This fat storage stress hormone is blocked by antioxidant-rich sesame and omega-3 oils:
- Sesame seeds and toasted sesame seed oil
- Fatty fish and fish oil SPOILER ALERT: Insulin is the one hormone that you have THE most control over of all. It is controlled primarily by what you put in your mouth. All foods trigger a hormonal response. Carbs and most simple sugars stimulate secretion of the hormone insulin while protein produces the hormone glucagon and essential Smart Fats provide the building blocks of the tissue-like hormones we have already met before—the prostaglandins.
Insulin is the key hormone that controls our blood sugar levels after we consume all types of carbs—from grains, starchy root vegetables and sugar, itself. What was most shocking to me is that two slices of whole wheat bread, high in Amylopectin A (a sugar-spiking carb), can raise blood sugar levels higher than most candy bars! Insulin levels can also skyrocket with excessive intake of sugar, alcohol, and caffeine.
Insulin metabolizes blood sugar so that muscle tissue can use it for fuel. It also helps store excess blood sugar in the liver and tissues as glycogen or in our bodies as fat. So, excess production of insulin can result in too much blood sugar being stored as fat, interfering with weight loss efforts. That is why a balanced diet of protein and carbohydrates in the form of glycemic carbohydrates (veggies, some starchy veggies, and limited fruits) alongside the Smart Fats is so important. The Smart Fats are the body’s best blood sugar stabilizer with protein coming in second.
Meals that are not properly balanced with blood sugar stabilizing Smart Fat and protein will raise insulin, thereby triggering fat storage. When insulin receptors are blocked or are already saturated, insulin resistance occurs giving rise to metabolic syndrome and contributing to high blood sugar and high triglycerides.
Why Fruit Makes You Fat
Speaking of sugar (even natural sources), did you know that fruits could make you fat? Years ago we used to think fructose was the sweetener of choice because it did not raise insulin-like so many other sugars.
What we have since learned, however, is that fructose is absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream. It creates a more level blood sugar than plain glucose from simple sugars. Fructose has a delayed response. While it doesn’t raise insulin, it goes right to the liver, the only organ that can metabolize it, which then turns it into triglycerides (a form of fat), which can ultimately end up around your tummy and “love handles.” High triglyceride levels are associated with heart disease, especially in women.
So fruits, which all contain some degree of fructose—but especially high fructose ones like raisins, figs, dates, prunes, peaches, grapes, apricots, apples, and pears—need to be kept to a bare minimum or eliminated from your diet completely.
Furthermore, today’s fruits are hybridized sugar bombs. Yesteryear’s apples, for instance, only contained somewhere around two grams of fructose. Today, thanks to modern agricultural practices and genetic engineering, these “Frankenfruits” now contain up to 30 times as much fructose as fruits in the past. That’s why an apple TODAY may no longer keep the doctor away.
The takeaway here is that regardless of whether you are overweight or underweight, your insulin balance can easily become out of whack. That’s why is it so important to consume Smart Fats AND protein because both of these macronutrients act as blood sugar stabilizing agents, keeping blood sugar at an even keel.
Sesame Smooths Out Insulin Spikes
Sesame contains an amazing amount of antioxidants—like sesamol, sesamin, and sesamolin—which keep the oil stable, despite its high linoleic acid omega-6 content. Coupled with a high vitamin E content, this unique antioxidant system also aids cellular sensitivity to insulin. This makes the inimitable sesame oil a wonderful seasoning agent and cooking oil for blood sugar regulation.
Used in conjunction with insulin-regulating fatty fish and fish oil, sesame oil can help you finally lose your stubborn belly fat (a major tip-off that you are heading into insulin resistance). Abdominal fat is well recognized as a sign of metabolic syndrome and other health-based problems.
Fish Oil Increases Insulin Sensitivity
Several studies have shown that fish oil supplements can minimize the risk that your food will be stored as fat. Omega-3 oils increase insulin sensitivity. This is critical to weight loss, as the more sensitive your cells are to insulin, the less likely it is that your insulin levels will get too high and trigger fat to go into deep storage in your abdomen. Making sure the cells of your body are sensitive to insulin is a well-established key to losing weight and staying healthy.
If weight gain, cravings for sugar, frequent and intense hunger, difficulty concentrating, feeling anxious or panicky, lacking focus or motivation, and fatigue are your major symptoms, then it is time to clean up insulin.
The protein-promoting hormone glucagon works in opposition to insulin. What insulin puts away in storage, glucagon puts back into use. The two hormones do not conflict with one another in the bloodstream, because when the insulin level is high, the glucagon level is low and vice-versa. When your blood sugar drops, the pancreas secretes glucagon. It is believed that both protein-rich foods (meat, fish, poultry, eggs, tofu) and exercise induce this process. Glucagon causes the stored sugar glycogen to be released back into the bloodstream to restore a balanced blood sugar level. In addition to releasing glycogen, glucagon releases fat from adipose tissue. This fat is then burned as fuel—just what you want!
Smart Fats provide the essential fatty acids that convert into powerful prostaglandins. Similar to the different types of cholesterol, prostaglandins can be divided into the “good” and “bad” categories. While our bodies really need both to be healthy, the most important thing is that both categories should be in balance.
From the Eat Fat Lose Weight perspective, the “bad” prostaglandins tend to increase with high insulin that is fueled by high carb intake. This results in weakened immunity, increased triglycerides, blood clots, constriction of blood vessels and increased pain. That’s why omega-3 rich fish and/or fish oil are so highly recommended. They provide the natural anti-inflammatory, immunity-strengthening and cholesterol-lowering power of Smart Fats that trigger the “good” prostaglandins.Smart Tips: Insulin What can you do to get a grip on your insulin levels to enhance weight loss and prevent fat gain?
- Sprinkle sesame seeds on salads and stir-frys. Drizzle the oil on veggies and grilled fish. When you do use sesame seeds, buy them unhulled to retain high levels of calcium. Soak the seeds overnight and toast them to remove oxalic acid, which binds to the calcium rendering it bio-unavailable. Drizzle toasted sesame oil on cooked foods and raw veggies. The oil helps to curb the output of insulin to halt fat storage and prevent uncontrolled blood sugar swings that result in cravings and chronic fatigue.
- Take omega-3 fish oil every day. Eat fatty fish at least twice per week. Aim for 1,000 to 4,000 mg daily.
- Count your carbs. If you are already insulin resistant then keep carbs somewhere between 20 to 50 grams per day, according to your individual needs. Lowering your carb intake helps to lower your insulin levels, enabling your own body fat to be burned as fuel.
- Supplement with chromium—a key mineral for blood sugar regulation. It is commonly deficient in our diet unless you live on beer and pepper (the highest sources of this trace mineral).
- Get the sugar out! This means limiting all sources of natural sugars from fruit, especially fructose. That’s why two servings of fruit per day is my recommendation. Even natural sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, and brown rice syrup can play havoc with blood sugar. Experiment with different types of stevia and sugar alcohols like xylitol (from birch), erythritol from non-GMO fermented corn and Lakanto, a mixture of monk fruit and erythritol.
I also like the amino acid glycine. Then, there’s D-ribose—a type of sweet “essential carbohydrate,” which feeds muscles and provides energy. Many of these sweet substitutes are ideal for people with metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance. They are highly recommended for prediabetics or full-blown type 2 diabetics. Use these to sweeten your tea or in cooking— wherever you used to use the white, pink or yellow stuff. If you are extremely sensitive to sugar, even these alternatives can induce cravings, so a little goes a long way.
- Berries are better. Blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, and wild blueberries are low in fructose, high in fiber and chock full of a type of antioxidant known as polyphenols which help break down fat and interfere with the production of new fat cells.
- Drink filtered water with apple cider vinegar. As I wrote in my Fat Flush Plan, studies have found that taking about two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar in water before any meal significantly reduces blood glucose levels by dramatically slowing down carbohydrate digestion. In fact, apple cider vinegar would work great as a prescription for fixing your blood sugar regulator. It is a powerful cleansing and healing elixir that is a naturally occurring antibiotic and antiseptic, which fights germs and bacteria. Do “drink your apple a day the vinegar way” to give you a healthier, stronger, longer life.
- To increase insulin sensitivity, do some strength training. Work out with weights at least two to three times per week for at least 30 minutes.
- Reach for organic almonds instead of an apple. Be aware of how much fruit (particularly high fructose fruit) you are ingesting on a daily basis, especially if you are doing everything right AND still can’t lose weight. Let’s not forget that high fructose corn syrup is linked to a nonalcoholic fatty liver condition.
Take-Aways Before Moving On...
Learning how to navigate stress will probably be a lifetime adventure. With the help of supportive friends and family, adequate exercise, regular sleep, and the Smart Fats in your permanent lifestyle plan, you stand a much better chance of coping with stress so much more healthfully. Successful stress management will also put you in the best place to overcome the hunger hormones, which impact appetite. All of that is what’s up next.
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Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS
Visionary health expert Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, CNS, has always been a trendsetter. With millions of followers nationwide, she has the uncanny ability to pinpoint major health concerns and provide solutions years ahead of anybody else.
Highly respected as the grande dame of alternative health and award-winning author of 30 books, she single-handedly launched the weight loss/detox revolution in her New York Times bestseller The Fat Flush Plan. A Connecticut College and Teachers College, Columbia University graduate, Dr. Ann Louise was recognized as one of the top ten nutritionists in the country by Self magazine and was the recipient of the American Medical Writers Association award for excellence. She has been a popular columnist for First magazine since 2003.