In understanding insulin resistance and how it can happen, Dr. Jodi Stanislaw says she likes to educate people about their pancreas, which usually no one pays attention to. Inside our pancreas is a small cluster of cells called beta cells which are the size of two almonds. She says that were these to wither away, we would die in a couple of weeks. She said anytime we eat sugar or any highly refined carbohydrate that would turn into sugar, like white bread, it circulates in our blood from head to toe, throughout our bodies. The beta cells are the security guards for our blood. As soon as they see this rush of sugar they send the alarm bells off and essentially, call in a team of dump trucks to haul that sugar off. The dump trucks are our insulin. The insulin’s job is to haul that sugar out of our blood and feed it to our liver, our muscles, and to store it as fat, because we don’t want all of that sugar hanging out in our blood.
It seems like a simple answer to protect our blood from too much sugar. The problem is that millions and millions of us are overworking their security force–the Beta cells. It’s not just the obvious temptations like ice cream, but other highly refined carbohydrates like yogurt ( she said most yogurts have more sugar ounce for ounce than Coke) and granola, sugar cereal, white bread, white pasta, and alcohol, even in moderation. Every time we eat these foods, the beta cells alarm bells go off, to make more insulin. She finishes with saying this is scary because when things get overused, from cars to computers, the parts eventually wear out. Eating too much sugar and highly refined carbs can lead to beta cell burnout. This is another name for prediabetes or diabetes type 2 which we really don’t want to suffer from.
Dr. Stanislaw further reveals that she has type 1 diabetes, meaning her beta cells disappeared when she was 7, so she has insulin injections every day. She is living with diabetes and feeling its effects and trying to warn us to be careful so we don’t have to take insulin everyday like she does.
After she recommends the “80-20 principle”–80 percent healthy whole foods and 20 percent sugary and highly refined foods–she said, “Do you want to have more energy, less anxiety and better memory? More productivity, better skin, better sleep, more joy? Reducing sugar and highly refined carbohydrates from your diet could change your life.”
Her three simple steps?
1.Have protein for breakfast, eggs, nuts, cottage cheese, apples slices with peanut butter.
2. After a meal when you are craving a sugary treat, try water first.
3. There are low sugar replacements for high refined carbohydrates–cauliflower rice and pizza crust, swapped out for white rice and white flour pizza crust. Zucchini noodles can be exchanged for pasta. She makes cookies with almond flour and stevia.
Dr. Stanislaw finishes with, “If we reduce the sugar in our diet then our food will be doing what it was meant to do–fuel us into greatness.”
I too tried to limit sugar from my family and substitute healthy desserts. I too found that my children would become raving sugar maniacs at ward parties and at our neighbor’s houses. What we have to do is teach our children the principle of quality, like the French do. What finally worked for us was having jars of candy in our basement that were available for them and their friends while they watched a movie or played air hockey, really anytime they wanted it except before meals. Initially they ate a ton, got sick of it, and then chose the higher quality ice cream I would buy or the home-made cakes or cookies I made. The jars of candy sat and sat until we would throw them away and refresh them.
Michael Pollan, the food educator and activist, has a wonderful rule about food: “Eat all the junk food you want – as long as you cook it yourself. That way, it’ll be less junky, and you won’t eat it every day because it’s a lot of work.” This wise direction allows no shame or doing without. But how often are we going to make a homemade corn dog or candy? It also means that the treat we make at home will have limited preservatives and ingredients, so the cookies we make will be much healthier and fewer preservatives than anything else we buy, even at a high quality bakery.
Hopefully the 80-20 rule, and the “eat all you want if you make it yourself” rule will help us eat more quality treats that aren’t as highly addictive . In this way we can protect our families and ourselves.