Previously, the public viewed blood sugar monitoring as treatment for diabetics. Kara Collier believes that our glucose levels are a remarkable tool for general health too. After realizing that she wasn’t going to be able to make the difference she was looking for in a traditional hospital setting, she decided to create her own path. Now she is Director of Nutrition at NutriSense, teaching others to use health data monitoring to empower themselves!
What frustrated you about your career as an ICU dietician?
I’m definitely a bit of a health geek and I’ve always been interested in nutrition. After becoming a registered dietician I started working in the traditional healthcare system in ICUs.
Most of the patients I saw were experiencing complications from lifestyle-related conditions. One might need a leg amputation due to diabetes, for example, or a necessary kidney dialysis due to uncontrolled hypertension.
That experience was so eye-opening but also really frustrating for me. You’re seeing all of this suffering, time, effort, and pain going into recovering from something that could have been prevented to begin with.
Preventative health isn’t the primary focus of our current healthcare system as it focuses on recovery and treatment. Recovery is extremely important, but maybe we can skip it altogether if we focus more on prevention.
Registered dieticians vs. nutritionists
A nutritionist is similar to a dietician in that they both advise people on their nutritional habits, but a dietician has a set path with a required internship and testing.
I went down the the dietician path but it still didn’t feel right to me. It felt like I was catching people decades too late. Not only is there not a lot of focus on prevention in the current hospital system but the information I was taught wasn’t always working.
What is NutriSense?
At NutriSense, we’re combining the data from a continuous glucose monitor (CGMs) with a dietician. CGMs monitor your blood sugar levels throughout the day and have only been used in diabetes treatment previously, but I’m advocating that blood sugar is important for all of us to monitor.
If we want to prevent diabetes, hypertension, cancers, obesity, and other insulin-related diseases then we need to monitor fuel with our blood sugar.
**Prefer to watch? Check out our livestream about the benefits of healthy blood sugar levels with Kara Collier here**
Your blood sugar levels are impacted by your nutrition, exercise, stress, sleep, and more. By being able to see this metric fluctuate in real time you can get a great idea of where your health is and where you can work to improve it. In combining that data with the human expertise of a dietician you are going to get a winning combination.
Why do you consider blood sugar to be such a game-changer?
It’s definitely not the only metric that matters, but blood sugar monitoring gives you a real bang for your buck. We know that sleep, nutrition, and exercise are important but those are hard to measure in one data point. Your blood sugar is a way to get insight into 70-80% of these areas.
You can eat the same macronutrients, but one is from processed and refined foods versus whole, natural foods. You’ll see that difference in your blood sugar levels. Maybe you overeat in healthy food one day, just taking in too much energy, so you’ll be able to see that.
What are some general takeaways you’ve discovered?
It’s not about cutting carbs
We already want to avoid processed food and refined sugar when possible. Regarding carbohydrates though, it should really depend on your activity level. Glucose is a fast-acting energy source, so if you don’t have a set exercise routine or you’re not moving much throughout the day, you’re going to want to lower your carbohydrate intake. It’s less about cutting carbs and more about matching your carbohydrate intake to how fast you’re burning through that energy.
Meal Timing- Within A Meal
Changing the order that you eat your macronutrients in is a simple hack that makes a big difference in every patient we see. Say you’re having oatmeal and scrambled eggs for breakfast. If you eat the scrambled eggs first and then the oatmeal, you’re actually going to have a much lower and more controlled glucose response.
***Eat Anything RX® is designed to help with digestive problems as it contains an “All-star cast” of enzymes, probiotics, and prebiotics. Get it or learn more about it here.***
Protein for Vegans and Vegetarians
Increasing your protein intake helps with general health, satiety, glucose values, and weight loss. Vegetarians can get a lot of protein from eggs and yogurt, but it is a little more of a challenge to get quality vegan protein options.
Generally, carbohydrates like beans, lentils, legumes tend to produce more even glucose levels. Soy products such as tofu can be a good option, as well as a high quality protein powder.
The hidden connections between preventative health and blood sugar levels that affects everything from mood to cardiovascular health
When we think about blood sugar and glucose levels we only think about diabetes, but it’s so much bigger than that. We know that poor metabolic health and insulin resistance are the foundations for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, poor longevity, dementia, and these can all stem from your glucose sensitivity.
Even just on the day to day, glucose is our primary energy source and impacts how we feel. If our energy source is all over the place, we’ll be all over the place.
Do green smoothies really spike blood sugar too much?
This is a great example of, “test, don’t guess”. A green smoothie is a great option from the aspect of getting in lots of nutrients, but for some, it could cause a blood sugar spike. Glucose responses will vary highly from person to person depending on genetics, microbiome, gender, age, activity level, etc.
I regularly drink a green shake that includes banana, blueberries, spinach, carrots, pure protein powder, and turmeric. I have an excellent glucose response to this, but my mom tried this exact shake with a CGM on and had a huge blood sugar spike. It turns out that bananas are not her friend! For whatever reason, she always has a big glucose response to them. So we swapped out the banana for an avocado, and it worked wonderfully for her.
I would recommend experimenting with foods while using a CGM so you can see which ingredients lead to an even glucose response. For some, a banana might give them a big spike but consuming something with the equal amount of carbohydrates, such as cherries, might lead to a good glucose response.
Why you should take your health into your own hands
There are a lot of incentives in this society that are poorly aligned, even in the healthcare system. What we’ve learned is that you need to be an advocate for your own health. You need to take your health into your own hands and not necessarily rely on the complicated system (or your physician) to do it for you. We have to be advocates for ourselves and advocates for others when they’re sick. The worst cared for are the ones who are by themselves.
Monitoring your blood sugar and glucose levels is a great jumping off point, even just to see where your levels fall as they are now. It’s an easy way to take your health into your own hands and really see how your lifestyle affects your body. From there, simple changes can make a huge impact.