Ari Whitten is the founder of The Energy Blueprint. He is an energy and fatigue specialist who focuses on taking an evidence-based approach to energy enhancement, a nutrition, exercise and natural health expert, and #1 best-selling author. He has been studying and teaching nutrition and holistic health for over 25 years. He has a Bachelor’s of Science from San Diego State University in Kinesiology (with specialization in fitness, nutrition and health). He also has a background in exercise physiology and fitness, and holds two advanced certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine as a Corrective Exercise Specialist and Performance Enhancement Specialist. In addition, he recently completed the 3 years of coursework for his PhD in Clinical Psychology, an education which rounds out all aspects – nutrition, fitness, and psychology – of his approach to optimal health.
Ari is a tireless researcher who has obsessively devoted the last 20 years of his life to the pursuit of being on the cutting‑edge of the science on health and energy enhancement. For the last six years, he’s been working with many of the top scientists and physicians on the planet to develop the most comprehensive program in the world on the science of overcoming fatigue and increasing energy — The Energy Blueprint. He was voted the #1 health influencer of 2020 by the Mindshare wellness community.
Drink Vinegar Before Meals
Better blood sugar control can be yours in as little as 10 seconds. The trick? Start every meal with a shot of vinegar.
A meta-analysis of studies looking at how vinegar impacts blood glucose control found that having 1 to 2 tablespoons before eating reduced the overall post-meal blood glucose response by 11 percent and the overall insulin response by 16 percent. What’s more, it didn’t matter if you had diabetes or were otherwise healthy—vinegar benefited glycemic control in everyone.
These benefits are likely owed to the defining characteristic of vinegar that makes it tart and acidic: its acetic acid content. Studies have shown that acetic acid slows digestion and inhibits our digestive enzymes that break down starch and sugar. These effects will cause a slower and less pronounced increase in blood sugar levels after eating.
More importantly, acetic acid increases the expression of AMPK (AMP-activated protein kinase) and GLUT4 (glucose transporter type 4), which are proteins that increase glucose uptake and use in the body. Consuming vinegar increases carbohydrate storage in our muscles as glycogen, even in people with type 2 diabetes. Additionally, vinegar has been shown to stimulate vasodilation (the dilation of blood vessels, which decreases blood pressure) and increase blood flow to skeletal muscle, both of which are considered important components of insulin-mediated glucose uptake.
If you are going to eat a meal that contains some carbohydrates, then consuming 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar is an easy way to increase your insulin sensitivity to the incoming glucose load.
Any vinegar will work, although apple cider and red wine vinegars tend to taste better. You will often see apple cider vinegars advertised as raw (unpasteurized) and unfiltered, thereby preserving “the mother.” This is simply a nontoxic slime composed of yeast and acetic acid bacteria that forms during the fermentation process that creates vinegar.
The mother of vinegar appears to be a major source of bioactive compounds and antioxidant activity in vinegar, as well as minerals such as potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron. It remains to be determined whether consuming the mother has any discernible effect on health, but if you have the choice, it seems prudent to opt for it.
This doesn’t have to be a literal shot of vinegar. You can mix it with water to dilute it, or you can use it as a salad dressing. Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar such as red wine or apple cider with olive oil and toss it over a salad or over vegetables. This is how I had Bill incorporate vinegar into his diet. Admittedly, he didn’t use it before every meal, but he aimed to have a salad one to two times per day and chose to eat it first to get that vinegar into his system.
Eat Your Veggies First
We can make a huge impact on our blood glucose control by changing the order in which we eat our food during a meal. Several studies in people with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, as well as healthy folk, have found that eating fibrous vegetables at the beginning of a meal, before eating starchy carbohydrates, reduces blood glucose and insulin levels by 20 to 70 percent and 25 to 50 percent, respectively.
And if life gets in the way and prevents you from eating them with every meal, the same benefits are observed with just eating protein before any carbohydrates. The theme is to simply eat your sources of carbohydrate (grains, legumes, tubers, etc.) last in the meal.
These glycemic benefits can also have a long-term effect. In one randomized, controlled trial involving adults with type 2 diabetes, taking the advice to eat veggies first and carbohydrates last in each meal was significantly more effective at lowering HbA1c than having them follow the standard American Diabetes Association advice of using a diabetic exchange food list.
The benefits were seen in as little as one month and lasted for at least two years, when the researchers stopped collecting data. Overall, HbA1c from this little trick was slashed from 8.3 percent to 6.8 percent—just from altering the order in which the same foods within a meal were eaten. Essentially, the participants moved from full-blown diabetes to the lower cutoff of a diagnosis (>6.5 percent is diabetes, 5.7 to 6.4 percent is prediabetes, and 4 to 5.6 percent is considered healthy).
Another study, in elderly adults with type 2 diabetes, reported similar findings: eating high-carbohydrate foods last within a meal significantly lowers post-meal blood glucose levels, blood glucose swings throughout the day (meaning more stable energy levels), HbA1c, and fasting glucose.
I wanted Bill to keep it simple. Whenever he could, he was to eat his fibrous vegetables first, and if he didn’t have any in a meal, which sometimes happened during breakfast, then he was to go for the protein, always leaving the carbohydrates like rice and bread for last (that is, if he were eating them, because we still had him focused on eating a low-carbohydrate diet).
There are approximately 250 species of cinnamon, but cassia cinnamon is probably what you have in your cabinet. It is the most common cinnamon in the world, and studies have shown it can benefit glycemic control. For example, a meta-analysis of those with type 2 diabetes reported that eating 1 to 6 grams (1/4 to 1 teaspoon) of cinnamon per day significantly lowered fasting blood glucose by an average of 24 mg/dL (1.3 mmol/L), which corresponded to 12 to 17 percent for the group. Even if you don’t have type 2 diabetes, you can benefit from some cinnamon. In overweight adults, adding a teaspoon of cassia cinnamon to oatmeal or farina porridge was shown to lower the glycemic and insulin responses, suggesting enhanced insulin sensitivity.
In healthy adults, consuming 1, 3, and 6 grams per day of cassia cinnamon over 40 days has been shown to reduce post-meal blood glucose levels, with the greatest effect seen with 3 and 6 grams (an 11 to 13 percent reduction). Another study reported that 5 grams of cinnamon taken during a glucose tolerance test reduced the post-meal glucose response by 13 percent and improved insulin sensitivity compared to a placebo.
The reason cinnamon works to control blood sugar is that it facilitates glucose uptake from the blood into tissues like our muscles.
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Bill wasn’t a huge cinnamon fan, so I didn’t push this for him. When working with clients, I seek the path of least resistance and find what nutritional approaches, including specific foods, resonate the most. This is a great reminder that not all the strategies you come across will be right for you, and that’s okay. Take the ones that excite you, and when you’re feeling adventurous, I urge you to go outside your comfort zone to try something new. If you try something and it doesn’t work, then let it go and move on. There are plenty of strategies to experiment with, and you will find the best ones that work well for you.
If, unlike Bill, you like cinnamon, then I urge you to incorporate it into your diet. Use it as a spice for your chicken or ground beef or sprinkle it onto Greek yogurt—about a teaspoon (5 grams) per day should do it.
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