Sugar is the bad guy in terms of health, unless you can moderate it. It is very difficult for many people to moderate it. We are going through a paradigm shift from worrying about fat, cholesterol, and saturated fat in food to worrying about sugar in food and drinks.
The studies just hadn’t been done and the focus was wrong in the past. It was like using a phone with a cord – an old, outdated way of doing things. Worrying about cholesterol and treating it has some benefits in the best case of things, but using a low-carb diet or targeting metabolic syndrome, targeting sugar, and getting that out of the diet is like using a smartphone. It’s not that both phones don’t work or allow you to communicate, but you can do so much more with a smartphone. In the same way, both diet approaches can work, but you can do a lot more with a low-carb or a keto diet. That is the reason why I am focusing on sugar.
How much sugar is in your bloodstream?
I want to remind you of an important reality: there isn’t much sugar in the bloodstream. There is a teaspoon of sugar in the entire bloodstream. I have calculated that out from milligrams per deciliter or millimole per liter in other videos. That’s all there is in your entire bloodstream – and even less if you’re a smaller person or you’re a child. A teaspoon is roughly five grams of sugar. Yes, you could quibble about whether it’s sucrose, dextrose, or fructose, but those are very small differences and I think it’s important to just call it sugar. This is one reason why counting total carbs, which I recommend, is so effective because it brings all of the different types of sugars into that one way of looking at things.
Starches are sugar
If you were to say, “I don’t drink or eat sugar, Doc,” I will respond by telling you there is sugar in starch. Starches get digested into sugar in our acid-filled stomach and small intestine. When you eat a potato, pasta, rice, and things like that, you are basically absorbing sugar. Starch gets digested down to its components – glucose mainly – and we’re only dealing with a teaspoon of sugar going around in your bloodstream. Pre-diabetes is an elevation in blood sugar; diabetes is persistently elevated blood sugar that’s even higher. The amount of blood sugar when you are diabetic might be a teaspoon and a half or two teaspoons of sugar – that’s it, and you’re diabetic. The bloodstream is a very tightly controlled system with the amount of sugar going around it being only a hundred milligrams per deciliter (5.6 mmol/L), which is about one teaspoon. Now, let’s see what sorts of things are hidden in other foods you eat, how much sugar.
Rice, pasta, and potatoes
Dr. David Unwin is a friend of mine in the UK. He is a low-carb doctor who put together some “sugar charts” in terms of teaspoons of sugar. You can find them online. The first one he put together had basmati rice; one serving size of basmati rice is worth 10 teaspoons of sugar. A quarter cup is 12 teaspoons of sugar, so basmati rice contains almost a quarter cup of sugar. Those 10 teaspoons get digested and get poured into the bloodstream which should only contain 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of sugar. A serving size of a potato is worth 9 teaspoons, French fries are 8 teaspoons, spaghetti contains 6 teaspoons – we’re not talking grams of carbs here, we’re talking about teaspoons of sugar. Dr Unwin’s charts have the teaspoons all lined up so you can visually see this.
One serving of frozen peas contains only one teaspoon, which is why we focus on vegetables that are above the ground, not below-the-ground vegetables. An apple is worth two teaspoons, depending on the size of the apple. Broccoli has 0.2 teaspoons, and an egg has no carbs at all. This is why if you’re trying to limit blood sugar to prevent or treat pre-diabetes and diabetes, you want to strictly limit the amount of starches and sugar in your diet. You can even reverse these conditions; it’s amazing what can happen.
Coco Pops have seven teaspoons of sugar in one serving size. Corn flakes have eight teaspoons of sugar. Again, we’re almost reaching that quarter cup. Bran flakes, Special K, and oat porridge have four teaspoons of sugar. With all of these amounts, you’re overwhelming your blood sugar. When your body senses your blood sugar going up, it sends out all of this insulin to lower blood sugar by taking the sugar into the cells and reducing your glucagon production, which raises your blood sugar, too. So, you want to be very careful with cereal.
People come to me and say, “I don’t eat white bread, is wheat bread okay?” Well, no, not in terms of sugar. The amount of carbs and sugar in white bread, brown bread, and rye bread is four teaspoons of sugar. There are six teaspoons of sugar in whole grain or whole meal bread. You can actually look at the labels of all of these different products, you don’t have to take my word for it. We are blessed to be able to have all of this information for us on all of these foods. Just remember, a teaspoon of sugar is all the amount in your blood at any given moment.
Cautions with diabetes
Diabetes is a problem of too much sugar. I still don’t know why you want to eat sugar if you have a problem with too much sugar in your blood. Starches get digested into sugar; bran flakes, milk, brown toast, and pure apple juice is the recommended breakfast for someone with diabetes – and if you add that all up, you get 16 teaspoons of sugar! That is over a quarter cup. You’re trying to absorb all of this sugar into the bloodstream. It must be like a jungle or a battle going on in there to keep blood sugar coming in – insulin keeps going up to bring the sugar down again. Insulin is also a fat storage hormone, meaning it tells your body to lower the blood sugar but also turn any extra sugar into fat in the liver. Then, it gets sent out to the fat cells for storage and it is very difficult to burn fat when you have a lot of insulin around; it puts you in a fat storage mode, not a fat burning mode.
This is where sugar is lurking in your diet. People will come to me and say that they gave up junk food, sodas, and sweet tea, but sugar is hidden in starches. You really need to be strict, because diabetes is a problem of excessive blood sugar. Anything over that is basically diabetes. If you have two teaspoons of sugar in your blood at the same time, you have flagrant diabetes. It’s pretty startling that people recommend that you have carbohydrates when you have diabetes. I am talking about type 2 diabetes when I talk about reversibility. You can reverse type 2 diabetes by tackling the source of carbs which get digested into sugar in the food. People with type 1 diabetes can do a low-carb diet. They will need less insulin, so be very careful to lower the insulin. (Work with a doctor who can teach you how to adjust your insulin doses safely.) What happens is they have fewer ups and downs. The blood sugar regulation is much better [on a low-carb diet].
The basic premise is that when you eat carbohydrates, sugars, and starches, you absorb them, and blood sugar goes up. In the big picture view of what you’re eating, it could be that you’ve eliminated all the sugars and yet you’re still getting lots of hidden sugar in the starches that you’re eating.
Watch the full video here.