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September 2, 2015 by Leanne Vogel October 6, 2018
What happens to your blood sugar when you eat fat? The steps you need to stabilize your blood sugar and increase your fat-burning hormones (by following a Fat Fueled, keto eating style).
Up until I found keto (high-fat, low-carb living) I was in the “eat every 2-3 hours in order to control blood sugar” camp. What I didn’t know, was that the constant eating; generally of carbohydrates, was exactly what was causing my blood sugar irregularities – constant “hangry” feelings, hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, and more.
After a couple of weeks of eating Fat Fueled, keto, I no longer struggled with hypoglycemia. It was as if my sugar lows just… disappeared. And I’m not the only one that’s experienced massive changes to blood sugar shortly after shifting to a Fat Fueled, keto life.
I invited Dietitian Cassie on the show today to help explain exactly what happens to our blood sugar when we eat fat – the ins and outs of insulin resistance, actions that affect blood sugar, how to use carb-ups to heal insulin resistance and much more.
Today’s keto video encourages us to use dietary fat as our ally, to rely on it to support balanced blood sugar, thriving hormones and a healthy body.
For video transcription, scroll down.
Cassie–widely known as Dietitian Cassie–is a Registered, Licensed Dietitian as well as Lead Health Coach and founder of Healthy Simple Life — a team of dietitians and personal trainers who provide real food and evidence-based nutrition and fitness coaching online, over the phone and at corporate or community classes. She’s also the co-host of the weekly podcast Low-Carb Conversations with Jimmy Moore, Dietitian Cassie & Friends. We were completing each others’ sentences during our interview, which told me that we were completely, without a doubt, on the same page about all the things.
Leanne: Hey everyone, we are here with Dietitian Cassie. She is a Registered Dietitian as well as a lead health coach and founder of Healthy Simple Life, a team of dietitians and personal trainers who provide real food and evidence-based nutrition and fitness coaching online, over the phone and at corporate or community classes. They help people find freedom from diets and chronic health conditions through the power of real food so that they can live their life to the fullest.
Dietitian Cassie and her team are passionate about debunking diet rumors, myths and fads, while teaching people how to eat real foods in balance to help them feel their best. She’s also the co-host of the weekly podcast, Low-Carb Conversations with Jimmy Moore, Dietitian Cassie and friends, and the featured dietitian for the TV program, Twin Cities Live.
Thank you so much for coming on the show today.
Cassie: Thanks, Leanne. I’m so excited to be here.
Leanne: I asked my community. We want to talk about blood sugar. Who do you want to chat about it, and everyone said you. They want you to talk about blood sugar and low carbohydrate living and how that relates to high fat and what our insulin is doing. We are ready to chat.
Cassie: This is really right up my alley, especially because throughout all my schooling to be a dietitian I was taught the conventional nutrition approaches. Low fat is healthy and we need to count calories for weight loss and eat Cheerios and oatmeal and margarine for heart disease and make sure people who have Type 2 Diabetes get enough carbohydrates, which just boggles my mind. We’ll probably talk about that a little bit.
All of this is just so different than what I teach now. I didn’t know any better when I was going through schooling. Unfortunately, what you’re taught to be a dietitian is based on really old textbook based information and it’s not based on the current research.
This was really frustrating for me personally, because I embraced what I was learning, trying to be the best dietitian student I could be, and I felt awful. I was a sugar addict, and that’s why I’m so passionate about talking about blood sugars. I was just always thinking where I’d get my next fix of sugar. I had compelling cravings. I found it difficult to focus, yet I was eating a diet rich in whole grains and soy milk and low-end fat and no red meat and really low in calories. It just didn’t really make sense.
When I got my RD LD credentials and really dug into the research, I found out that what I was learning in school wasn’t even matching up with what I was finding to be true in the actual research. When I started to apply that to my own life, ditching the grains and ditching the artificial sweeteners and overcoming my fear of fat and really embracing it and taking high-quality supplements, something I wasn’t taught about in school. It was really like an overnight transition. I just felt amazing.
There comes a point when you have to step back and look at what makes sense and what doesn’t. It never made sense to me to be eating all these processed high-carbohydrate, high-sugar foods, which are pushed on us from every angle today, and it made so much more sense to me to eat real food.
That’s exactly what my team of dietitian coaches and I do at Healthy Simple Life is we work with clients every single day, just help them keep it simple and get their health back through finding out what their root cause is and then helping them to heal that through the food that they’re eating and the supplements and nutrients they’re putting into their body instead of turning to a drug or trying to do these quick-fix diets that just don’t last.
I’m excited to be here, and we’re just proud of the fact that we like to help people keep it simple. That’s our motto, and it’s a very different approach from a lot of other healthcare practitioners, but I just think that health doesn’t have to be that complicated.
Leanne: All right. I know I have a doctor who’s like, “Than take this supplement with this supplement at this time.” It’s like, “Ah, I need to write all this stuff down,” and it gets really complicated. For people that are just getting going with eating healthy and taking care of their bodies, if they’re thrown all this information, it gets really overwhelming to the point where it’s just like, “You know what? I’d rather just not even pay attention to it, and I’ll be fine.”
Cassie: Even like you just said, supplements are great if they’re high-quality, and it can still be confusing because there’s so many options out there and there’s so many great ones, but sometimes you just have to take it a step back and just look at the big picture and take it back to the basics, because it’s not an all-or-nothing thing. This is a lifestyle. You’re embracing a new lifestyle. It’s not like you have to do it all or nothing at all, or if you fall off the bandwagon you just don’t hop back on. We’re not talking about diet here. We’re talking about just a new way of living.
I go as far as saying that 90% of our health concerns are related to nutrition and what you put into your body. The exciting thing and empowering thing about that is you get to decide. Every day we see the healing power of real food and watch our clients take these small steps that just provide huge changes in their life. I’m all about living life to the fullest and helping other people do the same thing.
Leanne: My community is mostly high-fat, low-carbohydrate, more ketogenic style of eating, and I get a lot of questions about, “What is blood glucose? Is that the same as blood sugar?” Just starting there to give people a base understanding. What is blood glucose?
Cassie: Yeah, blood sugar. Basically, any carbohydrate that you eat, this is the normal blood sugar response or blood glucose response. You can use those words interchangeably. Any carbohydrate that you eat, regardless of the source, whether it’s bread or pasta or rice. We think of those as carbohydrates. You’re community probably knows that vegetables and fruits are also carbohydrates.
All of that turns into sugar in the bloodstream. That’s what we call glucose. Then that glucose stimulates the production of insulin by your pancreas. Your pancreas secretes insulin. Insulin is also known as our fat-storage hormone, so you can gain weight. That’s why when you have a high-carbohydrate diet and your pancreas is running on a treadmill to product insulin to take that sugar out of your bloodstream, it gets stored, and what’s it stored as? It’s stored as fat.
The reason why is because it’s just toxic to have more than a couple teaspoons of sugar floating around your bloodstream at once, so whenever we eat those carbohydrates, we have to do something with them, so your insulin is a key that unlocks these doors to your cells, and it puts the sugar in there for later, but a lot of people are eating so much sugar that they don’t actually have to tap into those stores, so what happens is it’s called weight gain.
Leanne: Yeah, it’s called weight gain. I know that a lot of people have heard insulin, when insulin is about your body. Is it fair to say that maybe fat-burning isn’t a thing? When there’s insulin pumping through your veins and they’re unlocking those doors to your cells to push the sugar in, the last thing it’s thinking is, “Let’s burn fat;” right?
Cassie: Yeah. There’s two hormones. There’s insulin and there’s the opposing hormone called glucagon, and they can’t coexist. You’ve got one or the other working for you. Insulin is known as that fat-storing hormone, and glucagon is known as that fat-burning hormone.
Glucagon is what you want to be your best friend; right? We all want glucagon. We can burn fat. Even if we’re not trying to lose weight, we want to burn fat because that’s what’s going to give us energy. That’s called metabolism.
You want to keep your blood sugar level stable so that glucagon can come out, and if you’re constantly increasing your blood sugar levels or riding the blood sugar roller coaster I like to call it by eating a diet full of, just too much carbohydrate, which is different for everyone. Some people can tolerate carbohydrates better than other people.
When you’re eating these carbohydrates all day long and riding that blood sugar roller coaster that most Americans are, you’re just constantly causing your pancreas to secrete insulin and you’re never actually tapping into that glucagon, that fat-burning hormone.
That’s really where we want it to be. That’s one of the reasons why blood sugar stabilization is so important, not just for preventing weight gain and promoting weight loss but even just for energy levels. Riding a roller coaster is fun; right? A lot of people like to ride a roller coaster. They’re fun. Your stomach churns in anticipation of the unknown and there’s those ups and downs, but most roller coaster rides last two to three minutes, so imagine riding a roller coaster all day long. It’s fun for a few minutes, but you’d be exhausted if you were riding it all day long.
That’s what happens when we’re riding this blood sugar roller coaster that depletes us of our good energy and our good moods. It’s just really no way to live. We get mood swings. We get intense sugar cravings. We have a tough time focusing. That constant fatigue. That’s what it’s like when you’re following the standard American diet, which is eating a high-carbohydrate diet and just riding that blood sugar roller coaster.
When you add in healthy fat, this is where it comes in for your community. Yeah, we love fat. That’s what helps to stabilize your blood sugar levels and give you those nice rolling hills versus those extreme highs and lows.
Leanne: Right. When we’re eating high-fat with a relatively low-carbohydrate, keto eating style, we are using that glucagon … We’re becoming glucagon’s best friend and they’re coming out more than insulin is, and so we’re in fat-burning mode a lot more. Is that fair to say?
Cassie: Yeah. Yeah, that is fair to say. Fat is really the best buffer for carbohydrates. My approach is, I call it PFC-balanced eating. You’re eating protein and fat along with carbs from hopefully real food. We don’t expect perfection here. You’re not just eating … The standard American diet, they say it’s balanced. It’s really just a high-carbohydrate diet, very low in fat, maybe moderate in protein.
I’m just saying let’s just balance it all out. Let’s add in more fat. Let’s make sure we’re getting enough protein, and let’s try to pick the best carbs that we can.
Fat is the best buffer for carbohydrates. Fat actually slows the absorption and the assimilation of carbohydrates into our bloodstream, and that makes them last longer instead of those spikes and drops. It promotes blood sugar stabilization.
The problem with eating any carbohydrate without fat is when you just turn it into straight sugar it spikes your blood sugar level, and then what happens? They drop shortly after, and what do we crave? What do we crave? People say it’s about willpower. They say, “I don’t have any willpower. The vending machine calls my name.”
What’s not true about that is it has nothing to do with willpower. When you crave sugar, it’s a biochemical response, because your brain is really smart, and when your blood sugars drop, it’s like, “Oh, you just need sugar.” What’s the simplest thing that’s going to raise my blood sugar levels is sugar; right?
Leanne: Yeah. Exactly. You get in that nasty loop of [crosstalk 00:10:01].
Cassie: Yeah, vicious cycle.
Leanne: With insulin, we hear of insulin resistance and insulin sensitivity. What are the differences between those two?
Cassie: You want to be sensitive to insulin, because insulin resistance is what happens when your cells are exposed to too much insulin too often, because those blood sugar levels are constantly elevated following that standard American diet. It’s from eating too much carbohydrate or too much sugar. Then your cells become desensitized and stop responding to insulin, so you want it to be insulin-sensitive. That would be the positive term. Being insulin-resistant is what happens. That sugar just sits there in your cells and it can’t be used and it can’t be stored.
Here’s what happens. Extra insulin is secreted by your pancreas, so it’s not like you don’t have enough insulin being secreted. It’s like your cells aren’t responding.
Leanne: They’re like, “La, la, la, la, la, la, la.”
Cassie: Yeah, kind of like when you walk into a really noisy restaurant, and at first you’re like, “I can’t hear anything.” Then after five minutes you can hear. It’s kind of what’s happening with your … Yeah, and your cells are just like, “All right. I’m kind of getting sick of this.”
Your cells become insulin resistant. They no longer respond to insulin. Your pancreas just thinks it needs to make more insulin, which just makes your cells more resistant, and that’s a really vicious cycle to get into.
The good news is your cells can, they can actually regain their sensitivity if you give them a break, from not exposing them to so much insulin. If you go backwards, okay, well, what caused the need for the insulin in the first place; right? It was those carbohydrates or that sugar, so why don’t we just eat less carbohydrates and sugar and what do we eat instead? Fat; right? Healthy fat.
Leanne: Totally. A little bit of greens in there for your healthy carbs and you’re like good to go.
Cassie: Fat is really healing too. It’s not just that it’s a good thing to substitute the carbs, to eat fat instead of the carbs, but it’s also really healing and it helps your body heal from inflammation that can happen as a result of eating too much carbohydrate over a long period of time, so that’s a good thing too.
Leanne: Is it fair to say that if I’ve been eating carbs for a really long time, chances are I’m insulin-resistant, or is there certain signs and symptoms to look for with resistance, and how do you know when you’ve become insulin-sensitive?
Cassie: It’s kind of hard to know. They’ll do testing at the doctor’s office and they’ll tell you if you have pre-diabetes, which is kind of a weird term, because it’s just a number that they look at. When you hit a certain number, all of a sudden you have Type 2 Diabetes. That’s all just insulin resistance. If you’re diagnosed with pre-diabetes, you really don’t want to mess with that. You want to start taking control with the food that you’re eating.
Some signs, symptoms, how might you know you’re insulin-resistant, it’s going to be kind of hard to tell. Weight gain, being tired all the time. Hormonal imbalance can tie into that. Sleep disturbances, difficulty in focusing, things like that, which really aren’t fun to live with for anyone.
I think the cool thing, the really good thing about eating to balance your blood sugars is that no one wants to get resistant to insulin, so whether you’re insulin-resistant, whether you have diabetes, whether you have pre-diabetes, whatever it is, everyone can benefit from eating more healthy fat and eating more PFC balance versus following that high-carbohydrate diet.
Leanne: Totally. If you’re eating a ton of carbs, maybe perhaps look at this regardless of …
Cassie: Regardless of. People can tolerate more carbohydrates than others. Triglycerides are kind of a good way to measure that. We look for triglycerides that are close to 50. We definitely want them under 100. If your triglycerides are elevated, it shows that your body is just not able to handle the amount of carbohydrate that you’re putting into your body, so that’s how you can tell how your body is handling the carbohydrate that you’re putting in.
Leanne: I use that in my own practice too. If it’s over 100, I’m like, “Yeah, definitely, the carbs just aren’t working for you.”
Cassie: Yeah. Yeah.
Leanne: I chatted with Jimmy about this a couple of months ago when we did an interview about low-carb high-fat keto people, and they notice that their blood glucose levels increase in the morning. Do you know anything about this? Have you seen this, when people start eating this way for, I would say probably four to six months, high-fat, low-carbohydrate, keto, in the morning their blood glucose levels are pretty high, and then as soon as they start eating, it gets lower and lower and lower throughout the day. It’s quite interesting. It doesn’t happen to everybody, but I’ve definitely noticed a trend.
Cassie: I think it can happen when you’re changing something up in your body, kind of when you give your pancreas a break and your cells a chance to heal and become more sensitive to insulin instead of continually bombarding it with sugar. You’re no longer requiring that much insulin. You’re giving your body some time to rest. I think that that can just happen as a result of that. I think that’s why it’s important to make sure you’re being consistent with it instead of just going from one thing to the next, because then your body can adapt.
The body does interesting things. Even with our clients when they come to us just for weight loss and we set them up with a certain way of eating, our PFC-balanced eating regimen and we try to focus on whatever their issues are, hormones, thyroid. We heal from the inside out. Sometimes people can actually gain a couple pounds before they lose 25.
The body does some interesting things when we put it into healing mode, especially because you’re just changing something up and it’s not used to it. It is interesting, some of the things that can happen. I’m kind of guessing that’s what’s happening there.
Leanne: Okay, cool. I campaigned the Healthful Pursuit community with a bunch of random questions about blood sugar, so …
Cassie: I love random questions.
Leanne: [inaudible 00:15:44] inspired [inaudible 00:15:46] questions on blood sugar, so are you ready?
Leanne: Does a bad night’s sleep affect blood sugar readings? If you have a really bad sleep or you’re waking and tossing and turning, would that affect your blood sugar?
Cassie: You know, everything can affect blood sugar surprisingly. I don’t really know what the mechanism could be, but I do know that sleep disturbances can definitely influence blood sugar levels. I’m not sure if it’s just because when you’re resting that’s your body’s chance to rest and replete, but I know that can happen definitely.
Leanne: Okay. Fair enough. Does high cortisol affect blood sugar? Like you said, everything could affect it, but if you’re constantly stressed out, thinking of the adrenals and the function between blood sugar, could that affect a person’s stress level, or rather could their stress level affect their blood sugar?
Cassie: Could their stress level affect their blood sugar? Yeah, absolutely. Definitely cortisol can. That’s something that we talk about with our clients a lot, because a lot of people don’t realize just how negatively stress can impact your weight.
The way that this happens is cortisol is known as your stress hormone, and it’s released in response to stress, anxiety and lack of sleep, so this is probably another way that this lack of sleep could play in here, because I think lack of sleep could increase cortisol, which here’s how this happens. Cortisol raises your blood sugar levels. I just made that connection when I was saying that out loud. Sometimes I have to say things …
I knew there was a reason for it, and I don’t always know exactly why, so this is why, now that you mention cortisol. Cortisol raises your blood sugar levels. That’s why, which causes your pancreas to release that insulin, that fat-storing hormone, to bring that excess sugar to your cells to be stored as fat.
This is why sometimes people gain weight and they blame it on the fact that, “I’m too stressed. I’m too tired to exercise,” so maybe they have another cookie or a third glass of wine or both. It’s just another scenario that shows that your weight and your health, it’s not just a matter of balancing calories and calories.
Your hormones play a huge role in your metabolism and your weight and even your blood sugars. Cortisol is definitely a pretty big hormonal player in this game of blood sugar stabilization, and it can definitely increase your blood sugar level. That’s where the lack of sleep and the stress would tie in.
Leanne: Totally. I’ve noticed with some clients, if you go too low-carb, keto for too long, like, I’ve worked with many a lady who’s 15 grams of carbohydrates every day for six months, and then her cortisol levels start increasing quite significantly. Is that usually because your body needs a certain amount of carbohydrates in order to function? I’ve seen as soon as they increase their carbohydrates, their cortisol goes down.
Cassie: Goes down, yeah. Yeah. I would think that it can be hard. Change is hard on your body, and I do think that we do need some carbohydrate. I know some people are in the 100% ketosis camp, and I’m not quite there yet. I’m all about finding that balance that’s right for you.
Cassie: We’ve seen that with clients too where they just totally cut out carbs, because we usually explain to them exactly what I’m saying here, is that carbohydrates, even if they’re better ones, even if they’re vegetables, they turn into sugar in our body. Sometimes people walk away and they just stop eating carbs, and that can be a big shock to your body, which is probably what could cause that increase in cortisol levels, because your body is so stressed, and that cortisol is your stress hormone.
Leanne: Yeah. I believe that cortisol will break down the muscle to convert it into glucose. Is that true?
Cassie: Yeah, it can do … They can do something. Your body’s really smart, and if it needs glucose, it will make it. It can definitely break down your muscle, which is not what you want to happen either.
Leanne: Totally. I love that you said you’ve got to find what’s right for you. Just because one person does really good at 15 grams of carbohydrates doesn’t mean that you’ll do good at it. I’m probably around 80 to 100 in a day, and that’s where I feel best right now, but that could change in three months, so you never know. I loved that you mention that.
Cassie: I think that’s where individualization comes into play. I’m sure you, like me, Leanne, are just putting out information on your YouTube channel, on your blog. What I’m putting out there is general information. This is exactly why I recommend that people meet with a dietitian, coach or some other health coach, someone that they trust, because it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. A lot of our general recommendations will work for a ton of people, but when it comes down to it, there’s so many things.
You and I were even talking before we started recording about this new blog post that I put out called Ten Non-Dietary Reasons Why You’re Not Losing Weight. These are things we dive into in our coaching appointments. Inflammation and thyroid, gut health, food sensitivities, hormones, sleep and stress and Vitamin D.
There’s so many factors that could be playing a role into why you are the way you are or why you’re not reaching your goals. It can be really hard to figure that out on your own. You’re not really expected to figure that out on your own. That’s what people like you and I are for; right?
Leanne: Yeah, totally.
Cassie: We want to help you. That individualization is so important, because what works for Jack might not work for Jill. It’s based on genetics and our lifestyle and our activity level and our age and what we’re eating and what we’ve eaten in the past. There’s just so many things that play into it. I’m really glad that you brought that up, because I think individualization is key.
Leanne: Yeah, totally. I always say to my clients, “Just as we all look different on the outside, we all work so different on the inside.” Even though we both kind of have brown hair, we look completely different, and that’s how our eating style needs to be put together. I couldn’t agree with you more.
There’s another question. A reader says, “My doctor has just told me that I have insulin resistance, but I’m six months into eating high fat. What gives?” Somebody mentioned, “What about psychological insulin resistance? Could this be playing …?” I don’t know anything about psychological insulin resistance. I’ve never heard of this before.
Cassie: Well, you know, we don’t see this very often, but it can happen from time to time. Low-carbohydrate, keto diets over time have been shown to cause temporary insulin resistance, which can start to raise blood sugars over time if you aren’t careful.
This is just theory. I think it’s a down regulation of carbohydrate metabolism, so when you’re not eating carbs, your body, it’s kind of like if you do anything for too long of a time, your body starts to adapt. I think it goes back to what we were talking about earlier about your body just trying to adapt any time there’s a big change.
If you do the same exercise routine over and over again, you can start to lose some of the benefits. I think the same can be true for a low-carbohydrate, keto diet. I think at some point your body can get used to it and start to adapt. One thing that we do see is that temporary insulin resistance when your blood sugars start to rise, because what essentially happens is your liver just starts producing more sugar.
What we’ve found and we don’t do this very often, but once in a while when someone is in a situation like this, like the person who asked the question, I think the answer is doing some cycling instead of just always …
Leanne: I was just going to say that.
Cassie: Were you thinking that?
Leanne: Yeah. I was like, try [crosstalk 00:22:37] work? Just cycling your carbs every three days, just have some carbs. Okay.
Cassie: I think so. I think instead of all staying low carb and doing that same exercise routine every day, that same 20 minutes of walking or whatever it is, just as another example, I would recommend some cycling, maybe once a week or so, just add in some extra carbohydrates, just more than you normally would. It doesn’t need to be anything crazy, maybe adding in some extra fruit or some sweet potato a day a week, or if you’re already doing that, maybe adding in more. That can kick-start that glucose metabolism again. I think it can really pull people … We’ve seen this happen … pull them out of that insulin resistance and solve the problem.
Leanne: Would that be okay for diabetics as well, or does that get a little bit muddled?
Cassie: Yeah, it can get a little bit muddled. Insulin resistance, that’s what Type 2 Diabetes is, so if someone is insulin resistant it does seem kind of backward to be adding in more carbohydrates to get them out of that. I think it can work.
Leanne: Yeah, totally. Okay, we’re totally on the same page. That’s awesome. I’m going to skip by the last question.
Cassie: That’s why we’re friends.
Leanne: Exactly. The bonus question, is glycogenesis supply-driven or demand-driven? Your turn: “What?”
Cassie: I think that question is stumping me. I don’t think I get the bonus point.
Leanne: That’s why I put it as a bonus question. Is glycogenesis supply-driven or demand-driven? I would imagine it would be demand-driven; right? As you need it, your body will …
Cassie: Your body will supply it as you need it. I think it’s the way the question was worded that was confusing me. I agree with you. I think that’s exactly what happens.
Leanne: Okay, perfect. Oh, my gosh.
Cassie: Then people get that confused with gluconeogenesis. That’s a metabolic pathway that results in generating glucose from non-carbohydrate substances, but that’s not what they’re asking. They’re asking about glycogenesis; right?
Leanne: They did mention something about “Steak turns into cake.”
Cassie: Yeah. I was actually thinking, that’s why I was a little bit confused. I think they meant to say gluconeogenesis, GNG. That’s the metabolic pathway where we learned all about this in dietitian school many years ago, was when I had to draw the [inaudible 00:24:43] cycle. It’s where your body can actually make glucose from non-carbohydrate substances.
This is what I was thinking of earlier when you said if someone’s eating no carbs at all. They need sugar. They need some sugar. Your brain does need some sugar. You can actually make glucose from pyruvate, lactate … These are all the different parts of the cycle. I remember drawing it out. We had to draw, I had this huge poster. It was really …
Leanne: [crosstalk 00:25:03].
Cassie: In my bedroom, super-nerdy. Didn’t plan on telling your listeners that.
Anyway, I think that’s what maybe they were referring to is the whole “Steak turns into cake” thing. If you’re not eating any carbohydrate at all, if your body needs some, it’s going to do that. It’s going to go that route. You’re putting yourself at risk for breaking down your muscles.
I think there’s nothing wrong with eating some good carbohydrates. When I say, “good carbohydrates,” I’m thinking real food. I’m thinking especially the non-starchy carbohydrates, like spinach and any of your vegetables that you don’t necessarily have to cook, broccoli and cauliflower and cucumbers. I think that’s a really great place to start.
As far as fruit and as far as sweet potatoes, the starchier carbohydrates, we do recommend being careful with those, especially if someone already has insulin resistance or Type 2 Diabetes, or even if they’re just trying to lose weight, because those are the ones that are going to raise your blood sugar levels the most.
It’s hard to give a general recommendation for a lot of people. We would recommend starting out with, and this may be way too much for some people, but I was going to say we’d recommend maybe starting out with a half a cup of either starchy vegetable or fruit at every meal or snack, which might sound crazy to people who are already eating really high fat, but for a lot of people who are eating the standard American diet, they’re doing way more of that at every meal.
Leanne: Oh, gosh.
Cassie: Even that, drastic reduction. For someone who’s already eating high fat, they might be doing a quarter cup at a couple of their meals or snacks a day and just be fine with that. Again, it just goes back to that individualization.
Leanne: Cool. Yeah. It sounds like if one has insulin resistance and they’ve been doing high-fat, low-carbohydrate, keto for a while, check out your carbohydrates. I created a video specifically about this, when the signs are there to maybe perhaps includes some carbohydrates. Like you said with your signs, you explain what carbohydrates do in the body and then they hear, “Oh, yeah, no, she said just remove all carbohydrates, because that would be better for my health.” It’s like, “No, no, no. Wait. I did not say that.” For people that are insulin resistant, figuring out what that carbohydrate requirement is for them.
Cassie: Yeah. We’ve got this nice little … I don’t know if you can see this.
Leanne: Oh, yeah.
Cassie: It’s got our Ps, our Fs and our Cs and which ones are starchy carbohydrates, which ones are non-starchy, and we’ve got the blood sugar roller coaster on the back, and it explains insulin and glucagon and how that works. I’ve got this for free on my Getting Started Guide on the website, HealthySimpleLife.com/Newsletter.
Cassie: If you just click on that and sign up, I have a bunch of different guides. I have my top ten tips for overcoming sugar cravings and just some different things I put together as resources. This is really nice to have. We help our clients plan their meals using the different categories of P, F and C. It can be helpful. Hang it on your refrigerator just so you know which carbs are starchy and which ones aren’t, because that can get kind of confusing.
Again, it’s not about perfection and being nitty-gritty. I love how you said in my bio I’m not all about counting calories or grams or points or morsels or anything. That said, it’s still important to eat in balance. That’s really what we’re going for here.
Leanne: Totally, and having healthy relationship with it. I always find when people are getting going, I say, “Please don’t count your kale.” If you’re obsessing about how much kale is on your plate and stuff like that, that’s a really good indication that you’ve gone a little bit too far, and just having that healthy relationship with, yeah, my intention is to eat low carbohydrate-ish, high fat-ish, with balanced protein. If you have a list like that, picking from that list and really listening to your body.
Cassie: Yeah. Because that’s sad when someone’s coming from the fad, the standard American diet, and they’re adding in more fat, a lot of times they don’t know where to start. Like, “Are we talking about a stick of butter at every meal, or are we talking about a teaspoon?” For that, for people back to that general recommendation, starting with that half a cup of the fruit or the starchy carbohydrate, I’d recommend at least a couple tablespoons of fat.
Again, for some people that might be really low. For me that’s really low. I have a lot more fat than that, but for people just starting out, adding in a couple tablespoons of coconut oil or half of an avocado or a couple tablespoons of nuts or seeds or olive oil, that can be a really great place to start, because they’ll experience benefits right away, and because it can be scary to start adding in fat when you’ve been restricting your eating a low-fat diet for years.
It’s amazing that just by adding in a couple tablespoons every time you eat, within a day or two you’ll notice increased brain power, energy levels, consistent energy levels, because remember, that fat is what’s helping you stretch out those carbohydrates so that you’ll be more stable instead of just riding that blood sugar roller coaster. You just feel so much better. That alone can be a big enough motivator for people to keep doing it.
Then if weight loss is a goal, well, it’s kind of interesting how you do start to lose weight when you add in more fat, which is a little bit backwards, because remember, fat has more calories. Fat has nine calories per gram and protein and carbs only have four. You would think, and this is why calorie counting doesn’t really work.
The first macro-nutrient you restrict when you start counting calories is fat, but wait, fat helps with weight loss because it buffers the effect of carbohydrates and causes a decreased need for insulin, your fat-storing hormone, so when you really look at the science, it makes sense to eat fat; right?
Leanne: Yeah, and you eat a lot less. I know when I started eating fat, I could go five, six hours without having to snack and just feel that, like you said, that major low, where it wasn’t even that I was hungry. It was just, “I need to eat. I will punch you in the mouth if I don’t eat something.”
Cassie: That’s called hanger.
Leanne: Exactly. Hanger, yes.
Cassie: That’s where hanger management is adding in more fat so that you don’t hit that low or even tying it back to I run four marathons. I don’t run any marathons anymore, but my first couple I fueled with carbohydrates, because carbo-loading and what every runner know they’re supposed to do; right?
Then when I got into this higher-fat, more balanced eating approach, I found that my third and fourth marathon, I didn’t even have to eat at all during my marathons. Fat helped me push through what they call hitting a wall, and that’s when you see everyone just get so tired and they fall down and they’re fatigued and they’re drinking Gatorade like it’s going out of style.
When you have fat in your body, it helps stretch out your carbohydrates and you don’t feel that way, because you feel so balanced. You get that consistent energy level. It’s just amazing.
Leanne: Yes, totally. I agree with you. Fat is our friend.
Cassie: We love that. Yeah. I think a common misconception when you’re diagnosed with insulin resistance or Type 2 Diabetes is that you’re doomed to forever be a diabetic and that you need pills and insulin continues to increase and that’s just how it’s going to be and that’s just your life now, and that flat out isn’t true.
If you’ve never heard someone say that before, you’re hearing me say that right now. Type 2 Diabetes is reversible. We can manage it. We can improve it through real food, and it is possible to get off the medications once you get that under control by choosing foods to put in your body that help to support blood sugar stabilization. Sometimes it is also pretty much necessary to increase supplementation as well with high-quality supplements, especially if your goal is to get off medication.
We see this. My dietitian coaches and I see this continually. We have so many clients with Type 2 Diabetes who actually just come to us for weight loss, because that’s also something that goes hand in hand with insulin resistance like we talked about. They don’t even know that that could be a goal of theirs is to get off their medication, and it’s just amazing when they embrace our PFC concepts for balanced blood sugar levels, how that can actually happen. They were never told that before by their doctor.
Leanne: That’s sad. “Hey, you go on these prescriptions.” Like you say, “This is your life now.”
Cassie: It’s what I was taught in school as a dietitian as well. It’s the sad reality of it, and the exciting empowering thing is that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Leanne: Yeah. Fats are the key basically; right?
Leanne: Eat more fat.
Cassie: If there’s one population or group of people who need fat the most, I would say it is people with diabetes, and that’s ironically the exact opposite of what we’re being taught by the American Diabetes Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, because their approach is encouraging carbohydrate consumption, which causes the need for insulin, which doesn’t make any sense. It boggles my mind. In covering up those blood sugar imbalances with medication, which is really a backwards approach.
Now that we’ve talked today about the normal blood sugar response and how that happens and you understand the science behind the importance of fat for blood sugars, you can quit feeling guilty pouring melted butter over your vegetables and putting heavy cream in your coffee, because that plays such a critical role in blood sugar issues. It actually lowers your insulin requirement. That’s the basis of this is it slows that glycemic response, because it acts as a buffer for carbohydrates like we talked about. It slows their absorption. It reduces your blood sugar, the blood sugar spiking effects.
When you consume fat with the carb, you get the stable blood sugars, and that’s really what we’re going for here. Fat does not stimulate the need for insulin or insulin release. Carbs do. The fact that these organizations are still recommending a low-fat diet, it doesn’t make any sense at all. Fat is so important.
Leanne: It doesn’t. It doesn’t. Even by you saying that very line, that doesn’t make sense that we would be recommending that these people eat carbohydrates when we know that carbohydrates are what’s fueling the insulin response but fat doesn’t. It doesn’t make any sense.
Leanne: Thankfully, like a lot of people that watch my show and stuff like that, they’re totally on the high-fat, keto awesomeness, so that’s really great that you overcome that hurdle, but also to know that message of just, fat is not going to make you fat. In fact, carbohydrates …
Cassie: I wish fat was called something else. I wish it was called energy or vitality or brain power or something other than fat, because that’s what’s really confusing about it, isn’t it? Even thinking about how fat keeps us full, like you and I were talking about how it holds us over and prevents us from hitting that wall.
It’s natural and easy to consume fewer carbohydrates when you eat fat, because fat has that wonderful satiety factor. It fills you up. Generally, when you eat fat, you eat less carbs.
We’re talking about insulin resistance too. Just another thing that comes to mind that’s great about fat is it promotes nutrient absorption. Especially with people with insulin resistance or Type 2 Diabetes, they can benefit from specific nutrients for blood sugar support. That’s why I mention that supplementation is really critical for people who are actually trying to get off their medications.
Fat helps to increase absorption of nutrients, so it’s kind of like you’re getting a bigger bang for your buck, so to speak, when you eat healthy fat.
Leanne: Yeah, pour that olive oil on that big salad, because you’re going to absorb all the A, D, E and K vitamins as opposed to the fat-free dressing.
Cassie: Yeah, exactly.
Leanne: Which is such a waste.
Cassie: Just remember that not all fats are created equal. We’re talking about avocado, butter, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds, cheese if you can tolerate it, coconut milk, olives. There’s so many great options. Heavy cream if you can tolerate it, coconut cream, fat from organic grass-fed meat.
What we’re not talking about I think you’d probably agree with me, Leanne, is canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, sesame seed oil, cottonseed oil, vegetable oil, shortening, margarine. Those fats, actually, it’s actually kind of crazy. Those can do the complete opposite. Those can promote inflammation. It’s like there’s such a big difference between the good fats and the bad fats. You want to make sure you’re paying attention and consuming the healthy ones.
Leanne: Yeah, totally. We chat about all that on HealthfulPursuit.com. You will not find any yucky fats anywhere on my website.
Cassie: I love it.
Leanne: Because I just know. No. Even the difference that you feel. If I have something made with coconut … Say I’m out and about with friends and they order a thing of fries. I’m like, “Yeah, sure, I’m going to have some.” The difference between fries in vegetable oil and friends made at home with coconut oil, it’s night and day. It’s night and day just in the way that you feel. Yeah, it’s still potatoes and it’s still starch, but I really believe in that healthy balance. If my friends are having fries, I’m going to have a couple, but the difference just in the way that it’s cooked and the way that it tastes, it’s just …
Healthy fats, that’s what we’re talking about for sure. Thank you for adding that disclaimer.
Cassie: Yeah, absolutely. Important to distinguish. Healthy fats are wonderful. You can go to town with those.
Leanne: Yeah. For people that want to follow you online, you mentioned your newsletter.
Cassie: Thank you.
Leanne: I’ll link some stuff below our video so that they can go there and that recent blog post you just talked about, about ten signs that aren’t nutrition-based.
Leanne: You’re not losing weight. I will include that in the show notes too just below this video.
Cassie: Thank you.
Leanne: Or linking over here. I do a bunch of things all over, so look everywhere for this information.
Yeah, thanks so much for coming on the show. I think we totally nailed the blood sugar and high fat, keto issue. A lot of people always say, “What actually happens to our blood sugar when we go high fat, keto?” I think we’ve said, “It does wonderful things. You can get in control of your blood sugar finally.”
Cassie: I hope everyone got a sound byte or two. It was really fun to be here today. Thanks for having me.
Leanne: Yeah, thank you. Bye.
HI! I’M LEANNE
Nutrition educator + keto enthusiast. I want to live in a world where every woman loves her body, nourishing fats are enjoyed at every meal, and the word “restriction” isn’t in the dictionary.