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3 Common Blood Sugar Misconceptions

Updated: Apr 10

I am always baffled by the lack of education surrounding food.

It began with the “Food Pyramid,” then “My Plate.”

But could it really be that simple?

Neither methods teach us about the dangers of artificial and processed foods. And they don’t educate us regarding how these foods affect our metabolism, our blood sugar, and our minds.

In the lasts two posts, you learned about the diabesity epidemic, what it is and how to better manage and even reverse it. Now, let’s breakdown some common misconceptions relating to food and blood sugar and how to actually eat to manage blood sugar.

“Bananas are carbs?"

Yes, fruits are carbohydrates. They contain fructose, which is then converted to glucose in the body, raising blood sugar levels.

But not all fruits are created equal.

Some fruits, like blackberries, blueberries, cherries, grapefruits, lemons, limes and raspberries, are lower-glycemic fruits, meaning they have less of an effect on blood sugar levels. On the other hand, fruits like bananas, mangoes, watermelon, pineapple and oranges, are sweeter and can have more of an impact on blood glucose.

Vegetables are also carbohydrates and can yield lower or higher glycemic effects. And like some fruits, vegetables are high in fiber. This slows down digestion and absorption of the sugars, helping to better manage blood sugar levels.

So what about juices? Fruit juice, or liquid fructose, is often recommended to help diabetics raise low blood sugar values. So it must be healthy, right?

Notice what Shawn Stevenson, author of the book Eat Smarter, shares regarding liquid fructose:

“[…] 20 ounces of 100 percent pure orange juice is not far behind with 56 grams of sugar (for a whopping 14 teaspoons!). It doesn’t matter that it says 100 percent juice. It doesn’t matter that is has some vitamins in it. That amount of sugar is going to hyper stimulate insulin, damage leptin, and literally derange the communication between your brain and your body.”

That’s A LOT of sugar and a high consequence to pay.

To avoid hyper stimulating insulin, pair fruits with some higher protein and/or fat foods. For example, try consuming higher glycemic fruits, like apples and bananas, with peanut butter, nuts, or cheese.

Which pairing would you like to try?

“But I only eat whole wheat bread!”

I recently was at an event where I offered some clean, higher protein snack options. Ironically, many people refused to try one because they told me they were “eating good.” When I inquired about what they meant, they told me they had been consistent with a low-fat diet, with little to no animal products and all whole wheat grains.

One even reassured me that they had a healthy and hearty breakfast every morning consisting of oat milk, whole wheat Cheerios and a banana. CARB CITY.

But it’s convenient, delicious and made with whole wheat so it’s healthy, right?!

Here’s the hard truth: Just 2 slices of whole wheat bread are equivalent to ingesting 2 tablespoons of table sugar. And when it comes to your blood sugar, your body does not know the difference.

This idea of a glycemic index was studied in 1981 by the University of Toronto. The higher the blood sugar after eating a specific food, the higher the glycemic index.

Here’s what they found: “The GI (glycemic index) of white bread was 69, while the GI of whole grain bread was 72 and Shredded Wheat cereal was 67, while that of sucrose (table sugar) was 59. Yes, the GI of whole grain bread is higher than that of sucrose. Incidentally, the GI of a Mars Bar nougat, chocolate, sugar, caramel, and all—is 68. That’s better than whole grain bread. The GI of a Snickers bar is 41—far better than whole grain bread."

Yet, whole wheat bread is still recommended for diabetics.

So what may you want to try instead?

It’s no secret that carbs of any kind will increase your blood sugar, but by increasing the percentage of protein and fats on your plate, you can mitigate a blood sugar spike. So before enjoying the occasional slice of cake or cookie, be sure to have eaten at least 20-30g of protein first!

If you'd still like some bread with your protein, try switching to sourdough or sprouted grain breads instead.

“I don’t consume any sugar - just artificial sweeteners!”

Yes, artificial sweeteners do not increase blood sugar levels. But does that make them a better option?

Many scientists remain divided on the subject.

In 2005, the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio conducted a study finding that “rather than promoting weight loss, the use of diet drinks was a marker for increasing weight gain and obesity. Those who consumed diet soda were more likely to gain weight than those who consumed naturally-sweetened soda.”

Similarly, an animal study found in the publication Behavioral Neuroscience found that artificial sweeteners cause body weight gain. A sweet taste in the artificial sweetener induced an insulin response, which caused blood sugar to be stored. But because blood sugar does not increase with artificial sweeteners, the rats experienced hypoglycemia and ate more food. So after some time, rats given artificial sweeteners continued to increased their caloric intake and experienced an increase in body weight and fat tissue.

Artificial sweeteners also have a long history of links to cancer and other conditions. Unfortunately, it often takes many years for studies to prove or disprove the effects of such sweeteners. For instance, it took almost 100 years for Saccharin, an artificial sweetener invented in 1879, to get banned in the US due to its health risks.

You could argue, though, that these studies test an unreasonable amount of artificial sweeteners in animals that humans would never be able to consume even if they tried. This reasoning has gotten some previously banned sweeteners re-added to the FDA’s “safe to consume” list!

In the past, that could be a valid case. However, the average American diet in inundated with with artificial sweeteners. Nearly all foods containing these sweeteners are processed, hyper-palatable and likely contain other harmful ingredients.

If you knew that an ingredient could potentially pose risks, would you still consume it in “small” doses on a regular basis, multiple times a day?

If you’re looking to wean yourself off of artificial sweeteners, consume more whole foods to reduce cravings for sugar and other processed foods. Then, begin substituting with small doses of natural sweeteners like organic stevia leaf, monk fruit, coconut sugar, organic sugar, etc, and fruits!

But if you feel like you NEED sugar to function, even if it’s from a natural source, that is not normal.

So let’s get to the root cause of your cravings! As a coach, I will help you to eat the right foods without feeling overly restricted, to better manage your blood sugar and to maintain this lifestyle for the rest of your life! Fill out this application to sign up for 1:1 coaching.

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