I’m not exactly obsessed with checking my blood sugar, but I’ve certainly become more diligent about it since returning from the low-carb cruise. As I mentioned in a previous post, Dr. William Davis gave an excellent presentation on why we should monitor blood-sugar levels. Here’s a quote from one of his blog posts on the subject:
If you’re not a diabetic, why bother checking blood sugar? New studies have documented the increased likelihood of cardiovascular events with increased postprandial blood sugars well below the ranges regarded as diabetic. A blood sugar level of 140 mg/dl after a meal carries 30-60% increased (relative) risk for heart attack and other events. The increase in risk begins at even lower levels, perhaps 110 mg/dl or lower after eating.
We use a one-hour after eating blood sugar to gauge the effects of a meal. If, for instance, your dinner of baked chicken, asparagus brushed with olive oil, sauteed mushrooms, mashed potatoes, and a piece of Italian bread yields a one-hour blood sugar of 155 mg/dl, you know that something is wrong. (This is far more common than most people think.)
This makes perfect sense to me, for all kinds of reasons. We know that high blood sugar damages organs and blood vessels, and yes, that includes the coronary arteries. That’s why diabetics can lose limbs, suffer kidney failure, or go blind. It’s why they have such a high rate of heart disease. We also know that glucose feeds cancer and accelerates the aging process by encouraging the formation of advanced glycation end-products, or AGEs.
Dr. Uffe Ravsnkov, who believes heart disease begins with infections, pointed out in our interview that glucose competes with vitamin C and depresses the immune system. Even if you don’t buy the hypothesis that infections cause heart disease, you don’t want your immune system depressed. One source I checked online stated that when your blood sugar reaches 120 mg/dl, your body’s ability to swallow up viruses, bacteria and cancer cells is reduced by 75%.
How high is too high? That depends on who you ask. I’ve read articles that claim anytime your blood sugar is over 200 mg/dl, you’re being damaged — and by the way, it’s common for people to reach that level after a bowl of Cheerios. Others put the number at 140. Dr. Davis prefers to see post-meal blood-sugar levels below 125, and ideally closer to 100.
So after returning home from the cruise, I bought a blood-sugar meter to check my response to different meals. There’s good news and bad news.
The good news is that most of the meals I now enjoy don’t have much of an impact. I’ve checked my fasting blood sugar a few times in the morning, and it’s consistently in the 85-90 range. A little lower might be better, but that’s where I’m at. So with that as a baseline, here are the one-hour results after some meals:
- Chopped ham & three eggs scrambled in butter: 92
- Two burger patties with raw-milk cheese and sautéed onions, mustard, a dollop of mayonnaise: 101
- Homemade stew (beef, onions, carrots, red wine, beef bullion): 105
- Chicken and broccoli with pesto sauce: 109
- Protein shake with whey protein and heavy cream: 102
- Sausage with whipped cauliflower “fauxtatoes” (my low-carb version of bangers ‘n’ mash): 98
I was also pleased to learn that low-carb ice cream doesn’t produce much of a spike. When I first switched to a low-carb diet, I consumed a bowl of Carb Smart ice cream or a couple of their ice cream bars at least a few nights per week. Since then, I’ve lost much of my taste for desserts, so I rarely eat the stuff. I’ve also read that sugar alcohols can produce a bit of a blood-sugar spike some people.
I don’t plan to become a regular ice-cream eater again, but as an experiment, I had a full cup of Carb Smart ice cream earlier today. An hour later, my blood sugar stood at 112. That’s not great, but it’s less than I would’ve predicted. I’ve also found that iced tea sweetened with three packets of Truvia has virtually no effect on my blood sugar … the meter showed 93 mg/dl when I checked.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that I don’t seem to tolerate sugars and starches very well at all. As I mentioned in an earlier post, on St. Patrick’s Day I added one small potato to my meal of corned beef, carrots and cabbage. An hour later, the meter showed a blood-sugar level of 162 mg/dl.
I had an even bigger surprise a couple of days ago. I was busy and didn’t feel like cooking, so I threw together a meal of Costco meatballs with a 1/2 cup of marinara sauce and a wee small serving of spaghetti left over from a meal my wife had served to my daughters and my niece. (My niece doesn’t like most meats, but loves pasta.) By “wee small,” I mean perhaps 1/2 cup of cooked spaghetti. The meatballs also had a few carbs in them thanks to the bread crumbs. Adding up the counts from the labels, I estimated that my meal included about 40 grams of carbohydrate.
The result: an hour later my blood sugar stood at 174 mg/dl. Back when I thought meat and fat were bad, I used to live on pasta and potatoes. No wonder I started showing signs of pre-diabetes and felt lousy so often. I suppose if I hadn’t screwed up my metabolism with too much sugar as a kid and too much starch as a vegetarian adult, small servings of potatoes and pasta wouldn’t produce such dramatic spikes, but they do. I just shouldn’t be eating them.
That’s why it’s important to test your own reactions to various foods: we’re all different. What’s right for you may not work for me, and vice versa.
I saw an example of that last night. My sister-in-law was in town to pick up her daughter. Like my wife, my sister-in-law is naturally thin … if anything, she’d like to gain a few pounds. She saw me testing my blood sugar, and it piqued her curiosity, especially since their naturally-thin father is a type 2 diabetic. So an hour after dinner — which for her included chicken, a sweet potato, and a generous serving of pasta — I gave her the finger stick. Her blood sugar was only 112 mg/dl. Feed me the same dinner, and I’d probably be looking at something closer to 200.
So the bottom line for me: no starchy foods. And I’m perfectly happy living without them.