Antioxidants serve as a powerful first line of defense against damage to your cells from aging, stress, and inflammation. Moreover, antioxidants appear to contain cancer-fighting properties and to support the immune system (among many other benefits).
Many, many foods, especially colorful vegetables, contain a range of valuable antioxidants. We’ve listed a few of the most potent and popular choices for each class of antioxidants. Here, we’ll go through the most important ones.
What Do Antioxidants Do?
Antioxidants are molecules that capture free radicals, or harmful oxygen atoms, that occur in response to normal body processes and environmental conditions. Even the simple act of digesting your food produces free radicals.
Over time, an overabundance of free radicals can slowly damage healthy cells, and then healthy tissues and eventually organs. You want to minimize the damage as much as possible, and antioxidants can help protect you.
Your body can make some antioxidants, and you get others from food.
Antioxidants can be broken into two general categories: antioxidant enzymes, and antioxidant nutrients, which include vitamins, minerals and the various -noids detailed below.
Antioxidant vitamins can be broken down into flavonoids and carotenoids.
Flavonoids (also called bioflavonoids) are polyphenol pigment compounds that are present in most flowering plants. They are commonly grouped under anthocyanidins, proanthocyanins, and phenolics. The coolest fact about flavonoid antioxidants: they offer a double-punch because they improve vitamin C’s antioxidant capabilities.
Foods that contain flavonoids include tea, citrus fruit, citrus fruit juices, berries, red wine, apples, and others.https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/carotenoids‘>2
The antioxidant enzymes are superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), and glutathione peroxidase (GPx).
SOD: Cruciferous vegetables are a must!
CAT: Get enough iron from beef, mushrooms and sturdy greens to ensure proper catalase production.
GPx: Selenium activates this enzyme, so get plenty of eggs, chicken, and fresh garlic in your diet. If you’d like to supplement glutathione, you can take n-acetylcysteine, or NAC, a building block of glutathione that gives your body what it needs to make more.
Super Food List: The Best Antioxidant Foods by ORAC Value
Foods’ antioxidant quality is measured as an ORAC value, which stands for Oxygen Radical Absobance Capacity. Here is a list of some of the best antioxidant foods with the the highest ORAC values according to the USDA:
- Prunes: 5770
- Raisins: 2830
- Blueberries: 2400
- Blackberries: 2036
- Kale: 1770
- Strawberries: 1540
- Spinach: 1260
- Raspberries: 1220
- Brussels sprouts: 980
- Plums: 949
- Alfalfa sprouts: 930
- Broccoli flowers: 890
- Beets: 840
- Oranges: 750
- Red grapes: 739
- Red bell pepper: 710
- Cherries: 670
- Kiwi fruit: 602
- Grapefruit, pink: 483
- Onion: 450
- Corn: 400*
- Eggplant: 390
*Corn is a grain, which may not work for people following a Primal lifestyle.
These lists of antioxidants and antioxidant foods are certainly not comprehensive, as there are thousands of phytonutrients currently being studied and more are discovered every year. Bottom line: the more you get, the better. A combination of prudent supplementation and plentiful, colorful vegetables is your smartest bet.
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When most people worry about getting old, they focus on the obvious degenerative diseases like diabetes and cancer and Alzheimer’s or the catastrophic health emergencies that can occur, like strokes or heart attacks. They think about the melange of medicines they might have to take, the panicked rush to the ER in the dead of night, the slow but unmistakable descent into painful oblivion. But one of the deadliest health conditions afflicting older adults is also one of the most silent and unknown: sarcopenia, or the degeneration and loss of muscle mass and strength.
People just don’t think about losing muscle mass and strength as they get older. If they do, they assume it’s just part of the aging process. They figure it’s unavoidable, because, after all, everyone around them just gets weaker and more decrepit as they age. It’s one of those “inevitabilities” that you “just have to accept.”
Muscle loss is not your destiny. You don’t have to sit there and take it. In fact, sitting there and taking it is the single best way to get sarcopenia; standing up and fighting is the single best way to avoid it. Plus, taking the necessary steps to mitigate or even prevent sarcopenia will help prevent all those other age-related maladies I mentioned in the opening paragraph.
Health Problems Related to Muscle Atrophy, or Muscle Loss
Sarcopenia the specific condition is linked to a number of poor health outcomes:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3060646/‘>2:
- It’s degradation of the muscle tissue.
- It’s conversion from fast-twitch Type 2 muscle fibers that can handle heavy loads and high intensity to slow-twitch Type 1 muscle fibers that can only handle lighter loads and lower intensities.
- It’s the loss of motor units at the muscle itself, forcing the few remaining motor units to pick up the slack and extending recovery times.
- It’s the loss of cardiac strength, which impairs cardiovascular function and lowers VO2max.
- It’s the impairment of tendon function, reducing strength and mobility and increasing the risk of injury.
The European Working Group diagnoses sarcopenia if you have two of three conditions:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15571536‘>4
Normally I’d favor just sunlight, but the potential for impaired vitamin D production in older adults makes supplementation plus sun a wise choice.
Check Your Hormone Levels
For older men, low testosterone is a huge risk factor for sarcopenia. Inadequate testosterone makes building and retaining lean muscle mass harder than it should be, so even if you strength train and eat extra protein to fight sarcopenia, you get subpar results. Optimize your T levels, whether through natural means or, if required, supplemental.://journals.lww.com/menopausejournal/Fulltext/2020/05000/The_association_between_hormone_therapy_and.4.aspx‘>14
Get a Handle on Inflammation
Patients with sarcopenia tend to have higher baseline levels of inflammation.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12473005/‘>16
Recover from your workouts with adequate protein and calories and fat.
Don’t overeat too much. Not only is overeating on a regular basis inflammatory, it can increase intramuscular levels of fat in the muscles which degrade their function and exacerbate the sarcopenia.
Lose Body Fat
For years, researchers assumed the causality went sarcopenia—->obesity. Makes sense on some level. The weaker and more frail you are, the less you’re able to get enough physical activity to stay fit and trim. But the latest research suggests the causality runs the other way: excess adipose tissue secretes inflammatory adipokines which impair muscle function and structure.https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/ajpendo.00582.2003‘>1 It also activates reward centers in your brain so that food is more appealing, and your motivation to eat is stronger.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15001628/‘>3 and more strongly in response to eating carbs and protein, compared to fat.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11788653‘>5 On the flip side, individuals with anorexia or cachexia due to chronic illness, who are in a severe state of negative energy balance, have high circulating ghrelin levels.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17498507/‘>7 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4049314/‘>9
- Stimulating growth hormone release, which among other things helps regulate blood glucose levels during prolonged fasting or starvationhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3296868/‘>11 https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/82/11/3647/2865985‘>13 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1642692/‘>15
NPY acts to maintain energy homeostasis by decreasing energy expenditure, movement, sex drive, and thermogenesis when needed.https://www.nature.com/articles/nm1611‘>17
Another potentially exciting area of research is examining the role of NPY in aging. NPY is important for coping with and adapting to stress,https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2668104/‘>19 I’m keeping my eye on this.
Peptide YY (PYY) is produced in the intestines after you eat. It travels through the bloodstream to the hypothalamus, where it inhibits NPY, decreasing appetite. PYY also modulates other digestive functions, including pancreatic and gallbladder activity.
The amount of PYY produced is proportional to the number of calories consumed. Studies find that higher-protein meals cause the greatest rise in PYY, followed by higher-fat meals. Not only do high-carb meals stimulate the least PYY, PYY peaks and then starts to decrease quickly after high-carb meals, whereas it continues to rise for hours after meals containing more fat and protein.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4638054/‘>21 High levels of CCK are related to anxiety and panic attacks, while schizophrenic patients may have abnormally low levels of CCK in their brains.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12475787/‘>23 GLP-1 figures prominently in experimental treatments for type 2 diabetes.
Following bariatric surgery, patients’ GLP-1 and PYY increase significantly, which probably accounts for post-surgical reductions in appetite,https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9152741/‘>25 Research using a rat model also suggests that GLP-1 facilitates the rapid metabolic improvements that often follow surgery.https://academic.oup.com/jcem/article/92/10/4052/2598628‘>27 Protein is also quite satiating, likely due to the actions of hormones like ghrelin and PYY.https://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1000052‘>1 Researchers studied desert nomads, mountain agrarians, and coastal urban residents. All were Berbers with low genetic variance. These people had very similar genetic patterns—were from the same basic genetic stock—but very different living situations.
The researchers analyzed the white blood cells of the group “to study the impact of the transition from traditional to urbanized lifestyles on the human immune system.” Berbers from urban environments had evidence of upregulated respiratory and immune genes, for example. Those same genes lay more “dormant” in nomadic and agrarian Berbers.
Overall, gene expression between the three groups varied by up to one-third based on geographic location and corresponding lifestyle. In their conclusion, the authors lay out the foundation of everything we talk about on this blog and in this space:
“Diseases due to genetic factors in urban populations may bear little resemblance to the impact of the same genetic factors in traditional societies.”
Did you get that?
“Bad genes” aren’t bad in traditional environments. The trick, of course, is figuring out what makes up the traditional environment and whether you can replicate it in the modern world.
Let’s look at a specific example: Tobacco.
Epigenetic Effects of Tobacco
Tobacco smoking “silences” the MTHFR gene via hypermethylation.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26087411/‘>3 GCLC is meant to deal with more moderate levels of toxins and irritants; these can actually have a beneficial hormetic effect that triggers higher levels of glutathione and less oxidative stress. In this case, tobacco represents a supranormal stimulus that turns a helpful gene harmful.
Or how about the genetics of obesity?
Epigenetics and Obesity
For the last decade, we’ve been inundated with the idea that obesity is caused by your genes. That some people are just destined to be be overweight. Sure enough, there are dozens of genes linked to an elevated risk of obesity and overweight.
Only genes can’t wholly explain the huge rise in obesity rates over the last hundred years because genes don’t change that fast. People used to be thin, and now they aren’t, and they have the same basic genetic profiles.
The real problem is that almost everyone in the western world exists in a shared food environment which is obesogenic. If you live in America, you’re awash in drive-thrus, Big Gulps, and inexpensive, delicious processed food that’s been engineered to interact with the pleasure centers in your brain. Most modern countries are in similar boats, and obesity rates are climbing across other nations as they adopt our food-ways and work habits. The genes aren’t changing (at least, not quick enough to account for the stats), the environment is changing.
Because the environment has changed for everyone, and most people never really question its obesogenic nature — they eat the pizza, they buy the processed food, they sit for eight hours a day at work and watch TV for four, they slog away on the treadmill—researchers looking for the genetic origins of obesity miss or discount the effect of environment. Almost everyone whose genetic data they’re examining is exposed to the same obesogenic food environment, and its ubiquity masks its effects. And because some people appear to have genetic profiles that protect them against obesity, researchers lay the blame at the feet of the genes.
The “epigenetics of obesity” is more accurate than the “genetics of obesity.”
Let’s see a few more examples.
Exercise Non-responders Epigenetics
Some people carry an “exercise non-responder” gene. by most counts, it’s 15% of the population. For these folks, doing standard “cardio” doesn’t do much. It may even impair insulin sensitivity, raise blood pressure, lower HDL, and leave cardiovascular fitness unchanged.https://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/fitness/non-responders-need-to-try-harder-when-exercising-study-suggests/article27513859/‘>5. I’d also guess that resistance training would work as well.
It’s not the genes that are faulty. It’s the (exercise) environment that’s faulty.
MTHFR Mutation Epigenetics
MTHFR mutations often impair folate absorption or conversion of folic acid into bioavailable folate, and they increase the requirements of others nutrients like choline and vitamin B12. In the modern food environment bereft of vegetation and nutrient-dense animal products, those mutations cause huge issues. In a traditional food environment full of vegetation and nutrient-dense animal products, or supplemental forms that mimic the active food forms, they aren’t as bad.
If you eat a lot of vegetables (a good source of folate), you weaken the link between MTHFR mutations and kidney cancer.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27342765/‘>7 Doing so preserves methylation status., alzheimer’s disease, ancestors, ancestral health, ancestry, animal fats, animal-source foods, animal-sourced foods, bacon, bestselling author, brain, Brain Health, burn fat, clinial practice, cognitive function, colon health, dementia, dha, diet, diet and nutrition, dietary diversity, dietary propaganda, digestive process, digestive tract, eat real food, emf, emf pollution, Episodes, fake meat, fancis pottenger, fasting, fat burning, fat burning man, Fat-Burning Tips, fat-soluble nutrients, fatigue, Featured, fiber, financial interests, fish oil, game changers, generation, genetic heritage, Genetics, government interests, grass-fed liver, Health, health conferences, health under attack, heritage, how to burn fat, hunter gathere ancestry, Hunter-Gatherer, immune health, immune system robust immune system, indigenous tribes, intermittent fasting, internal wildlife, international bestseller, internet, Interviews, invisible threats, keto, ketogenic, ketosis, liver, living with wild wolves, Longevity, mainstream narrative, microbiome, moderation, muscle meats, national defense authorization act, News, nora, nora gedgaudas, nose to tail, Nutrition, omnivores, optimize health, Paleo, phytochemicals, podcast, Podcasts, political landscape, pottenger's cats, Primal, primal body, primal body primal mind, primal fat burner, primal mind, primalgenic, primalgenics, pro vitamin a, propagandize, protocol, radiation, rethinking fatigue, self-empowered, superfood, Supplements, tangible threats, the fat burning man, The Wild Diet, threats, Thyroid, thyroid issues, top health podcast, vegan, vegan documentary, vegan propaganda, videos, vitamin d, vitamin d3, who, wild diet, wild fish, wild superfoods, wild wolves, wisdom, wolves, world health organization
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What’s sweet, red, sticky, and deadly?
Blood sugar. (I’m sure there are other things that qualify, but most of them contain sugar of some sort so I’m sticking with it.)
Too little of it, and you go into hypoglycemic shock. That can kill you if left untreated.
Too much of it, and you waste away slowly. Chronic overexposure to sugar will degenerate your tissues and organs.
Yes, getting blood sugar right is extremely important. Vital, even.
Today, I’m going to explain how and why we measure blood sugar, what the numbers mean, why we need to control it, and how to maintain that control.
First, blood sugar is tightly controlled in the body. The average person has between 4-7 grams of sugar circulating throughout their body in a fasted state—that’s around a teaspoon’s worth. How does that work when the average person consumes dozens of teaspoons in a single day?
Again, it’s tightly controlled.
The majority of the sugar “in our system” is quickly whisked away for safekeeping, burning, or conversion. We store as much of it as glycogen in our liver and muscle as we can. We burn some for energy. And, if there’s any left over, we can convert it to fat in the liver.
But sometimes, sugar lingers. In diabetics, for example, blood sugar runs higher than normal. That’s actually how you identify and diagnose a person with diabetes: they have elevated blood sugar.
There are several ways to measure blood sugar.
- The basic finger prick: Prick your finger, produce a few drops of blood, place blood on test insert, test blood sugar level. It’s the most common method.
- Fasting blood sugar: Your blood sugar level when fasted. These tests are usually taken first thing in the morning, because that’s the only time most people haven’t eaten in the last few hours. “Normal” is under 100.
- Postprandial blood sugar: Your blood sugar after eating. These tests measure your blood sugar response to food; they also measure your ability to dispose of blood glucose.
- HbA1C: Average blood sugar over 2/3 months. HbA1c measures the degree of glycation of your red blood cells’ hemoglobin; this is an indirect measure of how much blood sugar your cells are exposed to over time, since a red blood cell that’s exposed to more sugar in the blood over its life cycle—2-3 months—will have more glycation. Thus, A1c seeks to establish the average level of blood sugar circulating through your body over the red blood cell’s life cycle, rather than track blood sugar numbers that rapidly fluctuate through the day, week, and month. It’s a measurement of chronic blood sugar levels, not acute.
- The continuous glucose monitor: A wearable device that measures your blood sugar at regular intervals throughout the day and night. This is becoming more common. The beauty of the CGM is that you get a visual display of blood sugar’s rise and fall throughout the day in response to meals, workouts, fasts, stress, etc. Since elevated blood sugar does its damage over the long term, seeing the entire daily trend is more illuminating than taking single snapshots with a finger prick. It’s similar in power to HbA1c, only with greater accuracy.
According to the American Diabetes Association, any fasting blood sugar (FBG) under 100 mg/dl is completely normal. It’s safe. It’s fine. Don’t worry, just keep eating your regular diet, and did you get a chance to try the donuts in the waiting room? They only start to worry at 110-125 (pre-diabetic) and above 125 (diabetic).
This may be unwise. Healthy people subjected to continuous glucose monitoring have much lower average blood glucose—89 mg/dl. A 2008 study found that people with a FBG of 95-99—still “normal”—were 2.33 times more likely to develop diabetes in the future than people on the low-normal end of the scale.
As for postprandial blood glucose, the ADA likes anything under 140 mg/dl.
How about HbA1c? A “normal” HbA1c is anything under 5.7. And 6.0 is diabetic. That’s what the reference ranges, which mostly focuses on diabetes. What does the research say? In this study, under 5 was best for heart disease. In this study, anything over 4.6 was associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
That 5.7 HbA1c isn’t looking so great.
What’s “normal” also depends on your baseline state.
Healthy FBG depends on your BMI. At higher FBG levels, higher BMIs are protective. A recent study showed that optimal fasting blood glucose for mortality gradually increased with bodyweight. Low-normal BMIs had the lowest mortality at normal FBG (under 100), moderately overweight BMIs had the lowest mortality at somewhat impaired FBG (100-125), and the highest BMIs had the lowest mortality at diabetic FBG levels (over 125).
If you’re very low-carb, postprandial blood glucose will be elevated after a meal containing carbs. This is because very low-carb, high-fat diets produce physiological insulin resistance to preserve what little glucose you have for the tissues that depend on it, like certain parts of the brain. The more resistant you are to insulin, the higher your blood glucose response to dietary glucose.
HbA1c depends on a static red blood cell lifespan. A1c seeks to establish the average level of blood sugar circulating through your body over the red blood cell’s life cycle, rather than track blood sugar numbers that rapidly fluctuate through the day, week, and month. If we know how long a red blood cell lives, we have an accurate measurement of chronic blood sugar levels. The clinical consensus assumes the lifespan is three months. Is it?
Ironically, people with healthy blood sugar levels might have inflated HbA1c levels. One study found that folks with normal blood sugar had red blood cells that lived up to 146 days, and RBCs in folks with high blood sugar had life cycles as low as 81 days. For every 1% rise in blood sugar, red blood cell lifespan fell by 6.9 days. In those with better blood sugar control, RBCs lived longer and thus had more time to accumulate sugar and give a bad HbA1c reading. In people with poorer blood sugar control, red blood cells live shorter lives and have less time to accumulate sugar, potentially giving them “better” HbA1c numbers.
Anemia can inflate HbA1c. Anemia depresses the production of red blood cells. If you have fewer red blood cells in circulation, the ones you do have accumulate more sugar since there are fewer cells “competing” for it. Anemia isn’t anything to sniff at, but it does throw off HbA1c.
Hyperglycemia and Health
Okay, is hyperglycemia actually a problem? I’ve heard some suggest that hyperglycemia is a marker of poor metabolic health, but it’s not actually causing anything bad itself. I agree with the first part—hyperglycemia indicates poor metabolic health and is a risk factor for things like heart disease and early mortality—but not the last. Indeed, hyperglycemia is both an effect and direct cause of multiple health issues.
Most cell types, when faced with systemic hyperglycemia, have mechanisms in place to regulate the passage of glucose through their membranes. They can avoid hyperglycemic toxicity by keeping excess sugar out. Other cell types, namely pancreatic beta-cells, neurons, and the cells lining the blood and lymphatic vessels, do not have these mechanisms. In the presence of high blood sugar, they’re unable to keep excess sugar out. It’s to these three types of cells that hyperglycemia is especially dangerous.
Unfortunately, these are all pretty important cells.
What happens when too much glucose makes it into one of these cells?
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation is a normal byproduct of glucose metabolism by the cell’s mitochondria. If the stream of glucose into the cell is unregulated, bad things begin to happen: excessive ROS, a mediator of increased oxidative stress; depletion of glutathione, the prime antioxidant in our bodies; advanced glycation endproduct (AGE) formation; and activation of protein kinase C, a family of enzymes involved in many diabetes-related complications. It’s messy stuff.
How does this play out in the specific cell types that are susceptible, and what does it mean for you?
Pancreatic beta-cells: These cells are responsible for secreting insulin in response to blood glucose. They essentially are the first line of defense against hyperglycemia. If maintained for too long or too often, hyperglycemia inhibits the ability of pancreatic beta-cells to do their job. For instance, type 2 diabetics have reduced pancreatic beta-cell mass; smaller cells have lower functionality. Mitochondrial ROS (often caused by hyperglycemia) also reduce the insulin secreted by the cells, thereby reducing their ability to deal with the hyperglycemia and compounding the initial problem.
Neurons: The brain’s unique affinity for glucose makes its glucose receptor-laden neuronal cells susceptible to hyperglycemia. It simply soaks up glucose, and if there’s excessive amounts floating around, problems arise. Hyperglycemia is consistently linked to cognitive impairment, causes the shrinking of neurons and the inducement of spatial memory loss, and induces neuronal oxidative stress. It also impairs the production of nitric oxide, which is involved in the hippocampus’ regulation of food intake.
Endothelial cells: Flow mediated dilation (FMD) is the measure of a blood vessels’ ability to dilate in response to increased flow demands. Under normal conditions, the endothelial cells release nitric oxide, a vasodilator, in response to increased shear stress. Under hyperglycemic conditions, nitric oxide release is inhibited and FMD reduced. A decreased FMD means your endothelial function is compromised and strongly predicts cardiovascular events (PDF) and may cause atherosclerosis (PDF).
Electrolyte depletion: Persistent hyperglycemia can cause the body to shed glucose by urinating it out. In doing so, you also end up shedding electrolytes.
Okay, okay. Controlling your blood sugar is important. Avoiding hyperglycemia is one of the most important things you can do for your health and longevity. How do I do it?
How to Improve Blood Sugar
- Go for a walk. A short walk after eating will reduce blood sugar. Fifteen minutes is probably enough (although more is always better).
- Eat vinegar before. Eating vinegar before a meal that contains carbohydrates will improve the blood glucose response to that meal.
- Exercise. Exercise depletes muscle glycogen, which opens up storage depots for incoming glucose. If glucose is converted to glycogen and deposited in your muscles, your blood glucose will normalize. Pretty much any kind of exercise works.
- Sprint and/or intervals. A review looked at the blood glucose responses of diabetics (type 1 and type 2) to “brief high intensity exercise,” as which sprinting definitely qualifies, finding that although glucose was elevated immediately post workout, blood glucose control is improved for one to three days following a sprint session. Research finds that endurance training works, too, but sprinting may work faster and better.
- Steady state endurance. Then again, steady state endurance training was just as effective as sprinting at reducing glucose variability and improving glucose spikes in overweight women. There was no difference between the two—both beat doing nothing.
- Resistance training.
- All of the above. As different types of training target different tissues, deplete glycogen at different rates, and induce different metabolic effects, doing sprints, weights, and low level aerobic activity is your best bet for improving glucose control.
When I take a bird’s eye view of all this, the best glucose-lowering exercise is the one you’ll do on a regular basis. It’s all good.
- Avoid unnecessary carbohydrates. Carbs you earn through glycogen-depleting exercise will not contribute to hyperglycemia. Those are “necessary,” or at least “earned.” Carbs you didn’t earn will contribute to hyperglycemia. A surefire way to avoid hyperglycemia is to avoid the foods that induce it—carbs.
- Eat more protein and fat, fewer carbs. This is a simple one for most of you guys, but many people never consider it. A basic swap of whole eggs (or egg whites) for carbs reduces not just postprandial glycemia but also endothelial dysfunction.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation increases blood glucose variability and impairs regulation.
- Eat fermented dairy. Kefir improves glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes. Yogurt does too. Cheese is also associated with better glucose control.
- Use spices. Spices can have profound anti-hyperglycemic effects.
If you’re low-carb or keto and need to pass a glucose tolerance test, eat 150-250 grams of carbs per day in the week leading up to the test. This will give you a chance to shift back into sugar-burning mode.
Long Term Blood Glucose Control?
Consistency is everything. Consistently doing all the little tips and hacks we just went over that lower blood sugar in the moment will lead to long term blood sugar control. If you take vinegar before and walk after every single meal for the rest of your life, you will control postprandial blood sugar. If you avoid excess carbohydrates, you will exert long-term control over blood sugar levels. If you exercise 3-4 times a week and get plenty of low-level activity, you’ll be much less likely to have hyperglycemia.
Thus concludes the Definitive Guide to Blood Sugar. If you have any questions or comments, drop them in down below. Thanks for reading!
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We didn’t set out with the intention, but somehow it happened. Keto For Life was assigned a release date of New Year’s Eve—tomorrow, in fact. While there’s never a wrong day to go keto, my writing partner, Brad Kearns, and I felt like the stars aligned. Just when countless people are taking stock at the turn of new decade, wondering what might be possible in their lives, this message would be there. And while a lot of books will be there, too, with promises of weight loss and fitness and wellness, I have to say (biased as I may be) that Keto For Life offers something unique and sustainable among the typical cacophony of health tracts.
While I’ve shared its premise and outline on the blog, today I’m taking up some questions readers have shot my way over the last few weeks. What does it cover that other books haven’t? Does it offer a new take on longevity? How do other principles come into play beyond diet? I’m covering all that and more.
How does Keto For Life differ from The Keto Reset Diet?
Since the start of Mark’s Daily Apple, my core purpose has been to present a counter-argument against flawed and dated conventional wisdom. On the blog here and in my books beginning with The Primal Blueprint in 2009, I’ve focused on presenting the scientific rationale and practical steps for how to escape carbohydrate dependency and become fat- and (more recently) keto-adapted. I’ve made the case for rejecting the “struggle and suffer “ethos of chronic cardio in favor of a Primal approach emphasizing comfortable paced movement and aerobic workouts, lifting heavy things, and sprinting once in a while. And, finally, I’ve emphasized the non-negotiable importance of complementary lifestyle behaviors like getting enough sleep, sun, and play.
All of us in the ancestral health space have been heartened to see how far we’ve come in the past decade. Many ancestral health principles have been widely validated by science and accepted into mainstream culture in a relatively short amount of time. Back in 2009, it was hard to find someone who had any awareness of Primal/paleo/low-carb eating (including major New York publishers—that’s why I had to start Primal Blueprint Publishing!). Today, it’s a different ball game. The movement’s growth over the past decade has allowed discussion to refine and advance. Without the need to push just the basic premise, there’s been more momentum around deeper, more productive levels of personal customization. The keto and carnivore diets are examples of these ancestral offshoots.
The Keto Reset Diet was one of the first comprehensive books published on the subject, but it’s primarily a diet book—how to proceed in a comfortable step-by-step manner to embrace the ketogenic diet without the risk of backslide and burnout that comes with an ill-advised approach. It does cover the complementary exercise, sleep, and stress management practices that support your dietary goals, but the central focus is on introducing the ketogenic diet to the masses.
Keto For Life picks up where The Keto Reset Diet left off by having you leverage the metabolic flexibility you attain from keto efforts and applying it to the ultimate goals of living long and living awesome. In particular, it integrates the critical components of mindfulness, social wellness and emotional well-being for enhancing longevity and enjoying a fulfilling life. It moves beyond the core ancestral health message of “mechanics”—mechanics of eating the right foods, of doing the right workouts, of quantifying everything and checking every box…but with that potential big void of “Are we having fun yet?” Keto For Life leads with life. The focus is squarely on the good, long life we all hope to achieve.
What Does Keto For Life have to say about longevity?
We played around with using the term “longevity” in the title, but who cares about longevity by itself? Today, most people can make it to the average U.S. life expectancy of 79, but too many limp to that finish line, having endured decades of pain, suffering and limitation. The United States ranks 26th out of 35 economically advanced nations in life expectancy, a pathetic showing for the richest and most medically advanced nation in the history of humanity. In Keto For Life, we tackle the goal of healthspan, which conveys both living long and living awesome. Healthspan entails not just checking all the boxes of healthy foods, exercise output and sleep hours; it also means having fun and finding fulfillment along the way. With the Four Pillars of Keto Longevity, we incorporate healthy eating, movement and physical fitness with the concepts of Mental Flexibility and the often-overlooked pillar of Rest and Recovery.
How does compressed morbidity fit in here?
Compressed morbidity describes being healthy, strong and cognitively sharp for as long as possible. Then, by the time the natural inevitabilities of chronological aging come into play, the end is quick and peaceful. Brad’s father Dr. Walter Kearns was a stellar example of this concept. He passed in May of 2019 at the age of 97. Ninety-five of his years were characterized by exceptional mental and physical function. A champion golfer for his entire life, Walter shot below his age over 1,2000 times, including shooting an even par 71 at age 87 and a 76 at the age of 92. Walter was a general surgeon who continued to serve as a physician for decades after closing his private practice. He worked for the Indian Health Service into his late 70s, and volunteered at a weekly diabetes clinic until he was 95. In his final two years, Walter’s cognitive and physical performance started to decline. His golf outings went from 18 holes for money to casual 9-hole outings, and eventually to hitting chip shots in the backyard. He started to take longer naps, eat less food, have longer nights of sleep and shorter walks at the park. Soon, the day came for him to pass peacefully at home, with none of the drama, suffering, or family fatigue of someone paying the price for decades of adverse lifestyle practices with chronic disease patterns.
Going for compressed morbidity is about keeping muscle mass on your body (promoting a concept called organ reserve I’ve discussed at length in The Primal Blueprint and on the blog) as well as your brain! In a pattern that appears often in the book, the Four Pillars are complementary here. Eating an ancestral-style diet in general and making a devoted effort to become keto-adapted (even if you don’t stay in strict keto over the long-term) strongly supports cognitive function. You may have heard the disturbing new nickname for the assorted cognitive decline conditions that are growing at epidemic rates: Type 3 Diabetes. This term was coined by noted researcher Dr. Suzanne de la Monte of Brown University, conveying how cognitive decline is marked by dysfunctional glucose metabolism in the brain. As de la Monte explains, cognitive disease “has molecular and biochemical features that overlap with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.”
We hear sound bites about doing Sudoku to ward off dementia, but I go far deeper in this book. Extensive research shows us how a vibrant social network, a strong sense of purpose, and a positive self-perception about aging drive healthy cognitive function and extended lifespan. One longitudinal study from Yale tracked a group of 50+ people in Ohio for two decades, revealing an amazing result: Those with a positive self-perception about aging lived 7.5 years longer than those with negative self-perceptions about aging! This tidbit earned distinction as the lowest hanging fruit in the entire book to quickly add years to your life. The longevity champs in Okinawa also get recognition here for their emphasis on yuimaru, a deep sense of social obligation to family, friends, and neighbors. One of the most revealing longevity stats you will ever find is that Okinawan’s who leave the island live 20 years less than those who spend their entire lives on the island.
What’s the #1 quick takeaway from the Mental Flexibility pillar?
“Pivot.” Is that quick enough for you? Thanks for asking. Next question.
I can’t think of a more powerful word to convey the secret to experiencing a life filled with happiness, contentment, purpose, and meaning. I credit the ability to pivot as the key to my entrepreneurial success, and also to my ability to sustain a respectable level of work-life balance. As I shared in my introductory post about the book, pivoting describes being able to go with the flow when facing life change. Pivoting is accepting failure and setbacks with grace and resilience instead of allowing bad stuff to bury you. Pivoting is also knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. It’s impossible to be perfect here, but at least you can be honest with yourself. I share my own experiences of failing but embracing of this strategy in the book.
Pivoting into discomfort by being more honest, more vulnerable, less reactive, and less predictable can be the foundation of emotional resilience as well as solid relationships. Gratitude helps a great deal here. If you can start from a place of appreciation for your current circumstances and connections, whatever they are (if you’re reading this it could be worse, right?), you’re ahead of the game.
Whether you’re new to the Primal scene or you have a stack of well-read books on your shelf, I think you’ll find that Keto For Life breaks new ground and offers the most holistic and actionable resource for creating greater vitality and a happier, healthier and more fulfilling life. The official release date is tomorrow, December 31st, and I’m still offering up a preorder incentive of premium bonuses. Learn more and order through your favorite retailer HERE.
Thanks for reading, everyone. I’m thrilled to begin a new decade with you all this week. See you on the other side of it tomorrow.
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Many people get to age 60 or so and, if they haven’t lived a healthy, active life up to that point, assume it’s too late for them. After all, things only get harder the older you get. You’ve got aches and pains. Your doc is always reminding you about your weight. Things creak and crack. You look wistfully at the gym you pass by every day, thinking to yourself, “It would never work.”
At least, that’s how most people deal with getting old: they lament their “inability” to do anything about it as oblivion approaches and overtakes them.
Forget all that. While you can’t turn back the chronological clock, you can “de-age” yourself by engaging in the right diet, exercise, and lifestyle modifications. So—how?
Realize That It’s Never Too Late
The scientific literature is rife with examples of older individuals making changes to their lifestyle, diet, and exercise and seeing great results.
How about 68-year-olds still getting gains from strength training?
Older women switching to high-fatty-meat or high-cheese diets and enjoying better heart health.
Verifiable examples (or “anecdotes”) from people online are also available. Like PD Mangan, who went from this to this. That’s not impossible, or even difficult to achieve. What you need is the will and means and know-how—all freely available.
Know that it’s possible. Know that it’s probable. Know that your efforts will not be in vain.
Realize That It’s Your Fault—And Even If It’s Not, It’s Your Responsibility
I don’t care where you fall on the belief spectrum. It could be that “your body is a temple ordained by God and you’d be remiss to let it fall to ruin and in doing so fail your creator.” It could be that “your body was the work of hundreds of generations of ancestors who fought and suffered and scrounged and died to ensure you’d make it and to fail to maintain your health is a huge insult to their sacrifices.” It could be that “your body is the product of millions and billions of years of evolution through natural selection, a chance byproduct of a process that probability says shouldn’t have even happened, and you’re going to waste it?”
However you approach it, what matters is that you have a remarkable body (and mind) that deserves your attention, care, maintenance and nourishment. Only you can do anything about it. Maybe you were fed bad food as a kid and bad info as an adult (this is most people). Doesn’t matter. You still have to own it and take the steps necessary to improve your condition. Responsibility means ability to respond. Claim it.
Eat More Protein
If you’re over 50, you need more protein than you think.
If you’re over 50, your ability to utilize protein isn’t as good as it used to be.
If you’re over 50, you need more protein to do the same job as a person 25 years younger.
If you’re over 65, the supposed negative relationship between meat and mortality the “experts” are always crowing about reverses, magically becoming a positive relationship.
And if one of your issues is trouble losing body fat, more protein will also help you beat back exaggerated hunger and keep food intake low enough to lose weight. Many people in the ancestral community don’t like acknowledging this, but it’s true for a great many people: protein is the most satiating macronutrient.
Moreover, protein will help you lose body fat and retain (and even gain) the all-important lean muscle mass. Losing muscle when you’re over 50 is harder and harder to recover from.
The only catch is that if one of your “aging-related maladies” is kidney failure, you may have to slow things down and keep your protein intake low to moderate. Emphasis on “may.” Check with your doctor if that’s the case.
Get As Insulin Sensitive As You Can
The relationship between insulin signaling and aging is a bit unclear. What we know is that people with higher insulin sensitivity live longer and healthier lives. We know that insulin resistance is strongly linked to most degenerative diseases, like cancer, diabetes, sarcopenia, and osteoporosis (to name only a few). But researchers are always oscillating between “cause” and “effect.” Is insulin resistance a cause or a sign of aging? Are insulin sensitive people healthier into old age because they’re insulin sensitive, or are they insulin sensitive because they’re healthier?
I’m not sure it really matters. Either way, to become more insulin sensitive you have to do a bunch of things that will also make you healthier and age better like lifting weights, quitting overeating, taking more walks, doing more low level aerobic work, and regulating your carb intake.
I’ve always said that you should burn as little glucose as possible. The more you can rely on stored body fat for energy and daily maintenance, the better. Well, the more insulin sensitive you are, the less insulin you’ll have blunting your ability to liberate stored body fat, the more fat you’ll burn and the better you’ll age.
Walk Every Day
One of my favorite predictors of mortality in older people is walking speed: they ask people to walk at their normal speed and then track how fast they go. The slower the walk, the higher their risk of dying earlier. It’s my favorite because it’s so elegant. And no, actively forcing yourself to walk more briskly when you get tested won’t increase your longevity. But if you get up and walk every single day, walking will be second nature. Your walking speed will increase naturally, and it’s the natural increase in walking speed that presages a longer, healthier life.
Walking will also force you to get out and see and experience the world. It’ll lower your fasting blood glucose and postprandial blood glucose (hint: walk after meals). It will introduce novelty to your life and in doing so extend your time horizon.
Eat Tons Of Collagen
Collagen improves skin health, elasticity, and reduces wrinkling. This might sound superficial, but altering those “surface level” signs of aging indicates that you’re also modifying the internal aging markers.
Another reason to up your collagen intake is to balance out the meat you’re eating. As an older person, you’ll need to eat more meat to counter your suboptimal protein utilization. That means you need to process more methionine, which requires more glycine, which comes from collagen.
The easiest way to get collagen and hit a few birds with one stone is to eat lots of collagenous meats—shanks, skin, knuckles, oxtails, ears, snouts, feet, tendons. That way you get your muscle meat protein and collagen protein. Collagen protein powder is another option.
Lift Heavy Things To Build Your Musculoskeletal System
Exercise isn’t just good for your muscles and your heart. It’s also the only reliable way to build and maintain bone mineral density. But in order for exercise to improve bone mineral density, it must satisfy several requirements. It should be dynamic, not static. It needs to challenge you. It needs to challenge your muscles. In other words, you need to lift (relatively) heavy things. You need to progress in weight, intensity, and duration. It should be “relatively brief but intermittent.” No long drawn-out sessions that do nothing but overwork and overtrain you. Keep it short and intense. Also, the exercise should place an unusual loading pattern on the bones. That could be different movements, or increased resistance, as long as you’re introducing something “new” to the body; don’t just do the same old weights forever. Finally, for exercise to improve bone mineral density it must be supported by sufficient nutrition, especially calcium, vitamin D, sufficient protein, and vitamin K2.
Develop Your Balance Yesterday
The number one cause of death and degeneration after age 70 is falling and breaking something. You step out of the shower, slip, and break a hip, then never recover. You step off a curb and fall on your knee, breaking your femur, and never recover. Avoid this at all costs. Improve your balance as soon as possible.
Get a slackline: Keep it low to the ground, have a partner to help, or use something like a walking stick to support you. Focus on simply balancing rather than trying to walk.
Try standup paddling: Not only is it a great workout and a great time, paddling forces you to balance—constantly. And as long as you can swim, falling is totally safe.
Walk on uneven surfaces (carefully): Go for hikes, walk in the sand or in the grass, walk along cobblestone streets, walk on slopes.
Walk along curbs (very carefully).
Wear footwear that is as minimalist as you can handle (or just go barefoot if you’re up for it): The bottom of the foot is loaded with nerve endings that inform you and guide your balance as you make your way through the world. They help you subconsciously make those micro-adjustments to your posture and body position that make up “good balance.” A big clunky rubber sole blocks that out and cuts you off from your body.
Play Every Day
They say that when you stop moving, you start dying. I say when you stop playing, you start dying. We see this in dogs; once a dog no longer wants to play, chase the ball, roughhouse, or do the things he or she used to love doing, they’re on the way out. I firmly believe the same is true for people—just spread out across a longer timeline.
So have fun. Play sports. Try Ultimate Frisbee (my favorite).
Don’t forget about the mental games. Game nights. Crosswords in the morning (that’s what I do). Play cards. Do a weekly poker night with friends and make it a potluck.
What I’m not saying is that doing the crossword will stave off Alzheimer’s or make you smarter. What it will do is send the message to your brain and body that “this person hasn’t given up.” Ideally, your physical play will train your muscles, bones, and balance—that way you can satisfy all those requirements and have fun doing it.
Don’t Do It Alone
If you’re an older person reading this and actually preparing to make the changes necessary to be healthy and vigorous, you are a rare bird. Most of your peers have given up. Most have resigned themselves to being less healthy and less vigorous with every passing day. Don’t let that happen. Enlist a friend, a loved one, a peer. Not only will it give you another person to play, train, and walk with, but it will help you stay the course and enjoy doing it. It will also save another person—or at least give them the best chance they’ve got.
Those are the big tips. There are others, though. And for anyone interested in better health and longevity and more life in the years you have, Keto for Life, offers more information than I could fit here. All the points I covered today and many more are fleshed out and expanded upon twenty-fold.
But if you just focused on these 10 tips, you’d be pretty far along on your way to health (no matter what age you are).
That’s it for today, folks. Take care, drop your own tips down below, and have a great Thanksgiving!
The post Late To the Healthy Living Game? 10 Essential Tips Making the Transition to Better Health appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.
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