What are the best sugar substitutes? Let me point you in the right direction, because there are so many sugar substitutes around that it’s easy to get wrapped up in all the confusion.
That’s the main goal of this page. 5 substitutes to choose from. Not just the best sugar substitutes but the best natural substitutes that are blood sugar friendly.
And I would keep it simple. I will show you 5 natural sugar substitutes that you can use safely. These 5 natural sugar substitutes have a good metabolic profile.
These natural sugar substitutes will not spike your blood sugar when consume them.
These natural sugar substitutes will not spike your insulin levels when you consume them.
These natural sugar substitutes will not increase your calorie intake when you consume them.
Why do we need sugar substitutes?
Another way to paraphrase that question is: why is sugar bad for you? The reasons are plentiful. Probably a list that is long enough to constitute a subject for a book.
Indeed, below is a book titled ‘Pure White and Deadly’, you should get a copy of. Written by John Yudkin, it is a sweet outline (pun intended) of why this much loved white substance can turn our lives bitter. And it has been ruining lives ever since its discovery…quietly.
That we are facing an obesity crisis is not in question. If you have doubts, just look around you the next time you visit your high street or the shopping mall. Guess what the average BMI is when you look around you.
Why…because ultra-processed foods have their glycemic index altered favouring a spike in blood glucose concentration and a consequential insulin spike.
Another cause of obesity is the over-consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages across all age groups. The problem is, children are already being afflicted with this malady. This has potential health implications for healthcare delivery in the years to come.
I know you love your sugar. It tastes so sweet and therefore sweetens everything for you but sugar is one of the worst things to be ever invented.
Sugar does nothing other than cause you metabolic problems, both immediate and in the long term.
Worst still, sugar is addictive. Maybe not as addictive as cocaine but it stimulates the same pleasure centres in the brain to make us feel good and crave it some more.
Sugar is just that. Sugar. Sugar has no vitamins. Sugar has no minerals. All it’s got is taste and calories.
Sugar has a tendency to make you overeat dosing up on more calories than you need. Sugar has a huge influence on the interplay of hormones that affect weight management.
Sugar is the biggest player in hedonic eating. In the years gone by, hunger and the need to eat was driven by the need for calories i.e energy needs. Today, the picture is entirely different. Food consumption, it would appear, is now driven by the need for pleasure as opposed to the need for calories.
That in essence is hedonic hunger.
And the principal driver for hedonic hunger and hedonic eating is sugar. There’s so much food available for us to consume these days and food manufacturers have been very manipulative. In hedonic eating, satiety plays a second fiddle to desire. We become more responsive to food cues on account of prior priming by sugar.
Food manufacturers optimize their foods for taste and what do they use? Sugar. Sugar makes food palatable, hence you see added sugar in practically every processed food out there.
So much about what sugar does. But I wanted to point out why avoiding sugar is crucial to your weight loss efforts. Not just weight loss but weight maintenance. Need I say, your overall health too.
With that in mind, let’s now turn our attention to healthier alternatives to sugar. If I am asking you to avoid sugar, then it will be nice to have a fall-back position.
Products you can use that provide the same level of sweetness without the baggage of sucrose, your regular table sugar.
So, what are the best natural sugar substitutes?
Let me present to you the 5 of the best natural sugar substitutes you will ever lay your hands on. Choose any of these and you will be fine.
The sunflower family has the pleasure of providing us with this awesome plant called Stevia Rebaudiana. A wild plant indigenous to the people of Brazil and Paraguay.
These indigenous people have always used the stevia plant for a variety of medicinal and culinary purposes. Lately, however, the Chinese have taken over the growing and extraction of the stevia sugar substitute from this plant as its commercial potential has grown and grown.
The sweet compounds, the bit sold to us, are actually called stevia glycosides. These are extracted by a process involving a lot of steps inclusive of cold-pressing, decolouring and bleaching.
The most popular stevia glycosides are stevioside and rebaudioside A. These 2 stevia glycosides have different tastes.
Stevioside does appear to give you more than sweetness when consumed than rebaudioside A glycoside.
Stevia does have other beneficial effects on health according to a number of studies. Well, after all those South Americans have been using it for medicinal purposes for centuries.
So, it’s worth investigating, if you ask me. And some scientists did just that.
It also does look like, supplementing your food with Stevia according to this study will yield you a better glycemic control from your meal. This is particularly useful, if you have type 2 diabetes because that study was actually carried out on type 2 diabetics.
A lot of the Stevia products tend to have varying amounts of stevioside and rebaudioside A in different proportions, although some will contain just one single compound.
This usually accounts for difference in taste depending on the brand. Some stevia products do leave an after-taste which can be off-putting for some people. But I have also had stevia products without after-taste which is a lot more appealing.
If you do want a natural sugar substitute product that has additional health benefits, then Stevia is certainly a contender. Stevia is available in liquid form, granulated or powder form.
Stevia has a GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) certification so long as daily consumption does not exceed 4mg per kg body weight.
Discovered way back in 1848 by Scottish scientist, John Stenhouse. Erythritol occurs naturally in some fruits and other fermented foods. Erythritol is one of the sugar alcohols because it is made commercially by fermenting glucose with yeast.
Even though most of the erythritol when consumed gets absorbed into the bloodstream, erythritol will not raise your blood sugar. Instead erythritol goes through to the kidneys where it gets excreted in urine.
This is because our bodies do not have the enzymes necessary to break down erythritol, hence it passes through our body unchanged.
This is particularly important in the sense that you are unlikely going to develop flatulence by consuming erythritol.
Erythritol will not raise your blood sugar, blood triglycerides or insulin levels, as the majority of it (90%) is absorbed and excreted from the body unchanged.
This gives you confidence that consuming erythritol will not add to your energy intake for the day. This qualifies erythritol as a low-energy natural sugar substitute as the available energy of erythritol in human is less than 1.7 kJ/g (0.4 kcal/g).
The low energy effect of erythritol was demonstrated in this study which demonstrated no effect on body weight and also no effect on blood pressure. In that study participants did not have any bowel side effects from using erythritol.
From all of the above, Erythritol is suitable not just for non-diabetics but also a good natural sugar substitute for diabetics.
I personally use erythritol and have found it very satisfying. You can get erythritol here from UK Amazon. Erythritol is my natural sugar substitute of choice.
Grown in the Peruvian mountains, yacon syrup is made from the plant Smallanthus sonchifolius. The Peruvians have yacon as part of their diet and if Dr Oz’s claim is anything to go by, you could get more from yacon syrup than sweetness.
The texture is similar to molasses and in that Dr Oz’s video, the claim is that Yacon syrup has only 7 calories per teaspoon (1.3 calories/gm of the syrup).
Yes, yacon syrup has calories but the calorific value of Yacon is low enough for it to be considered a viable low-calorie sugar substitute.
This 4-month study on pre-menopausal obese women with lipid dysfunction appear to show that yacon syrup could well be good for weight loss.
What? A natural sugar substitute that can actually facilitate weight loss? Well, that’s the finding from that study.
The study appears to show that yacon syrup can help you lose body fat as shown by the reduction in waist circumference. Yacon syrup also reduces your fasting blood insulin level but no direct effect on blood sugar reduction.
Yacon syrup may be good for reducing bad cholesterol (LDL Cholesterol) too.
Daily consumption though may have gastro-intestinal side effect of increasing frequency of defaecation. That could be a good thing if you are someone who suffers from constipation.
The active ingredient in yacon syrup is fructo-oligosaccharide which has been shown to be effective in regulating satiety through its effect on appetite hormones, like ghrelin.
With this in mind, yacon syrup may be a good natural sugar substitute in both diabetics and non-diabetics.
For some reason, xylitol is being marketed as a product for prevention of tooth decay. In truth, all sugar substitutes are not fermentable by bacteria on the tooth, in particular, bacteria on the dental plaque.
Xylitol goes a step further. Xylitol actually prevents the bacteria from sticking onto the tooth in the first place. By this very characteristic, xylitol prevents plaque formation which is a precursor to tooth decay.
Xylitol appears to form a thin coating film around the tooth protecting the tooth from bacterial invasion. This prevents plaque formation and by extension prevents tooth decay too.
Hence xylitol has become one of the commonest sugar substitutes used in chewing gums.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol. Xylitol is found in some fruits and vegetables but mainly in corn and birch wood trees. Xylitol was my natural sugar substitute of choice for a long time until I discovered erythritol.
One reason for my switch to erythritol was the fact that xylitol has 40% fewer calories compared to natural table sugar, sucrose. That equates to 2.4 calories per gram of xylitol. Erythritol in comparison has much less. 0.4 calories/gm to be precise.
Xylitol has minimal effect on blood sugar though. Xylitol has a glycemic index of 10 and corresponding effect insulin levels.
Beyond that, studies like this one and this one indicate xylitol has a positive influence of calcium metabolism which may come in handy for the prevention of osteoporosis.
About 50% of xylitol is absorbed. On this account, xylitol may cause gastro-intestinal upset in the form of diarrhoea, flatulence and bloating.
Monk fruit appears to be a popular natural sugar substitute in both the US and Australia. It is yet to be approved for use in Europe as at the time of writing.
Monk fruit extract called Mogroside appears to have sweetness that is 280 times that of regular table sugar, sucrose.
Monk fruit product called Luo Han Guo in China is marketed as Norbu Sweetner in Australia. It still has a pending GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) certification by the Food and Drug Administration.
Monk fruit is a green fruit native to China and Thailand. Has been used in these regions for culinary delicacies in soups, herbal teas, broths and medicinal application. For instance, in China, the fruit is used for cough, sore throat and some Chinese actually use it for longevity.
Extracting the mogrosides from the monk fruit requires a lot of steps after the fruit has been de-seeded.
The process of extracting these mogrosides has been patented by Proctor & Gamble and they appear to get a substantial yield despite the presence of many potential substances that can actually interfere with the desired sweetness.
You have to be careful when you use monk fruit extract products in terms of your total energy intake for the day. For instance, this study confirmed that monk fruit extract will not raise your blood sugar. However, study participants were found to consume more food after the satiety effect of the initial consumption of monk fruit wore off.
So overall, you could eat more food than you need to; hours after consuming monk fruit extract products.
Monk fruit extracts though do not cause gastro-intestinal upset and monk fruit products have no after-taste like Stevia. Monk fruit has no effect on calories and will not raise your blood sugar when you use it.
Because of the complex extraction mechanism involved with getting the sweet mogroside out of the monk fruit, it can be expensive to purchase.
Hence, something you will see around you; is a hybrid of monk fruit mixed with other relatively cheaper natural sugar substitutes like stevia and erythritol. These hybrid products have been developed with the sole aim of driving down the cost and make it affordable for the end user.
In conclusion, natural sugar substitutes are great way to get your desired sweetness without upsetting your metabolic homeostatic balance.
Refined sugar is bad. Bad. Bad. Think obesity. Think heart disease. Think type 2 diabetes. Think stroke. Think even cancer.
You have no reason not to dump refined sugar now that technology allows us to have decent natural sugar substitutes made commercially available to us. Use any of these 5 natural sugar substitutes. They are the best…for now.
There is always this widespread impression that a hummus has to have vegetable oil slapped all over it for the hummus to be complete. I say, No, it doesn’t.
I have seen videos of hummus preparations where the hummus is practically dripping with virgin oilve oil. Yes, olive oil might be healthy but do you have to soak your hummus in it for you to enjoy it?
I don’t count calories in my eating plan but calories do matter to a certain extent. After all, they constitute your overall energy intake. Draping your hummus with so much oilve oil will just add to the overall calorie content without necessarily adding immensely to the eating experience.
Here I present to you an oil-free hummus recipe that you can enjoy without any undue calorie concerns.
This oil-free hummus recipe uses the 4-4-2 formula.
4 ingredients at the base of the food processor, 4 ingredients in the middle and another 2 ingredients at the top before the final blitz to get the end product – a sumptious oil-free hummus. This oil-free hummus is suitable for vegans, I should add.
So, what do we need for this oil-free hummus recipe?
Lemons X 2 Sweet Peppers X 2 Garlic X 3 cloves Red Onion X 1 Cumin powder X 3 tbs Coriander powder X 3 tbs Paprika X 3 tbs Tahini Paste X 4 tbs Chickpeas X 2 cans Salt to taste
How to make the oil-free hummus
==> Slice up your red onion, garlic, and bell peppers and chuck them into the food processor.
==> Squeeze out the juice from the 2 lemons and pour into the food processor. Blitz the content for about 2 minutes. This is the base.
==> Add the Tahini paste, the cumin powder, the coriander powder and paprika and blitz for about 1 minute.
==> Now drain the chickpeas and add them to the food processor. Always make sure, you get the chickpeas in water NOT in brine. Add salt on top and blitz the content until you are happy with the texture.
If you like your oil-free hummus very smooth, blitz for longer. You can always pause the food processor every now and again to check if you are happy with the texture.
That’s it. Your oil-free hummus is ready for your enjoyment.
Garnish with chives and some nuts like peanuts or cashew nuts.
Does this oil-free hummus hit the mark as far as blood sugar is concerned? You bet, it does. I got a reading of 5.0mmol/l (90mg/dl) 1 hour after eating it with some carrots.
Can you eat your way out of Alzheimer’s disease? Turns out, we can. In a preventative way, that is.
What you will be receiving in exchange for your time spent on this page is a nice overview of Alzheimer disease prevention diet and some other Alzheimer preventative strategies that you can employ starting today.
The incidence of Alzheimer’s disease is on the increase especially in the Western world. Alzheimer’s disease is probably more prevalent now because we are living longer.
By the time we hit age 85, the number affected be in the region of 1 in 2 in that age group, if current predictions come true. It is thought that by 2050, 13.8 million Americans will be affected. Those are some scary stats.
The point here is you don’t have to run away from fats in general. You only have to eat the right fats. Eat lots of them at that. Because that study says a high intake of unsaturated fats and unhydrogenated fats helps prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
In fact, a more recent study published in Neurology journal, it was demonstrated that eating a Mediterranean-style diet was associated with a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Study participants were aged between 30 – 60 years and were followed up for 3 years with MRI Scan imaging.
The idea was to see how adherence to the Mediterranean diet influenced development of Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers. Needless to say, the study participants were Alzheimer’s disease-free at the start of the study.
The participants were classified as having either low adherence to the Mediterranean diet or high adherence to the diet.
This recent study showed that lower Mediterranean diet adherence was associated with progressive Alzheimer’s disease biomarker abnormalities in these middle-aged adults.
In effect a Mediterranean-style diet was actually protective of Alzheimer’s disease and is one of the things you can do to avoid Alzheimer’s disease.
Eat a Plant-based diet I know carnivores would be screaming, what the… expletives, at their computer screens or smart phones whilst reading this.
Well, there is no need to scream at your device, because as you just saw from that recent study, the Mediterranean-style diet does lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
What constitutes a Mediterranean diet?
It’s fruits, legumes, and vegetables plus healthy plant-derived fats.
When I say Legumes, people always ask what I mean. Well, for avoidance of doubt, legumes refer to beans, peas and lentils. Some of the loveliest, most nutritious foods on the planet.
If the results from that study are anything to go by, then it is clear that animal products don’t do much to stave off Alzheimer’s disease.
You can eat as much animal products as you like, so long as you understand the risks.
Okay, on a practical note, I am not saying you have to go Vegan. Nope.
What you can do is reduce your consumption of animal products inclusive of dairy.
You don’t have to cut them out altogether. Just reduce your consumption of them. You are more likely to find joy with that than a total ban. Makes sense?
Eat more plants!
Do Physical and Mental Exercise This goes without saying. I am not the first to mention this. You would have heard it elsewhere and everywhere. Exercise is good for you.
I know this piece was supposed to be about Alzheimer’s disease diet which means the focus should be about diet.
But it will be remiss of me of not to talk about exercise, if we are talking about Alzheimer’s disease prevention.
Exercise has many ramifications. You get immediate benefits from getting yourself cardiovascularly fit, fat burn and muscle toning. But you also get long term benefits.
Long term benefits of exercise include Alzheimer’s disease prevention. It is recommended that you get about 150 minutes of exercise a week as a means to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
And it doesn’t matter whether, it is cardio exercise or resistance training. Any exercise will do.
Here’s a summary of what you can do to prevent or avoid Alzheimer’s disease:
1. Keep your intake of saturated fats low, really low.
2. Eat more unsaturated fats. You can get these from nuts, seeds, avocados and oils sympathetically extracted from these.
3. Avoid trans-fats foods. These foods will include commercially available fried foods and pastries. Something to mention though. If you see on the food label “partially hydrogenated oils”, that should qualify as trans-fat. Avoid.
4. Reduce your consumption of dairy
5. Eat more plants – fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains
6. Reduce your meat consumption, in particular red meat
7. Meet your daily requirements for Vitamin E. I am not suggesting taking Vitamin E supplement. That has been found to be disappointing. Get your vitamin E from your food – nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, whole grains. You need to eat about 15 mg of Vitamin E daily.
8. Avoid Vitamin supplements with Iron and Copper. You should be looking to get your iron and copper from your food. If you are iron deficient, do not self-treat. The instructions to take iron should come from your doctor, not you or anyone else. Excess iron is just as bad as lack of it.
9. Reduce exposure to aluminium. I know it’s all around us, aluminium. There’s some link between aluminium and Alzheimer’s disease, so it will be prudent at this point to reduce your exposure to it. Choose your cooking pots carefully. Be careful with products like baking powder, and over-the-counter antacids. Some of them contain aluminium. Avoid.
10. Take your vitamin B12 daily, if you are a vegan. Your recommended daily dose should be 2.4 micrograms.
11. Get as much sleep as possible each night. Shift workers may find it difficult to adhere to this but you should look to get as much sleep as possible when you are off duty. 7 – 8 hours’ sleep a night is what you should be aiming for.
Sleep is important for forming new memories. If you liken sleep to an email account and liken new memories to the ‘Inbox’, lack of sleep will mean new memories will bounce back just like an email will bounce if the address in incorrect. Instead of having new memories received or stored, they will bounce if you are sleep-deprived.
Also, sleep period is the time the brain detoxes itself. Getting rid of the damage of wakefulness, recharging itself and getting rid of that toxic protein, beta amyloid. Lack of sleep means you deprive your brain of that wash-out of beta amyloid. Read more about sleep benefits from this book “Why We Sleep” at Amazon UK here.
12. Exercise your brain and your physical body. As I stated previously, 150 minutes of physical exercise a week is ideal and exercise for your brain works just as well.
Brain exercises will include activities like crosswords, puzzles, play scrabble, solve riddles and twists. Anything that exercises your brain even reading newspapers and online articles like this will help you exercise your brain and stave off Alzheimer’s disease.
13. Quit smoking cigarettes. Look for smoking cessation programs around where you live. You are probably going to find more success with that method than trying to go it alone. Of course, if you can do it yourself, go ahead and do it.
Those are your tips for preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Take them on board and start using these tips starting today.
Don’t rely on Big Pharma to rescue you in later years. There’s no guarantee they will. Why wait when you can take Alzheimer preventing steps yourself.
Why should you eat dark leafy greens? Yep, that’s a perfectly reasonable question.
And on this page, I’m going to explain why. You are going to know why you should eat dark leafy greens (everyday, if you can) and why these gifts of nature should constitute an essential part of your diet.
It is a given that leafy greens are supposedly good for you. But you have to wonder if this promise is being over-sold or not. Is it possible that the benefits of dark leafy greens represent a hyperbole?
I have dug deep into this and I can honestly say that, despite all the hype that the internet is known for these days, dark leafy greens do not fall into that category.
I have eaten and still continue to eat dark leafy greens and I can confirm that dark leafy greens actually represent one of the best things you can do to your health.
I am living proof of that but I will spare you the details of my personal experience here.
Suffice to say, I love dark leafy greens and you should love dark leafy greens too. Dark leafy greens are good for you. Take my word for it.
It doesn’t matter what diet you are on. Dark leafy green vegetables are always recommended. That fact is indisputable.
We aren’t just talking about vegetables in broad terms here. We are specifically talking about leafy green vegetables.
There is a difference. Dark leafy green vegetables are a subset of vegetables. Yes, by referring to leafy greens, we are actually talking about edible green leaves.
Broccoli for instance is a green vegetable. This is not about broccoli. This is about leaves that are green in colour.
That said, broccoli shares practically all the benefits of these dark leafy greens. So, the distinction here is purely academic.
So, what are the dark leafy green vegetables?
Allow me to share with you 10 of my best dark leafy green vegetables that you should be eating everyday. Just pick one for each day and eat it to your heart’s content. In actual fact your heart will thank you for it.
What are they? Well, below is a list of 10 dark leafy greens that should be in your grocery list without fail.
Wild rocket (Arugula)
These and other leafy greens are what’s on the spotlight here.
Historical perspective Eating dark leafy green vegetables is not new.
We have been eating them since pre-historic times. But their popularity in North America only took off when the Africans arrived there in the 17th century.
They were more widely eaten in the south at the time. Their use spread northwards over time.
In prehistoric times and in our hunter-gatherer days, dark leafy greens were part of the diet along with root vegetables.
If you were unlucky with the hunt, you knew that dark leafy greens and root vegetables were a fall-back food to rely on.
It is this wisdom from history that your Grandmother insisted you ate them. She knew from history that dark leafy greens were good for you.
But you had other ideas. You preferred modern junk food to dark leafy greens. Not the brightest idea in terms of your metabolic health.
Dark leafy greens can do so much more for your health, your metabolic health that it borders on recklessness to ignore these lovely nature’s gift to you.
Leafy greens are a treasure trove of goodness. The moment you introduce them to your diet, you will within a day or two begin to see the difference. That’s how quick the benefits of eating dark leafy green vegetables begin to add up.
Dark leafy greens provide some of the principal health-promoting functionalities of life and they are:
What more can you ask for!
So, why should you eat dark leafy green vegetables?
Well, the importance of eating dark leafy green vegetables cannot be over-emphasized.
If you do nothing else as far healthy living is concerned, you should eat leafy greens. Seriously, you should.
I know I’m beginning to sound like a broken record there. Only because of their benefits, hence.
Now let’s talk about why leafy green vegetables are good for you.
Dark leafy greens have a high concentration of micro-nutrients.
One of the things people ignore when it comes to nutrition is micronutrients.
We concentrate so much efforts and energy on analysing macronutrients that we forget the most important element of healthy living. Micronutrients!
Micro-nutrients represent the most important part of cellular function.
If you lack micro-nutrients, it will manifest in all sorts of ways. Even that unexplained feeling of lethargy could be due to deficiencies in micro-nutrients.
Micro-nutrients are particularly important for smooth running of our cells. Micronutrients influence a range of bodily functions from hair growth to brain function.
By micronutrients, we are referring to vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Micronutrients will include minerals like zinc, copper, phosphorus, manganese, potassium, sodium, magnesium, selenium, iron, zinc and even zinc.
Vitamins will include vitamins A, B, C, D, E, K.
Why are they called micronutrients? It’s because the thinking is that we don’t need a lot of these minerals and vitamins to survive.
You might need very little to survive but you need a whole lot more to be healthy. A lot of people aren’t even getting the little that is needed for basic survival mainly because their diet is highly lacking.
Manganese for instance helps your body with the metabolism of the macronutrients – the fat, the protein and the carbs. Manganese facilitates the release of energy from those macronutrients.
Sodium is essential as a blood electrolyte. Sodium helps with fluid balance within and outside the cells. Low sodium for instance can lead to brain swelling with disastrous consequences.
Magnesium is necessary for nerve and muscular function. Lack of magnesium can lead to muscle tension and has been linked to some mental health problems.
Need I mention that iron is an important component of our red blood cells. Without iron you won’t make good enough red blood cells resulting in anaemia. Fatigue, lethargy and even heart failure could happen if you don’t have enough iron from your food.
Iodine is essential for thyroid function. Without iodine, your thyroid gland won’t make enough thyroxine. Some weight gain issues are traceable to underactive thyroid. Besides your cognitive ability will plummet in the face of an underactive thyroid gland.
I could go on and on with the functions that micronutrients perform and I haven’t even touched the vitamins.
Micronutrients functions is a book in itself.
The point here is that dark leafy greens have an abundance of micronutrients. Consuming enough leafy greens means you can dump those supplements you have in your cabinet.
Dark leafy greens are packed with vitamins and minerals. You can’t go wrong with them.
And if you are wondering which dark leafy greens to start with. Well, it doesn’t matter much which one you eat. Just eat any.
However, if you would like a ranking based on nutrient density, you can have a look at the ranking scale that Brian Bender has put together at MyIntakePro here for extra guidance. Collard greens seem to top the list in terms of nutrient density and nutrient spread.
2. Leafy greens are the best for weight management
I have said it before. One of the best things you can do for weight management is consume lots of dark leafy greens and I am not joking.
If you are trying to lose weight, you should be adding leafy greens to your eating plan.
For me, it’s more than that though. It’s about the lifestyle. Eating leafy greens should be a lifelong plan. Not just for weight loss.
Having them in your weight loss plan however, is the most sensible thing you can ever do.
Why are leafy greens ideal for weight loss?
The main reason leafy greens are great for weight loss is because leafy greens are very low-calorie. Leafy greens have very little carb content. The glycemic index of dark greens is as low as you will ever get.
It means you can eats lots and lots of them without being concerned about their calorie content.
And you know what?
Leafy greens also fill you up because of their fiber content, So, you get the satiety without the calorie concerns. How cool is that?
And one more thing: The nitrites in dark leafy greens can have a direct effect on fat burning.
How do leafy greens nitrites do this?
By converting white fat to brown fat. White fat is the fat you don’t want but is the fat we mostly have as adults. White fat is just a stored, illness-promoting fat.
Brown fat on the other hand, is the fat found in babies. Brown fat is thermogenic. In other words, brown fat facilitates fat burning. You want that, don’t you?
Beyond that, leafy greens slow down the release of glucose from other foods you eat them with, all of which help with a lower insulin level. Another bonus for fat burning.
3. Dark leafy greens are great for diabetes management
One of the problems with diabetes is blood sugar control.
Solution: eat foods that won’t raise your blood sugar.
That advice is one of the hardest for diabetics to stick to. One reason being a lot of popular foods especially in the West are refined. Refined foods especially refined carbs raise blood sugar.
How about you introduce dark leafy greens to your diet. Dark leafy greens have a low sugar content.
Dark leafy greens won’t spike your blood sugar. That’s for sure!
Because of their low sugar content, leafy greens will not spike your insulin levels. This is particularly important for those who are insulin resistant.
In insulin resistance, you need to consume foods that won’t spike your insulin levels. Leafy greens won’t. It’s another reason, leafy green vegetables are good for weight management.
For anyone with insulin resistance, prediabetes and has type 2 diabetes, you’ll be doing your health a lot of favour by including dark leafy green vegetables in your diet.
Leafy greens are also good for diabetes prevention. Because of their omega 3 fatty acid (alpha-linolenic acid), magnesium and polyphenol content, leafy greens enhance insulin sensitivity.
The more insulin sensitive you are, the better equipped you are, at dealing with glucose load from your meal. In fact, if you are sensitive, you would just have taken active steps to prevent diabetes.
4. Good for heart health
Another great reward for eating dark leafy greens is the protection leafy green vegetables provide for your heart.
And it’s not hard to see why leafy greens are good for your cardiovascular health.
Got problems with your heart and blood vessels? Eat more leafy greens.
There have been several cases of people who declined cardiac stents and reversed their heart disease by eating more greens.
In fact, dark leafy green vegetables are the main stay of Dr Caldwell Esselstyn heart disease reversal therapy. All the success Dr Esselstyn has had has been achieved wholly through nutrition.
And what does Dr Esselstyn advise? Eat more greens and lots of them every day.
Dr Esselstyn has had a lot of success reversing the heart disease patients whom had stent surgery planned and had a second opinion from him.
Not just heart disease patients who declined stent surgery but also those who have had so many stents and there was no more room for more stents. You could say, conventional cardiac surgeons had given up on them.
Dr Esselstyn’s dietary approach saved them via the gift of dark leafy greens. Don’t skip on the leafy greens.
5. Leafy Greens are good for your blood pressure and prevents stroke
One good reason why you should eat dark leafy greens is your cardiovascular health.
People with high blood pressure have blood vessels that have high resistance. That means the blood vessel walls aren’t pliable. Your blood vessels are stiff, so to speak, if you suffer from high blood pressure (hypertension).
If your blood vessel walls aren’t pliable, they put up a lot of resistance downstream, when your heart contracts to pump blood from within it.
The blood pressure reading you see on the blood pressure machine when your doctor or nurse checks your blood pressure is a measure of how resistant the vessel walls are, when your heart pumps blood from inside it.
Higher blood pressure reading means the resistance of the vessel walls downstream is high. Not ideal.
High resistance also means your heart has to do a lot more work to get the blood through to your body cells. Not what your heart was designed for.
Something that would alleviate that resistance is leafy greens. The reasons for that are as I stated earlier on in my preceding benefit for heart health. The same reasons apply here.
6. Leafy greens are a great source of fiber
You don’t need me to tell you that leafy greens have lots of fiber in them. That’s a given. It’s what the fiber does that is more important.
Fiber is your best friend and leafy greens got it…Plenty of it
Fiber is great for bowel health because it contains prebiotics. Prebiotics provide food for our healthy bowel bacteria through the production of short-chain fatty acids.
If you keep your gut healthy bacteria happy, they in turn will protect you in more ways than one. These gut healthy bacteria might just strengthen your immunity for a start.
Fiber also slows down the rate of glucose absorption from your carbs, thus preventing sugar spikes both in non-diabetics and diabetics.
Of course, fibre is great for making us ‘regular’ reducing our tendency to become constipated. Another bonus benefit from your leafy greens.
7. May help prevent cancer Leafy greens are packed full of phytochemicals such as lutein, beta-cryptoxanthin,quercetin, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene
These phytochemicals have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory properties and also provide cellular support. Not just that, these phytochemicals play a role in epigenetics and the making of new DNA, RNA and new protein synthesis.
The last thing you want when new cells are being formed is for ‘accidents’ to happen. It is these accidents during cell division that lead to cancer.
For a start, you need folic acid to make new DNA and RNA as folic acid is involved in the methylation process.
Well, guess what?
Your lovely dark leafy greens have a rich abundance of folic acid.
There are several mechanisms by which leafy greens protect you from cancer. I have only just given a little overview here.
8. Leafy greens may help prevent vascular dementia
With 29% of Americans suffering from high blood pressure, that’s higher than 1 in 4 and a similar ratio in the UK, it is clear that a vascular dementia time bomb is in the offing in both countries.
Here is something that’s somewhat scary.
Guidelines for hypertension tend to define hypertension as blood pressures higher than 140/90 mm Hg.
This Whitehall Study showed that the threshold for vascular dementia is actually systolic blood pressure of 130 mm Hg NOT the 140mm Hg that guidelines set for doctors and the general population.
Your risk of developing vascular dementia goes up once your systolic blood pressure (the top value) is above 130mm Hg at age 50 and onwards.
High blood pressure in the middle age is a known risk factor for vascular dementia and vascular dementia is the next most common type of dementia after Alzheimers.
The brain is quite a huge tank of metabolic activity. This means your brain requires a huge supply of oxygen and nutrients. If anything compromises this supply, the risk of vascular dementia goes up.
In the same vein, anything that enhances this supply of oxygen and nutrients to the brain protects your brain from degeneration.
That’s where the leafy greens come in.
Dark leafy greens provide powerful benefits both for your blood pressure and your brain. Leafy greens are full of nitrates which get converted to Nitric Oxide.
Nitric oxide relaxes your blood vessels making them less stiff. This enhances oxygenation of the brain and promotes nutrient supply as well including micro-nutrients.
All of these actions lower your risk of developing vascular dementia.
9. Dark leafy greens are good for sleep
One of the most ignored benefits of eating dark leafy greens is sleep promotion. I can attest to this benefit.
Once I introduced leafy greens into my daily routine, my sleep quality rocketed through the roof. And it’s not rocket science, by the way. You should try it.
This is something that you can actually have a proof of concept affordably by trying it out yourself. You don’t need some randomized controlled studies to prove this to you. You can prove it to yourself.
Four micronutrients – tryptophan, calcium, vitamin B6 and magnesium are essential for the manufacture of melatonin.
You need melatonin to sleep well.
Dark leafy greens have all of these substances, the tryptophan, the calcium, the vitamin B6 and the magnesium to varying degrees. Some more than others.
It’s not just about sleep. It’s more about the quality of the sleep. Get leafy greens and sleep better and wake up fresher.
Does fruit spike insulin? Does fruit spike blood sugar? Both questions are valid and deserve attention. Because fruits innocence can easily be mistaken. As usual I go deep on this topic.
We are encouraged to eat fruits as part of a healthy diet. Can something be this good and be just as bad for us?
Let me clarify something upfront. This piece is not saying you shouldn’t eat fruits. Rather it’s a deep insight into whether fuits can spike insulin or spike your blood sugar.
The US food and drug administration recommends 2 servings of fruits a day even amongst those whose level of physical activity is less than 30 minutes a day.
Although the official website does talk about how much fruit you need daily would depend on age, sex and physical activity.
In the UK, we are advised to eat 5 portions of fruits and veg daily to keep the doctors away from our doorstep.
All in all, you are encouraged to consume fruits daily. Any fruit. In any form.
I will disagree with some aspects of the recommendation especially if we are going to answer the question of whether fruits can spike blood sugar or spike insulin.
You will see what I mean as I delve deeper into the fruits and blood sugar & insulin connection.
Not that we need any encouragement to eat fruits anyway. The mere fact of their sweetness and fleshy texture is enough to make us fall in love with fruits.
Our love for fruits is evolutionary. In the prehistoric times over 2 million years ago, our diet was carbohydrate-poor, rich in protein and fat.
At the time, the only way we satisfied our sweet tooth was through fruit consumption. Fruits were more pleasant on the palate than leaves and roots. Indeed, it was important to have these substitutes when the hunter-gatherer couldn’t make a catch.
Instead of going hungry because the deer survived our hunting attempt, you had berries, veggies and roots to fall back on. Not a big deal.
Whilst it made sense at the time to eat all fruits that came our way, so long as they were considered safe, our modern way of life has now thrown some questions regarding the effects of fruits on blood sugar and insulin.
This is inextricably tied up to our modern lifestyle of being sedentary. All of these do have implications as to how our body deals with the sugar that erupts from the fruits we eat.
So, does fruit spike blood sugar and insulin?
Well, the answer is, Yes and No.
Yes, fruits can spike blood sugar. Yes, fruits can spike insulin.
And No, fruits may neither spike blood sugar nor insulin.
Confused? Don’t be.
And I’m not giving a cop-out answer here. You know I am not one for sitting on the fence. It hurts the bum…badly.
Whether fruits spike blood insulin or spike blood sugar or not, depends on a number of factors.
And this would vary from person to person. In fact, whether your blood sugar or your insulin spikes after you eat fruit can also vary within you as an individual.
Here are some of the factors that would determine if fruits will spike your insulin or spike your blood sugar:
Type of fruit
How the fruit is eaten
How much of the fruit you eat
What you eat the fruit with
Where you are in your metabolic health
Your level of physical activity
Let’s take each of those factors and see how they play out.
1. Type of fruit
I don’t need to tell you that some fruits are sweeter than others. Even the same fruit can have different variations. Think Green Apples and Red Apples.
Red apples are tastier than green apples. Green apples sometimes border on the savoury side than sweet. Amongst the red apples, I’ve lost count of how many types my supermarket throws at me. Choices, choices, choices.
I’m encouraged to buy some brands of red apples because according to my supermarket, they are sweeter.
That’s just apples.
If you take things further and compare sugar between fruits, that could take a huge table of facts that might be difficult to digest (no pun intended).
So, I will keep things simple.
The amount of sugar in cantaloupe or honeydew melon is twice the amount in strawberries. Gram for gram you will be getting double the dose of sugar from honeydew melon and cantaloupe than you would, if you ate strawberries.
What about pineapples and mangoes? They are in a different league.
The flipside of that is there are some fruits that you will consider as being very safe as far as blood sugar spiking and insulin spiking are concerned.
Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries are generally safe fruits for blood sugar and insulin spikes. So safe the berries are that diabetics are actually encouraged to eat them.
If you take things a little further in terms of fruits safety from blood sugar spikes, avocado is one fruit that should be considered a safe bet. Avocados are fatty though but the sugar level is pretty tolerable. Just something to bear in mind.
Depending on the other factors that I will be discussing shortly, a certain fruit can spike your insulin correspondingly after spiking your blood sugar on a given day.
What fruit you eat matters.
2. How the fruit is eaten
If you eat fruits whole and fresh, the soluble and insoluble fibre in the fruit keeps the release of sugars from the fruit in check.
There is a reason people like Eric Rimm from Harvard School of Public Health recommend that fruits be eaten whole.
Fruits contain not just natural sugars but also fibre and micronutrients. The fibre in fruits is both soluble and insoluble. The soluble fibre is what stops the fruit from releasing the natural sugars briskly.
The insoluble fiber does other things like serving as a prebiotic to our gut bacteria. Not only that, insoluble fiber helps move food along the alimentary tract, keeping us regular (if you get my drift).
I like making smoothies and of course I make my own smoothies. You should too.
However, I have had to rein in my love of smoothies because the process of making smoothies does break down the fibre we are talking about.
When you blitz the fruits in your smoothie machine, you are blitzing the fibre and altering the digestibility of the fruits.
In theory, you are encouraging the sugars in the fruits to be released a little quicker than they would, if you ate and chewed your fruits whole.
The finer the texture of your smoothie, the higher this effect.
Now, I should add that this effect may not be too significant in a person who is metabolically competent. I will touch on this shortly.
From the above, you would have gathered that if you are going to consume smoothies, please make your own smoothies. At least you know what’s gone into the smoothie.
Never buy smoothies from the shops or your supermarket. They invariably add sugars to those commercially available smoothies. You will be shocked at how much sugar is added.
As if the fruit isn’t sweet enough?
The point here being, whereas eating a whole fruit may not spike your blood sugar or spike your insulin, the smoothie version may spike your blood sugar and insulin.
The only way to find out is; if you test yourself using a blood glucose meter eating both versions. I encourage you to test yourself, by the way. More so, if you have insulin resistance, prediabetes or diabetes.
Lest I forget. Dried fruits and Canned fruits.
Whereas fresh fruits might be good for your blood sugar and insulin, the dried version of the fruit may turn out to be a devil in disguise.
Think grapes and raisins. Do you think eating 30 grapes will have the same effect as eating 30 raisins?
For a start, 30 grapes will fill you up more, 30 raisins will do no such thing. Agreed?
Secondly, the release of simple natural sugars from the raisins will be faster than you get from the grapes even though both the grapes and the raisins have the same amount of sugar.
It is the speed of sugar release that will affect the likelihood of a blood sugar spike and a corresponding insulin spike.
Dried fruits will certainly move you in that direction.
Dried fruits are fruits that have lost nearly all the water content. Not only that some food manufacturers are crazy enough to add sugar to some dried fruits to sweeten them up some more.
How much sweetness do we need in our lives?
Think dried berries, cherries and apricots.
The same goes for canned fruits. Some have added sugar in them. Avoid. If you ever going to have canned fruits, ensure they are preserved in water. If there’s any added sugar, avoid.
Because those brands of canned fruits with added sugar will most certainly spike your blood sugar and spike your insulin.
3. How much of the fruit you eat
This is common sense really. If you are going to gorge on something sweet, it makes sense to be sensible about it.
If you are going to eat 10 apples in one sitting because you are chatting with your friend and you’ve lost track of how much apples you have eaten (10 actually, need I remind you), is it any surprise if the apples spike your blood sugar and your insulin?
Then again, it also depends on other factors playing up to either protect you or conspire against you. I’m referring to the type of fruit, how you eat it, your metabolic status etc.
All of those factors will determine whether 10 apples or 10 oranges may spike you or not.
I’m not one to talk, because I actually eat lots of bananas. The most bananas I have eaten is 5 in one sitting. But I was fine. I’m no longer insulin resistant and the bananas by the way are the minimally-ripe ones not the deep yellow over ripe ones with brown patches on the skin.
I eat lots of minimally-ripe bananas to catch up on my resistant starch.
I’m pretty sure if I ate 5 of those over-ripe bananas, my blood sugar will rocket up.
And I don’t eat those bananas blindly, by the way. I have a glucometer and I check my blood sugar to ensure I am not being reckless.
Okay, I could get away with eating lots of bananas, will I get away with eating lots of honeydew melon?
I’m not so sure. I haven’t tested it, so I can’t say.
What I can tell you though is; honeydew melon is a fruit that is not only high in sugar (we established that already earlier on) but low in fibre.
And as you know, melons are so soft that the texture is almost non-existent.
What does that mean?
It means you can easily eat lots and lots of a fruit like watermelon without realising you have. In addition, the fact that watermelon or honeydew melon has very little fiber means fruits like honeydew melon or watermelon will give you a blood sugar spike and an insulin spike.
The way round it is, if you are going to eat fruits like melon with high sugar and low fiber, you will need to reduce your portion sizes to less than a cup.
High fiber fruits like the berries are a safer bet when it comes to eating bigger portions of fruits, if you want to avoid insulin spike and blood sugar spike.
Something else I need to mention about canned fruits is that you can very easily eats lots of canned fruits than you would eating the whole fruit version of it.
You need to be mindful of that.
4. What you eat the fruits with
Before I started writing this article, I had some fruit. Apples and Blueberries. But I didn’t just eat the apples and blueberries on their own, I had the them with oatmeal.
Oat meal has fibre. The apple has fiber. The blueberries have fiber. What have I succeeded in doing with that combination?
Not only have I succeeded in boosting my fiber intake for the day, I have also ensured that the release of blood sugar from that meal is as slow as it will ever get.
You can apply the same principle of introducing more fiber to your fruit intake by having your fruits with leafy green vegetables, if oatmeal is not your thing.
Leafy greens have lots of fibre to boot. You can’t go wrong with them. In fact, I will go as far as saying fruits like honeydew melon with low fiber content on their own, are best eaten as eaten as salads with leafy green vegetables.
The flipside of that is what my teenage son did the other day.
I came downstairs to the kitchen and saw him having strawberries. How cool is that? A teenager having fruit?
They usually have little interest in fruits. But wait for it…
He was having the strawberries with sugar draped over them. Yes, he was. See image below.
Strawberries are supposed to be one of the best fruits you can ever eat. But here we have a situation where my son was turning one of the healthiest fruits into something potentially unhealthy.
Will a combination like this cause the fruit to spike your blood sugar and spike your insulin? Very likely.
5. Where you are in your metabolic health
I have sort of touched on this in a roundabout way already.
We are all at different places in our metabolic health. Some of us are still metabolically competent. However, 24% of adult population in the US for instance, is thought to be insulin resistant.
Others are quite frankly diabetic.
How the fruit you eat interacts with you is strongly dependent on your metabolic status. The older you are, the higher the likelihood that you may be metabolically incompetent.
Which means fruits that wouldn’t spike you in your 20s will now spike your blood sugar in your 40s and beyond. Because you are probably insulin resistant.
Fruits like bananas, watermelon, apples, pears, nectarines, apricots, oranges, pineapples etc are fruits that won’t do someone with insulin resistance, prediabetes and diabetes any favours especially when eaten on their own.
But if you can make yourself insulin sensitive, then you may well welcome these fruits back into your life without any hassles.
How do you eat fruits without spiking your blood sugar if you are insulin resistant, have prediabetes or have type 2 diabetes?
Look out for these tips later on.
6. Your level of physical activity
Nothing beats the cellular capabilities of someone who is physically active. You hear it everywhere. Exercise, exercise, exercise.
Most advice on exercise is geared towards weight loss. That is correct but I do think that’s a misplaced advice. Exercise does little for weight loss and I mean that.
Exercise does a whole lot more for improving your metabolic health than it will ever do to make you shed fat.
If you do nothing else, do your exercises to boost your metabolic health.
The principal gain from exercise is improving insulin sensitivity. If you built muscle as a result of your exercise activity, even better.
Muscle soaks up glucose from the blood circulation thereby lowering blood sugar. This prevents blood sugar spike and insulin spike.
Even if you don’t build muscle, just doing regular exercise will sensitize your muscles and make them more responsive to insulin.
If you boost your insulin sensitivity, fruits you eat will not cause a blood sugar spike and will therefore not cause insulin spike.
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