Sugar levels in the blood
There are only five grams of sugar in the blood. By “carbs,” you know by now that I mean sugars and starches – starches get digested into sugars. When you eat a potato, pasta, rice, or fruit, it gets turned into glucose. This gets absorbed as glucose and will raise blood sugar or the blood glucose. I’m going to say “blood sugar” to represent blood glucose to help your understanding.
Most adults have five liters of blood in their body at any given moment – smaller people have less blood than larger people, and children will have even less blood. If you measure your blood glucose or sugar level and it’s 100 mg/dL, you can multiply out the milligrams to grams and the deciliters to liters. If you multiply out for a five-liter bloodstream – a typical adult – 100 milligrams per deciliter, that reading you get on your glucometer meter actually represents 5 grams of glucose in your entire bloodstream. That’s it! Let’s see why that’s important…
How glucose turns to fat
An apple contains 20 grams of carbohydrates, so a piece of fruit is very high in carbohydrates compared to the level of sugar in the blood. Remember, there are only 5 grams in the blood, but an apple has 20 grams, and a banana has 30 grams of carbs. For a regular-sized banana entering a bloodstream that only has 5 grams of sugar in it, that’s a lot! Here’s what has to happen: If you eat a banana that contains 30 grams of carbohydrates, blood sugar will go up. The body doesn’t like elevated blood sugar, so it sends out a hormone called insulin. Insulin brings that blood glucose down by letting the glucose get into the cells a little more easily. Many body cells have an insulin receptor and when you have more insulin, that means more receptors come out and you get to put more glucose into those cells. Insulin lowers blood glucose by getting the glucose out of the bloodstream and into the cells. It is a response to keep blood glucose down and to give energy to these cells.
Blood glucose is constantly getting replenished with food coming in and the glucose keeps going up and the insulin keeps coming out. When the sugar store is full, the excess sugar has to go somewhere. When that 5 grams in the blood – and maybe 500 grams of storage in the whole body – for sugar is full (mostly in your muscles and liver), the sugar turns into fat. Your insulin hormone tells your body – your liver, specifically – to turn that glucose and sugar into fat. This happens in the liver. Fatty liver is caused by too much sugar in the blood and too many carbohydrates in the food. That fat generated in the liver is sent out to the fat cells – called the “adipose tissue” or the fat store (energy store). An extra carbohydrate that goes in when the carbohydrate store is full gets turned into fat. Many people are confused by that because they think fat in food is the only thing that can turn into fat in the fat cells. That’s not true. If you’re mainly eating carbohydrates and you’re gaining weight, more specifically fat weight, it’s because those carbohydrates are being turned into fat in the liver. That fat is sent out to the fat cells and stored, which you see in your belly or on other parts of your body. Carbohydrates in food raise blood sugar, and excess carbs get turned into fat, which contributes to obesity.
Insulin resistance and diabetes
If you’re not good at turning the extra glucose into fat, you will have a tendency towards diabetes, pre-diabetes, or insulin resistance. Your body is not so capable of dispensing glucose out of the cells so easily. That’s why we have the term “insulin resistance.” Blood sugar can be elevated and elevated blood sugar is not something you want to have. In fact, elevated blood sugar is called type 2 diabetes. In this situation, the insulin level is actually already high; it just doesn’t work as well. It doesn’t make sense to give more insulin to somebody who has type 2 diabetes when the insulin is already high. It makes more sense to reduce the carbohydrates entering the body (sugars and starches).
How much do you have to reduce it to? Remember, there are only 5 grams of glucose in the bloodstream at any given moment. If you eat an apple, which is 20 grams, you’re putting in four times as much glucose into the blood as there is in there. If you’re measuring your blood sugar after eating an apple, you’re going to see that it goes up if you have diabetes, insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes. If you’re good at turning that sugar into fat, you don’t get diabetes. You store that extra sugar on your body as fat (so it doesn’t stay in your bloodstream); this is called a “personal fat threshold.” If you’re good at turning the sugar into fat, it just accumulates as fat on your body. If you’re not so good, though, what happens is the blood sugar goes up, you get diabetes, and over a long period of time, the consequences of type 2 diabetes. You don’t want to go down that path. It can cause blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, and in extreme cases, the need for amputations. The level of sugar in the blood is only 5 grams. When you look at a food label or a product, if it has more than 5 grams of total carbohydrates in one serving, you’re going to be increasing your blood glucose. If you’re having 20 – 100 grams in one meal, you’re going to be making your blood glucose go way up, depending on your body’s response to be able to keep it down with insulin. If you have insulin resistance, it won’t work so well and the blood sugar will keep going up.
Using food to avoid or reverse obesity and diabetes
I find it very useful to teach this 5 grams of glucose or sugar in the bloodstream. It really makes you pause before eating or drinking anything with more than 5 grams or that has many carbohydrates in it at all. On a keto diet, you want to choose foods that have zero carbs as often as possible. That includes meat, poultry, fish and shellfish, eggs, some non-starchy vegetables, and leafy greens. Remember, there’s a limit to fat. If you’re doing this to try and lose weight or reverse type 2 diabetes, don’t overdo the cheese, oils, and things like that.
Just remember 5 grams of blood glucose in the bloodstream at any point and you’re going to know more than most endocrinology professors or doctors today! They like to treat people with medications; they don’t talk to you so much about the food. I don’t like to use medications; I like to use food.
Check out the full video here.