So what is the fat storage hormone? The answer is insulin!
Our pancreas creates a hormone called insulin, which transports glucose into our body’s cells where it is used for energy. When we are ingesting too much glucose by eating sugars (dairy products are also sugar), refined grains, or other carbohydrate-rich foods lacking in fibre, it leads to high blood sugar levels, which our body can’t break down and stores as fat.
The more glucose (sugar) in your blood, the more insulin you produce. So getting control of your blood sugar is the key!
Blood sugar levels can also affect how hungry and energetic we feel.
An insulin surge can cause too much blood sugar to be transported out of our blood and this results in our blood sugar and insulin levels dropping below normal. This leaves us feeling tired and lethargic and wanting to eat more. The unfortunate result of this scenario is we want to eat something else with a high sugar content. When we do, the cycle begins all over again. When our body does not use the glucose in our blood, then it will be stored as fat. This news is bad enough but it can be even worse.
Too much insulin hinders the body’s ability to break down fat that has already been stored.
Weight loss has been a personal challenge for me. In Japan, social expectations pressured me into thinking I needed to be thin so I started my first dieting at 13! Since then I failed miserably many times, resulting in putting on even more weight because I was starving and depriving myself of enjoying the food. My methods at that time were not sustainable.
So what can we do for sustainable control?
These are 3 action steps to control your blood sugar level:
1. EAT OFTEN – eat every 3 to 4 hours!
Sounds fabulous doesn’t it? Most people eat 2 to 3 big meals per day. This means going 6 to 8 hours without food. When you don’t eat for that long a time, your blood sugar level drops dramatically. Afterwards when you eat more than 6 hours later, your blood sugar spikes, causing there to be excess insulin in your blood. When there is excess insulin in your blood, your body stores fat more easily. This is also why it is very important to eat breakfast and have some snacks between the meals. My favorite snack is konnyaku sashimi. It is extremely low GI and rich in fibre. Simply eat sliced konnyaku or konnyaku lasagna sheets with soy sauce and wasabi. I am very Japanese! For you, nuts and apple would be a great alternative.
2. EAT FAT OR FIBRE-RICH FOOD FIRST
Have you heard of a sequential eating order? Basically, it means finding the best order in which to eat your food for weight loss. Simply by changing the order in which you eat your foods, you can prevent the excess storage of fat in your diet because it avoids sugar spikes as well as giving you want you need to stop overeating. Eating salad (fibre-rich vegetable and oil) before you eat high carb foods such as pasta, rice and bread is perfect. Every morning, I take flaxseed oil, which doesn’t have a pleasant taste but I eat a piece of fruit or green smoothie, which is high GI, as a reward. The flaxseed oil avoids a sugar spike as well.
3. EAT BLOOD SUGAR-LOWERING JAPANESE SUPERFOODS
Some Japanese superfoods are able to lower blood sugar levels. Those foods are konnyaku, matcha and wakame (and other brown seaweeds).
Konnyaku (Konjac) contains almost no calories or sugar, it is a great substitute for carbohydrate foods such as rice, noodles and pasta in meals. Glucomannan, called the miracle fibre in Konnyaku, plays a role to lower the blood sugar level. Its bulk-forming property delays stomach emptying, causing slower absorption of sugar thus reducing the blood sugar level. This effect is particularly helpful after a meal, because it can reduce the elevation of blood sugar levels.
Wakame and other brown seaweeds contain four types of natural dietary fibre - polysaccharides, alginic acids, fucoidan and laminarin. Their fibre-rich properties prevent the body from digesting the seaweed in the upper digestive tract and help to control blood glucose by slowing down the action of carbohydrates in the gut.
Fucoxanthin, a carotenoid that is found only in brown seaweeds like wakame, aids reduction and control of blood sugar and insulin levels in people with type 2 Diabetes.
It has been shown that the polysaccharides in Matcha green tea have the same ability to regulate blood sugar as insulin. The polysaccharides in Matcha absorb glucose and can thus reduce blood sugar levels in the blood. The polyphenols (micronutrients) present in matcha green tea also play a role in lowering blood sugar level. Starch in any form is converted into sugar, and this is done with the help of an enzyme called amylase. The polyphenols in green tea extract reduce the amount of amylase produced, which means the blood sugar level is also decreased.
Let’s eat the smart way so we can still enjoy food we love and keep our shape and health!
One last thing I want to stress is…
DO NOT ELIMINATE CARBS COMPLETELY
Quite a few people think carbs are evil and cut them out of their diet completely. Well, not getting enough sugar can also lead to putting on extra kilos! Eating too little glucose can lead to a low blood sugar level, causing your body to go into “starvation mode” where it burns your lean muscle instead of the fat. So cutting carbohydrate completely isn’t our answer! It is not sustainable anyway. So just follow the three tips above and eat carbs moderately then we will be ok!
When you follow these tips, you really don’t need to starve yourself to maintain a healthy weight. I personally hate starving - and love food very much.
Not interested in weight loss? You can still join our healthy cooking classes in Sydney for you to learn these Japanese Superfoods in different ways.
For those who don’t live in Sydney and want to know more about wakame, konnyaku and matcha green tea, why don’t you grab the free e-book Top 3 Japanese superfoods for weight loss by subscribing on my website or grab a copy of my cookbooks Japanese Superfoods and Cooking with Soy for delicious and easy recipes! Or stay tuned for our upcoming online natural weight loss with Japanese superfoods course!
Yoshiko Takeuchi is an experienced chef, health researcher, Managing Director of Cooking with Yoshiko and currently runs cooking classes using Japanese superfoods at Bondi Junction in Sydney. Her internationally published books Cooking with Soy and Japanese Superfoods are available from major book retailers and online.