You know cake and candy aren't so great for you, and you don't start your day with donuts, but many of us still suffer the swings of blood sugar. Answer yes to these, and you might want to make a few adjustments...
1. Are your hungry at 10am, even after a healthy breakfast?
2. Do you crash after lunch and feel like you need a siesta?
3. Do you feel shaky if you go 2-3hrs without eating?
4. Do you get "hangry?"
5. Do you have an ever-present sweet tooth?
First of all, this will be helpful...
The Basics of Blood Sugar
I'll refer to the glycemic index in this blog. In case this is a new term for you- the glycemic index ranks foods based on how they affect blood sugar. Working on a scale of 1-100- the higher the number the greater and faster the spike in blood glucose, the lower the number the more controlled, slow increase of sugar into the bloodstream. To lower the glycemic index of your meals, think fat and fiber.
Fat and fiber both slow digestion and therefore slow the release of the sugars that they accompany. Fat requires a more in-depth metabolic process than glycolosis so, in simple terms, it takes you longer to digest your meal, leaving you satisfied longer.
When you eat foods in their whole, unprocessed form, carbohydrates are often encased in fiber. This would be an apple instead of apple sauce, whole grains instead of refined, an orange instead of orange juice, etc. To get to the glucose (or fructose) you're chewing, churning, and enzymatically breaking through the cellulose that surrounds it.
Why is blood sugar regulation important?
1. Insulin and Inflammation
Every time you eat, your pancreas releases insulin to allow sugars from the blood stream into the cells. All fine and good, it's an amazing system, but....in excess, insulin perpetuates an inflammatory cycle, leads to abdominal fat storage, and inhibits our ability to burn stored body fat. Chronic high blood sugar and inflammation is hard on every body system, but particularly detrimental for arterial health. Recent science suggests that elevated Hemoglobin A1C (a blood marker indicating blood sugar levels over a longer period of time) are correlated with increased risk of atherosclerosis. Managing inflammation via a controlled blood sugar is a key component of a heart healthy diet.
2. Mood Stability
The crash that follows a blood sugar spike can show itself through a short temper, aggression, grouchiness, or sensitivity and tearfulness. Like the Snickers ad says, "your're not you when you're hungry." The ad isn't exactly describing hunger; it describes a symptom of low blood sugar, also known as "hangry." Eating a balanced, low glycemic diet that allows you to be you, not the hangry, moody version of you.
3. Physical and Mental Energy Levels
Suffering major energy swings following meals or when you're getting a little hungry is a sign of poor blood sugar control. Managing your blood sugar with low glycemic foods rewards you with stable and reliable energy throughout the day. Low glycemic foods are digested slowly, providing time-released glucose into the bloodstream- no spike and no crash! If you're not two or ninety-two, you shouldn't have to take a nap after lunch! Get control over your energy levels and you'll undoubtedly perform better at work, at the gym, and at life in general.
The Take Away
You don't have to go Keto or even low carb to better manage your blood sugar. Carbs can be a nutritious and energy-yielding component of a well-balanced diet. To balance your diet and optimize your blood sugar, pair carbs with fat, fiber and some protein, choose foods in or close to their natural form, and avoid added sugars that hide in beverages, sauces, dressings, and packaged foods.
Smart Swap Ideas
Instead of oatmeal, try an egg or two over sautéed spinach or kale with a small-medium sized sweet potato
Instead of a granola bar, try a clementine and handful of macadamia nuts
Instead of your usual pasta dish, try spaghetti squash with chicken or salmon and a creamy avocado dressing