Finally, after years of trial, some success, backsliding, and continual adjustments to my diet, I am hopeful that I've discovered my personal tolerance level for carbohydrate and protein, both of which act upon insulin and blood sugar. For the past several months, my blood glucose has been steady, with a fasting BG in the mid-80's, which has prompted a further reduction of diabetic meds! We all understand the effect of carbs, right? But protein, you might ask? You may think protein doesn't affect blood sugar, but an excess of protein does! Through a process called gluconeogenesis, your body will convert excess dietary protein into glucose. Have you ever wondered why your BG will rise, even after not eating carb? Gluconeogenesis could be the culprit! So, how much protein should a diabetic eat? Actually, for each person, it is different based on body size, metabolism, diet, etc. With guidance from my doctor, I determined my level to be around 45 grams a day, but I'm a small person. For a taller woman or man, it would be different. The formula for calculating the optimum amount of protein is 1 gram for every kilogram of lean body mass. If you're an athlete, then about 2 grams. (Click here for an online calculator to determine the approximate amount of protein for your size & activity level.) So, the ratio of carbs, protein and fat that have brought about normal blood sugar levels for me is about 10-15% carb (under 25 g net carbs), 15% protein and 65-75% healthy fats (about 100 grams), such as olive oil, ghee, coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. (By the way, even with all that fat, my lipid levels, triglycerides, inflammation markers and blood pressure have dramatically improved, along with my BG! Based on test results, my risk for heart disease has gone down!) But, as I said, every person is different and, as nice as it would be to be given the proper ratio for your body to reverse diabetes, it will take some experimentation on your part to discover your personal tolerance levels.
A good place to start is to reduce carbs to under 100 grams per day (spread throughout the day) and eventually reduce them to under 50. Eat no more than 20 grams of protein per meal (an excess of that is usually more than a body can use in 4-5 hours) and ramp up your fat intake. I want to be very clear about one point: a low fat, low carb diet doesn't work! (And neither does a high carb, high fat diet.) Without enough fat, you'll be hungry and crave carbs, which can sabotage your efforts. If you cut carbs and moderate your protein intake, then you'll need to increase your fat. The best gauge is to eat enough fat until you're satisfied and don't experience any hunger, cravings or discomfort between meals. Also, because your blood sugar and insulin requirements will drop, you'll need to be under a doctor's care because a reduction in medication will likely be necessary. Another caution is to Type 1 or insulin-dependent T2 diabetics: this type of diet adjustment needs close monitoring by a doctor. To learn more, I highly recommend The Diabetes Solution by Dr. Richard Bernstein, who is himself a Type 1 diabetic. His book explains this type of low carb diet in great detail and includes approved food lists and recipes. Another good book to get you started is The New Atkins for a New You by Drs. Eric Westman, Stephen Phinney and Jeff Volek.
Now, on to my incredible new recipe! Why is it that when you add bacon to a dish, it instantly becomes the best thing you put into your mouth? Well, that statement says it all.
Bacon Wrapped Chicken with Cucumber in a Creamy Herb Sauce
Makes 4 servings
12 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3 oz. medallions
4-6 slices of bacon
1 large cucumber, seeds removed and sliced into 1/8" quarter rounds
1/2 cup chicken stock*
2 tablespoons ghee (or butter)*
1/3 cup high fat coconut milk (or heavy cream)*
2 tablespoons chopped, fresh parsley (or 1 TB dried)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)
Salt and pepper
6 cups spring mix lettuce, divided among 4 serving plates
1. Pat chicken with a paper towel and cut into 3 oz pieces. Generously season chicken medallions with salt and pepper. Wrap one piece of bacon around each medallion. Heat a heavy skillet to medium and place chicken into the pan. Meanwhile, heat oven to 350-degrees. Cook chicken for 5 minutes, flip each medallion and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and place in a baking dish. Continuing heating chicken in the oven while you make the sauce.
2. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat from the skillet. Add the chicken stock and stir to deglaze the brown bits from the bottom of the skillet. Add the ghee (or butter) and the cucumber. Sauté until the cucumber is beginning to soften and the stock has been reduced by half. Add the coconut milk (or cream) and stir to combine and until slightly thickened. Season with herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Remove skillet from heat. Remove chicken from oven and place a chicken medallion on each mound of lettuce. Pour any drippings from the baking pan into the sauce and stir. Divide sauce and cucumbers evenly over the four portions and serve immediately.
* For those with food allergies: To create a dairy, lactose and casein free version, use ghee and coconut milk. To make it gluten free, be sure to purchase a certified GF chicken stock or broth.
Nutritional Information per serving: 292 calories, 5 g carbohydrates (1 g dietary fiber, 2.4 g sugars), 18 g total fat (10.1 g saturated fat, less than 0.1 g trans fat), 75 mg cholesterol, 739 mg sodium, 70.8 mg calcium, 456 mg potassium, 26.8 g protein. Net carbs per serving: 4 g
Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2014