Dr. Sara has done a great job teaching you about how important hormones like cortisol are to your health. Here is another tool you can have to help keep your cortisol on track you can stay lean, energized, and focused this holiday season.
Learn about the link between cortisol and carbs to get through the holiday season.
Because cortisol manages your blood sugar along with the many other ways it keeps your body in check, it is especially sensitive to carbohydrates both good and bad. When your blood sugar starts to drop, your body makes extra cortisol to raise it back up again. (1) You know from Dr. Sara the extra cortisol means mid body weight gain, poor sleep, and chaos for all other hormones. This is exactly why many of us feel edgy or anxious if we skip meals, we are literally making more stress hormones to compensate. (2)
So how do carbs come in? Well, bad carbs like sugary foods make your blood sugar so unstable that you end up with tons of extra cortisol. Along with obvious sources like cakes, candy, and desserts, also be aware of the hidden sugars that Dr. Sara has taught you about.
Many experts have seen how bad carbs wreck cortisol and thought it best to avoid all carbs. Their reasoning is understandable but because your body has so many checks and balances you can often get unintended consequences. If you consume too few carbs, this can also create unstable blood sugar and more cortisol just like too much. This is why many people, especially women, eventually hit weight loss plateaus on low carb diets.
It seems like you can’t live with carbs or without them. The solution it Is to learn to embrace good carbs in good amounts at the right times of day.
For starters what are good carbs? They are the ones that take you the longest to absorb. My favorites include root vegetables like beets, parsnips, turnips, and rutabagas; legumes like lentils, black beans, and chickpeas; and intact whole grains like quinoa, buckwheat, and black rice. Please provide more steady energy and help stave off hunger longer. (3)
Next, what are good amounts? As important as it is have some carbs, it is still easy to get too much. Measure them after they are cooked and think about a range of 1/4 cup to 1 cup per meal for the total quantity. During times when you’re less active or trying harder for weight loss stay on the lower end of this range but please know that going lower this point less is not better.
How about the best times of day? When we eat carbs, we lower cortisol which leaves us relaxed. This effect is most helpful later in the day when we are trying to unwind before sleep. (4) This is the best time to eat the higher quantities of carbs within the healthy range outlined above.
Regaining a healthy relationship with carbs will help you have more stress resiliency, easier weight loss, better digestion, and better recovery from
Alan Christianson, NMD is the author of the forthcoming Adrenal Reset Diet and the founder of Integrative Healthcare. More tips at DrChristianson.com.
- Davis SN, Shavers C, Davis B, Costa F. Prevention of an increase in plasma cortisol during hypoglycemia preserves subsequent counterregulatory responses. J Clin Invest. 1997;100(2):429–438.
- Mitrakou A, Ryan C, Veneman T, et al. Hierarchy of glycemic thresholds for counterregulatory hormone secretion, symptoms, and cerebral dysfunction. Am J Physiol. 1991 Jan;26011 Pt 1:E67–E74
- Lyons PM, Truswell AS (1988) Serotonin precursor influenced by type of carbohydrate meal in healthy adults. Am J Clin Nutr 47: 433–439.
- Ball SD, Keller KR, Moyer-Mileur LJ, Ding YW, Donaldson D, Jackson WD. Prolongation of satiety after low versus moderately high glycemic index meals in obese adolescents. Pediatrics. 2003;111:488–494.
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