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Managing Blood Sugar: An Essential for Cancer Survivors

Hope4cancer w book cu

Helayne Waldman, Ed.D., M.S.

Breast Cancer /

Glycemic and cancer

The hare was once boasting of his speed before the other animals. "I have never yet been beaten," said he, "when I put forth my full speed. I challenge anyone here to race with me."
The tortoise said quietly, "I accept your challenge." And so the race began.

And we all know what happened at the end.

The tortoise worked his way to the finish line with grace and patience, while the hare precociously burned out.  No doubt the hare lived on a diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates.

Unfortunately, many years of media hype have resulted in too many people who thought they were doing themselves a world of good by eating a lowfat diet when in fact they were actually eating a high sugar diet.  What does this mean?  If you think of a carbohydrate as a collection of sugar molecules joined in a particular pattern, you’re on the right track.  In order to use these carbs as energy, the body must first break them down into simple sugars.  The speed at which our body does this determines in large measure how much weight we gain or don’t gain from a particular diet or food over time.  That’s because the simpler the carbohydrate, the faster it converts to sugar. 

So, after the ingestion of a donut, bagel, or 7 up, our blood sugar shoots up, and a surge of insulin brings it back down.   We feel energetic, even manic – then we feel exhausted. While insulin certainly saves the day in the short term, we are definitely not looking to keep our insulin levels high for long periods of time.  When we do, our livers become sluggish, our triglyceride and cholesterol levels soar, and the pounds pack on. What’s more, insulin is one of our “growth” hormones; in other words, it has the capacity to stimulate growth of an existing tumor and make us more vulnerable to a new one. 

Now, as you might have already guessed, fibrous vegetables, legumes and nuts are broken down and absorbed very slowly by the body, supplying a continual stream of energy, as opposed to that spiky “sugar high.”  So are healthy fats like olive, avocado, coconut and flax oils, as well as quality sources of protein like organic eggs, cold water fish and cage-free, organic fowl, and dark, complex carbohydrates like buckwheat, quinoa or barley.  Keeping your blood sugar stable with a consistent supply of these foods is your goal.

Above all, remember, steady state energy helps keep you calm, focused, and with better resistance to cancer, diabetes and other chronic diseases. Plus, it gets you over the finish line in good shape. Just like the tortoise.


Categories: Breast Cancer, Nutrition
About The Author
Hope4cancer w book cu

Helayne Waldman, Ed.D., CNE, is an oncology nutrition educator who specializes in supporting women with breast cancer.  She is a faculty member at Hawthorn University and the University of Western States, co-author of The Whole Food Guide for Breast Cancer Survivors and co-facilitator, with Dr. Shani Fox, of the first live, online education and support program for cancer survivors in the U.S:   Connect with her on Facebook at Whole Food Guide for Breast Cancer.


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