How Food Can Help You Achieve Healthy Blood Sugar & Cholesterol
- Mel’s weekly food pick: Avocado oil
- Mel’s weekly recipe pick: Grown-Up Chicken Nuggets
Managing your blood sugar and cholesterol in today’s world can be a bit of a challenge. Temptations lurk around every corner, and let’s face it:
When you’re used to danish for breakfast, lunch meat sandwiches for lunch, and cheeseburgers for dinner, the foods that’ll help you get to healthy, frankly don’t taste all that great (if that’s the case, read THIS).
I need you to understand something. You are worthy of the best health life has to offer.
You. Are. Worth. It.
Do you believe you are worthy of good health?
If you answered yes, I’m going to ask you to dig a little deeper and consider all of the ways you fail to recognize and honor this fact.
Answer this: Which of the following activities do you typically respond with an emphatic “I don’t have time for that!”?:
- Grocery shopping
- Simple meal preparation and cooking
- The practice of meditation/stress-reduction techniques
Listen up! If you truly believe you are worthy of good health, the above are simply activities that come with the territory of good health—much like daily brushing and flossing are prerequisites for healthy teeth.
When you look at grocery shopping, cooking and exercising as inconveniences, it’s just like saying YOU are an inconvenience; like looking in the mirror and proclaiming: I am not worth it!
Nothing could be further from the truth.
You have a choice in how you look at these activities. So instead of viewing them as chores, how about seeing them as OPPORTUNITIES?
Interpreting your blood sugar and cholesterol numbers
Total Cholesterol/HDL ratio:
Your total cholesterol number doesn’t tell you much. For more meaningful information, start by looking at your Total Cholesterol/HDL ratio. This is calculated by dividing your high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol into your total cholesterol number. HDL is also known as your “good” cholesterol, because it moves cholesterol from your arteries to your liver. The lower your Total Cholesterol/HDL ratio, the better.
Healthy target: <3.0
Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. High levels may raise the risk of coronary artery disease. Considered to be one of the most potent predictors of heart disease, the Triglyceride/HDL ratio is measured by dividing your triglyceride level by your HDL. Just like above, the lower this number, the better.
Healthy target: no greater than 4
This test measures your average blood glucose over the previous six weeks; so don’t think you can eat with wild abandon and then “cram” for it the week before. You’ve got to really “study” for this one!
The hemoglobin A1c test is used to screen for and diagnose diabetes and prediabetes in adults. Hemoglobin A1c, also glycated hemoglobin or A1c, is formed in the blood when glucose attaches to hemoglobin. The higher the level of glucose in the blood, the more glycated hemoglobin is formed.
Healthy target: ≤5.6
Positive and negative influencers of glucose and cholesterol
To make the most informed food choices moving forward, you need to understand the factors that both negatively and positively affect your cholesterol and glucose levels:
NEGATIVE (because they raise glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides!):
- Sugar: sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and hidden sugars in foods (i.e. yogurts, sauces, dressings, nutrition bars, etc.)
- Processed carbohydrates: breads, cereals, pasta, chips, pretzels, crackers, etc.
- A sedentary lifestyle
POSITIVE (because they lower inflammation in the body and help regulate cholesterol and glucose levels)
- An abundance of Earthfoods
- Moderate amounts of healthy fat
- 7-8 hours of sleep each night (if you just rolled your eyes at this suggestion- you need to read THIS)
- Regular physical activity (calm down, I’m not talking marathons here; walking at a pace that challenges you will do the trick!)
What to do if your cholesterol and glucose numbers are “off”
Are you struggling with managing your cholesterol and blood sugar? Has your doctor recently threatened you with prescription medication if you don’t bring your levels down?
I’ve yet to meet a person who actually wants to be on medication.
Look, I’m not suggesting that medication is evil; in some cases it is necessary. However, I think we are way too quick to fill a prescription and pop a pill without even trying to make an effort to reverse the imbalance with diet and exercise.
In an overwhelming number of cases, it is in fact an imbalance: an imbalance of proper nutrition and adequate exercise.
Let me be clear. When I say effort, I’m not talking half-ass, mediocre, I-put-more-effort-into-caring-for-my-car-than-I-do-my-health “effort”, I mean really giving it your all.
Are you in?
I’ll bet you think I’m going to ask you to give up all of the “negatives” and do nothing but eat Earthfoods while walking on a treadmill. Wrong! I think you are really going to like this. So here we go…
Eat at least ten servings of Earthfoods every day!
Earthfoods are the foods we all know we should be eating more of: single ingredient, unprocessed, health-empowering, nutrient-rich foods from the earth. Simply put, they are the foods your body was designed to eat and truly longs for. They are powerful beyond measure and include vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, avocados, legumes, herbs, spices, cacao, green tea and many others.
Click HERE for a full list!
A minimum of ten Earthfoods each day is a good goal to aim for because it means you are consciously including them in each meal. Why is this important? Because you are less likely to fill your plate with junk if it is already loaded with Earthfoods—you’re sort of crowding out the not-so-good with the good.
See how this works?
You are also less likely to eat a handful of M&M’s afterwards! It really makes you think twice.
Focus on adding…not subtracting foods
Notice I’m not asking you to take anything away; that would only fuel the fire of desire for that very food. Instead, I want you to consciously build each meal to include at least three Earthfood servings. For example: eat a big salad with four cups of spinach and kale, one cup of chopped veggies, one tablespoon of fresh herbs (like basil), ¼ cup of nuts, ½ cup of berries and you’ll easily get six Earthfood servings.
Just when you think this is too much work, remember…you are worth it!
20 ways to add more Earthfoods to your daily meals:
What if you are nowhere near ten daily Earthfood servings? Don’t fret my little pet! With a little planning and persistence, you’ll get there. Start with where you are and gradually increase that number by one or two servings.
Here are 20 great ideas to get you started:
- Toss a big handful of spinach, a ½ cup of raspberries, and a tablespoon of both raw cacao powder and chia seeds into your breakfast shake.
- Eat a tossed arugula salad with your dinner.
- Add roasted broccoli to wild rice or quinoa dishes.
- Add a handful of blueberries to cooked quinoa, sprinkle with cinnamon and eat for breakfast.
- Fill a 3-cup container with rainbow veggies and snack on them during the day if you get hungry. Try a combination of bell pepper strips, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery sticks, cauliflower florets, jicama sticks, and cucumber slices.
- Sprinkle a touch of cinnamon on a baked sweet potato and eat as a side dish with dinner.
- Steam and puree cauliflower and mix into scrambled eggs.
- Spread a tablespoon of fresh ground almond or cashew butter on a few apple slices and eat for an afternoon snack.
- Add a scoop of black beans or lentils to your salad.
- Make a big pot of chili using a variety of beans, such as pinto, kidney, black, and red beans!
- Mix a tablespoon of ground flax seed into yogurt or steel cut oatmeal.
- Drink a cup of matcha tea in the afternoon.
- Mix shredded turmeric into scrambled egg, rice or roasted vegetable dishes…or add a half-inch piece to your shake and blend!
- Make ginger lemonade by combining freshly grated ginger, lemon juice, a touch of honey and water.
- For a healthy dessert, sprinkle ground cinnamon over baked apples and drizzle with honey.
- Add whole basil leaves to your favorite pizza when it’s hot out of the oven and serve with a leafy green salad!
- Add freshly chopped cilantro to guacamole and serve as a dip for veggies or sprouted tortilla chips.
- Instead of packaged snack mixes, make your own trail mix by combining raw almonds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, chopped dates,goji berries and cacao nibs. Just be sure to mind your portions.
- Instead of jam or jelly, spread your toast with fresh ground almond butter or mashed avocado.
- Make a batch of Grown-Up Chicken Nuggets and serve with a side of roasted Brussels sprouts.
Let me get real with you.
If you aren’t happy with the state of your health and know you are worth more (which by the way, you ARE!), then stop telling the story of your health ailments and do something about it. Catch yourself sharing your diabetes diagnosis, aches and pains, cholesterol problems, or fill in the blank medical issues, and instead ask yourself how you can focus that energy in a more positive direction. What choice can you make right this very moment, to move the needle just a little bit in the direction of well-being.
You are capable of achieving phenomenal results, but first you must get your car out of park. Or as my mom used to say: Poop or get off the pot (although she used a different word 🙂 ).
Mel’s weekly food pick:
Avocado oil is fast-becoming one of my favorite oils to cook and dress my food. As far as the health benefits go, strap yourself in because it’s pretty impressive.
Pressed from the fruit of the avocado and bright green in color, it contains chlorophyll and the carotenoid lutein, a naturally-occurring plant pigment with the power to help maintain eye health.
From a heart-health standpoint, avocado oil is high in monounsaturated fat, which is good for keeping your cholesterol in check. It also contains the plant sterol beta-sitosterol—a natural plant substance that can prevent cholesterol from being absorbed from the digestive tract.
You can use avocado oil for salad dressings, marinades, and homemade mayonnaise. It has a medium to high smoke point (up to 500 degrees), which means it stands up well to heat and is ideal for roasting, sautéing, grilling, and frying. It’s what I used for this week’s recipe pick: Grown-Up Chicken Nuggets.
Mel’s weekly recipe pick:
Grown-Up Chicken Nuggets