Your Metabolic Health, Why It Matters, and How to Improve It

Your Metabolic Health, Why It Matters, and How to Improve It

We focus so much on the number on the scale or the outward appearance that we completely forget to pay attention to what’s going on internally.

Someone might “look” healthy from appearance and observation but once you take a look inside, you might find a different story.

Only 1 in 8 Americans are metabolically healthy. To breakdown metabolic health, let’s first look at metabolism, which is defined as the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life. AKA how quickly you burn calories.

Most people want a fast metabolism because they think it will help them lose weight, but there’s so much more to it than that… Metabolic health is defined as the absence of a metabolic syndrome, so what does that mean?
Metabolic syndrome is when someone has too high or too low of three of the five factors:

  1. Blood Pressure
  2. Blood Sugar
  3. Triglycerides
  4. Waist Circumference
  5. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol

According to this study, in order to have what’s considered optimal metabolic health, you need a waist circumference below 102 cm (40 inches) for men and below 88 cm (34.6 inches) for women, blood sugar below 100 mg/dL, blood pressure below 120/80, triglycerides below 150 mg/dL, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (also known as “good” cholesterol) greater than or equal to 40 mg/dL for men and 50 mg/dL for women.

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Your Metabolic Health Broken Down (and how to improve it)

Let’s break down each of the five factors, starting with blood pressure. High blood pressure can damage your heart and cause long-term issues.

Here are 5 natural ways to lower your BP:

  1. Walk and exercise on the regular. Want to make your heart stronger and more efficient at pumping blood (aka lowering your BP)? Regular exercise will do just that! Get moving a little every day.

  2. Cut back on caffeine. If you are heading in for a doctor’s visit then hold back on the caffeine. Caffeine has been known to create a short-term spike in blood pressure.

  3. Reduce your sodium intake as well as added sugar and refined carbs. For less sodium, ditch the processed food and go for fresh food. If you NEED seasoning, opt for herbs and spices rather than salt. As for sugar and refined carbs, drink less soda (more water) and try a low-carb diet to see some BP improvement.

  4. Manage your stress levels. You’re probably thinking, “thank you captain obvious”! Chronic stress keeps your body in fight-or-flight mode which means faster heart rate and constricted blood vessels. Try a warm bath, or get a good workout session in. Find what works best for you.

  5. Eat more potassium-rich foods. Are you working on reducing your sodium intake (#3)? Well, potassium helps your body get rid of sodium and ease pressure on your blood vessels. Some potassium-packed foods include leafy greens, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, bananas, avocados, nuts, seeds, and milk.

Natural Ways to Lower Blood Sugar Levels

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Now, let's look at natural ways to lowerblood sugar levels. High blood sugar happens when your body can’t effectively transport sugar from the blood into cells. This can eventually lead to diabetes.

  1. Exercise on the reg. Regular exercise can help increase your insulin sensitivity which means your cells are more adept at using the available sugar in your bloodstream. All leading to reduced blood sugar.

  2. Control your carbs. When you eat carbs (oh how we love our carbs) your body breaks it down into sugar (mostly glucose). The more carbs you eat the higher the chance of problems with insulin function.

  3. Drink H2O and stay hydrated. Prevent dehydration. Help your kidneys flush out any excess blood sugar through the urine. It also rehydrates the blood.

  4. Implement portion control. Portion control can lead to weight loss because it can help you reduce your calorie intake and corresponding blood sugar spikes. Controlling your weight promotes healthy blood sugar levels.

  5. Choose foods with a low glycemic index. The glycemic index is a numerical index (0-100) that ranks carbs and their conversion to glucose within the body. The higher the value, the more rise in blood sugar. If you are controlling your carbs (#2) you’ll need to know the glycemic index.

The Lowdown on Triglycerides

Triglycerides come from the food we eat. After we eat, our bodies convert the calories we don’t need into triglycerides and stores them to be used for energy later. Having too many triglycerides in the blood can increase the risk of heart disease.

  1. 1. Exercise on the reg. High levels of “good” HDL cholesterol can help lower triglycerides and a good way to increase your levels of HDL...aerobic exercise, like walking, jogging, biking, and swimming. The benefits on triglycerides and exercise are most apparent in long-term exercise regimens.

  2. Limit your sugar intake. Not sure where to start? Try replacing all sugar-sweetened drinks with good ole H2O. It could decrease triglycerides by almost 29mg/dL!

  3. Eat more fiber. Fruits, veggies, and whole grains are your fiber friends :). One study found that a low-fiber diet caused triglycerides to jump 45% in just 6 days! But switching to a high fiber phase brought those levels back below baseline levels. It’s never to early to eat more fiber.

  4. Limit alcohol intake. Blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-alcohol. Alcohol is high in sugar and calories and even moderate alcohol consumption can increase blood triglycerides. On the other hand, other research has found that light-to-moderate alcohol consumption leads to a reduced risk of heart disease. One thing that’s for sure is to avoid binge drinking at all costs!

  5. Increase your intake of unsaturated fats. Finally, something we can eat MORE of, but your excitement might not last long. I’m talking about foods like olive oil, nuts, and avocados. Start simple, opt to use olive oil to replace trans fats and highly processed veggie oils.

Don’t forget about your waist circumference!

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You might be wondering why this is important?

BMI (body mass index) is a great indicator of whether or not you’re at a healthy weight, but it’s not everything. Your risk of certain health problems (heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer) can be affected by where your body fat is stored. Here are some basic things you can do to help keep your waist circumference in check.

  1. 1. Eat more protein. This study found that people who ate more and better protein had much less belly fat *shocked face*. Why not kill two birds with one stone and find a good Meal Replacement Shake that is loaded with protein.

    Hint: Chris + Heidi Low Carb Meal Replacement is pumped with 20g of protein. You can check it out, here.

  2. Lower sugar intake. Remember our tip from above? Replace all sugary drinks with water. Buy a good water bottle and carry it with you everywhere!

  3. Lower your carb intake. Low-carb and low-fat diets specifically target fat in the belly. Try dropping your carbs down to 50 grams per day.

  4. Eat more fiber. Fiber again! Yes, and we won’t stop! But one hint I didn’t tell you earlier, is that all fiber is not created equal. Focus on viscous fibers (plant foods). Beans, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, and oats are winners here.

  5. Exercise on the reg. Need I say more? 

Improve Your High-density Lipoprotein or “Good” Cholesterol.

In this case, the higher, the better! HDL cholesterol helps to remove other forms of cholesterol from your bloodstream. The “good” guys can help lower your risk of heart disease.

  1. Consume olive oil. Olive oil is one of the healthiest fats there is. Go with extra virgin oil and cook with it or take a spoonful to reap the boost in HDL levels, HDL’s anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant functions.

  2. Follow a low carb or keto diet. Or go with a low carb meal replacement shake. Take it easy on ice cream and bread.

  3. Exercise on the reg. If your focus is on improving your HDL, then high-intensity exercise is the way to go.

  4. More coconut oil in your diet. Try consuming 2 tablespoons of coconut oil per day to increase your HDL levels. Cook with it, spoon(ful) it, add it to your smoothie or bake with it, whatever you decide to do, keep it handy for use.

  5. Avoid artificial trans fats. As of June 18, 2018, the FDA has ruled artificial trans fats to be eliminated from their food supply. So, check your pantry for old products but you shouldn’t find any artificial trans fats in your local grocery stores anymore!

How to Take Control of Your Metabolic Health

If you noticed, there were lots of similarities between each of the five factors. One thing’s for certain, if you want the outside to look good, you should start with the inside first which means paying more attention to what you’re fueling your body with.

Less caffeine, fewer sugars, fewer fats, more protein, more fiber, and more natural supplements.

Exercise was listed on every metabolic factor for a reason. Exercising has been found to reduce stress, help you lose weight, and helps your heart and muscles become stronger. Everything you need to put you on the path to a healthier, happier life.

After reading through and understanding the different factors that contribute to your metabolic health, where do you think you stand? If you’re ready to make it a priority (and you definitely should), the time to start is now.

Regular exercise, portion-controlled meals, and proper diet are just a few ways to take control of your metabolic health!

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