Food Basics

I’m an advocate of eating real food. Foods like fruits, vegetables, animal protein, eggs, and nuts. Modern foods that come in colorful little packages often have tons of sugars, sodium, or even chemicals that confuse the brain and digestive system and cause all sorts of havoc. For type 1 diabetics, it’s even more important to avoid processed foods and beverages. Sticking with real, whole foods will make your blood sugar much, much easier to control and require less insulin.

A bowl of oatmeal for breakfast seems like a heart-healthy way to get your day started. I tried this for years, experimenting with different types of oatmeal, adding protein like almonds, reducing sugar by using almond milk instead of cow’s milk, etc. I hate to break it to you oatmeal lovers, but there’s no way to control this food consistently while maintaining normal blood sugar levels. I’ve repeated this little experiment with bagels, whole grain cereals, grits, soy products, etc. I finally had to accept that grains like wheat, corn, and soy are not conducive to normal levels of blood sugar and insulin.

What about starchy vegetables like potatoes, legumes, and carrots? Be careful with these. I made the mistake one day of eating a huge handful of peanuts thinking they were mostly protein and fat. Well, they are, but they come packed with a punch. Legumes can raise your blood sugar levels in a hurry if you don’t keep an eye on it. However, there are times when these foods can be helpful. If you are a kid who has been playing all day or you are training for an upcoming half-marathon, your muscles may need some fast-acting sugar to replace the depleted glycogen following a hard session of exercise. This is the time for some starchy vegetables or fruit. If you insist on one of those meal replacement bars like those offered by Cliff, beware! The macronutrients in these bars will hit your blood sugar like a freight train causing a massive blood sugar spike followed by the inevitable blood sugar crash assuming you took some fast-acting insulin to cover the meal replacement bar.

Parents, please keep fruit juices and sodas away from diabetic kids. I know they taste like heaven to them, but liquid calories will send your children on a blood sugar roller coaster. Of course fruit juices are an excellent choice if blood sugar is very low.

Adults, please be careful with alcohol. Some beverages like wine or clear liquors have never caused any significant blood sugar swings for me, but some diabetics have reported hypoglycemic events following consumption of these types of alcoholic beverages. Beer, unfortunately, is catastrophic for blood sugar. The watery beers like Bud light, Coors Light, etc. are pretty harmless to blood sugar levels, but the darker and hoppier ones have loads of carbohydrates and sugar. These beverages require massive amounts of insulin. Since insulin is the leading hormone in the creation of belly fat, it’s no wonder many Americans have trouble with this.

In short, if you have type 1 diabetes and you’d like to control your blood sugar and feel great, eat paleo. Check out Robb Wolf’s book, The Paleo Solution. I discovered paleo by trial and error. In a sense, I baby-stepped my way to paleo. My transformation didn’t come about suddenly, but over a long period of time. Achieving an HbA1c of 5.0 is possible without frequent crashes. Type 1 diabetics are entitled to healthy blood sugar levels as well as non-diabetics. Doctors might tell you this is unrealistic, but I’m here to tell you it can be done. I’m not perfect, and I have some work to do, but my recent A1c of 5.3 is me moving in the right direction.

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