 7 years and found that even small elevations in fasting blood sugar (in non-diabetic, healthy individuals) translated into a significant increase in the risk for dementia. The study curve to the right represents estimates of the hazard ratios for the risk of incident dementia across average glucose levels relative to a reference level of100 mg per deciliter and above for participants without diabetes. Therefore, it is important to try and keep fasting blood sugar levels closer to the healthy range!
Here are some blood sugar management strategies to try:
1) Go high fiber and review net carbohydrates. A quick way to determine the amount of your food that will break down to sugar is to subtract fiber from carbohydrates. Fiber is fermented by your gut bacteria or passes through your body instead of spiking your blood sugar so the higher in fiber the lower in glucose, and the less blood sugar your body needs to manage.
2) Eat whole food carbohydrates that are naturally wrapped in fiber like quinoa, rice, beets and beans. (Yes, beans are mostly carbohydrate not protein!) This slows the digestion of glucose and allows your body to manage it more effectively. Instead of juice, opt for the whole fruit or vegetable.
3) Never have more than one appropriate serving of carbohydrates per meal, too much and it could lead to elevated fasting blood sugar. An appropriate serving looks look like ½ cup rice, 1 low carb tortilla or ½ cup of fruit, preferably low glycemic berries.
4) Looking to lower your fasting blood sugar? Enjoy carbs (and only one serving size!) with only one meal a day or two meals at the most. Kelly suggested either skipping carbs at dinner so that you can burn fat until you eat breakfast the next day or passing at breakfast! If you love eating carbs at dinner, easily skip them at breakfast by enjoying a Fruit Free Fab Four Smoothie or eggs.