When our natural diet is out of balance, we experience spikes in energy followed by a crash that causes us to crave more food, sugar and caffeine. This spike and crash cycle is known as the blood sugar roller coaster.
In the 1980's, the low-fat diet took the US by storm. Several studies at the time showed a possible correlation between certain fats and a whole host of medical problems. The processed food business amplified these claims to market their "lowfat" and "nonfat" products. However, the food marketers failed to mention that they replaced the fat with processed sugar.
The Dangers of Riding the Blood Sugar Roller Coaster
This increase in sugar caused even more havoc to health outcomes. We now know that when we consume too much glucose, or sugar, in our blood stream, it will trigger a significant stress response. Frequent or extended periods of high blood sugar leads to several health challenges such as damage to the nerves, blood vessels and organs and can lead to diabetes.
Too much sugar in the blood also triggers the production of insulin. When too much insulin is released, our blood sugar drops, our energy crashes and we are signaled to eat again. So, the lowfat diets we tried to use to loose weight put us on the blood sugar roller coaster. Not only did we NOT loose the weight as expected, we increased the risk to our overall health.
The Benefits of Healthy Fats
Including healthy fats back into your diet, not only helps stabilize the blood sugar roller coaster, it also helps improve your overall health. Healthy fats are essential to:
- Help with growth and development
- Nourish skin, hair and nails
- Help absorb fat soluble vitamins like A,E, D and K
- Regulate hormones
- Maintain a steady metabolism
- Insulate the body
- Reduce inflammation
What are Healthy Fats
Adding healthy fat back into your diet can be challenging but fun! Not all fats are created equally, so we want to modify our favorite recipes to replace less healthy saturated fats (like lard, butter, and palm oil) with healthier unsaturated fats (like olive oil and flaxseed oil).
Below is a spicy Ethiopian recipe that I modified to remove the large amounts of butter it called for. I replaced the butter with a 50/50 combination of olive oil and coconut oil. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat that has been shown to help improve blood cholesterol levels and decrease inflammation.
Coconut oil, while being a saturated fat, is made up of medium-chain fatty acids which effects our bodies differently than other saturated fats. Coconut oil is sent directly to the liver to be metabolized and turned into energy. This means it does not cause an insulin spike in our bloodstream and further helps stabilize that blood sugar roller coaster.
Mesir Wat (Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew)
1 large onion, chopped
1.5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1.5 Tbsp organic coconut oil
2 Tbsp grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp hot smoked paprika
1 Tbsp berbere spice*
2 Tbsp organic tomato paste
Salt & pepper
*Berbere spice is an Ethiopian spice that can be found online and in some health store (like Whole Foods). If you don't have berbere spice, substitute with 1.5 tsp garam marsala, 1 tsp tumeric and 0.5 tsp cayenne pepper
Chop onions, mince garlic and grate ginger.
Heat a large sauce pot over medium heat. Add the olive oil, coconut oil and chopped onion & sauté for 3-5 minutes, until soft.
Add the ginger & garlic and sauté another 2 minutes.
Add spices and tomato paste along with 2 tsp salt. Mix well then add lentils and 6 cups water.
Cover pot and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes.
Uncover and stir lentils. Continue cooking uncovered for another 10-15 minutes.
Can be served separately or as part of a full Ethiopian meal or Mesir Wat (Red Lentil Stew), Doro Wat (Chicken Stew), Goman (spicy collard greens), Cucumber Salad (also spicy) and Injera (gluten-free, sour dough teff bread).