Managing your Blood Sugar
Balancing blood sugar is essential for weight management, optimal energy and overall well-being. I so often hear people say they are going to drink a sugary soda or eat a candy bar because they “need the sugar” for energy.
High glycemic foods, including candy, white bread and pastries, sweets, soda and other sugary beverages are fast energy-releasing foods, as they are digested and absorbed very quickly. These foods do, in fact, cause a rise in blood sugar & perhaps a brief spike in energy. However, this spike is short-lived, as your blood sugar level will subsequently plummet, along with your energy. The reason for this plummet? Insulin.
Insulin is an anabolic hormone that is released by our pancreas in response to glucose being present in the blood. Insulin can be thought of as the “gate-keeper” to cells, as it helps “unlock” cells so that glucose can be absorbed and properly used. If glucose is left in the blood stream, the cells are unable to utilize it. A sugar-crash, otherwise known as reactive hypoglycemia, occurs after the rapid uptake of glucose into the body’s cells (by insulin) and consequent drop in blood glucose. This can leave you with feelings of fatigue, lethargy, irritation and even mimic the symptoms of a hangover.
In an attempt to raise our energy back to baseline, our body will then actually start to cravecarbohydrates and high-glycemic foods. This provokes those all-familiar cravings. It’s a vicious cycle.
Our body does require a certain amount glucose for optimal functioning, as glucose is our brain’s preferred source of fuel. However, if we ingest glucose in excess amounts, above what our body needs for energy, the excess glucose is stored. What is it stored as..? You guessed it – fat.
The good news is that some minor changes in your diet and eating habits can have major positive impacts on blood glucose control. Here are some of my tips and tricks:
Managing your blood sugar
1. Consume foods with a low glycemic index, as these foods release energy slowly into the blood. Low “GI” foods include complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, legumes and vegetables. Think of complex carbohydrates as time-release capsules of sugar, and simple carbohydrates (high “GI” foods) as more like an injection of sugar.
2. Eat plenty of fiber. I always encourage fruits with skin, as the skin contains the bulk of the fiber content. Fiber helps slow down the digestion of fruit and prevents it from spiking blood sugar. Fiber also helps promotes satiety (feelings of fullness). Other fibrous foods include vegetables, whole grains, legumes, brown rice, nuts, seeds, oats and bran.
3. Include a source of protein in all meals and snacks. Protein is the satiety macro nutrient, meaning it is more slowly digested than carbohydrates and helps send signals to the brain when we are full. I encourage clients, especially when eating carbohydrates, to PAIR it with PROTEIN. For example
- Smear some peanut or almond butter on an apple or banana
- Pair a serving of berries or melon with a handful of almonds or piece of low-fat string cheese
- Eat a slice of low-sodium deli turkey meat with crackers
- Mix Greek yogurt with fruit, cereal or granola
- Dip crackers or veggies in hummus
- Eat a hard-boiled egg with a small piece of fruit
4. Start your day with a hearty breakfast that includes a source of protein and carbohydrates to help stabilize your blood sugar levels into the day
5. SMALL, FREQUENT meals/snacks is key! Try to eat a little something every 2-3 hours. This will help prevent overeating at mealtimes, as well as prevent your blood sugar from dropping too long during extended windows of time in between meals.
6. Avoid sugary drinks and soda. Try exchanging soda with flavored sparkling water (such as La Croix or San Pellegrino). You could also squeeze a little citrus (lemon or lime) or toss some cucumber slices into your water. So refreshing!