Let’s talk blood sugar. Without knowing exactly what it means, you’ve probably heard of the term. Balancing blood sugar is key — it plays a role in energy, feelings, cognitive function, and more. In fact, you may already be familiar with spikes and dips in blood sugar. Hello, hanger! That said, few recognize its affects on a daily basis. In this article, you’ll learn all about blood sugar. What it is, why balancing your blood sugar is important, and how you can keep your blood sugar stable.
What is Blood sugar?
BLOOD SUGAR = THE AMOUNT OF SUGAR (OR GLUCOSE) IN YOUR BLOOD AT ANY GIVEN TIME.
Sugar, or glucose, is the body’s main source of energy. The term “blood sugar” refers to the amount of energy (sugar) present in our bloodstream at one set time. Sugar is produced when we break down any form of carbohydrate. Be it a carrot, slice of cake, or piece of toast, that carb is absorbed into our bloodstream. Immediately or eventually, carbohydrates are used as a source of energy.
Why is blood sugar regulation important?
Maintaining stable blood sugar can be life-changing. If your blood sugar is currently unstable, there is a solution. With a few tweaks, you can feel much more vibrant, energetic, and focused!
So, why is blood sugar regulation important? You want to keep your blood sugar levels in your target range, as often as possible. This helps prevent or delay long-term, serious health problems. Think: Heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease. On a day-to-day basis, staying in your target range is also equally important. It can improve your energy, balance hormones, and stabilize your mood. Speaking of hormones, if you struggle with intense PMS symptoms, this could be a result of mismanaged blood sugar.
What is insulin resistance?
When your body doesn’t make enough insulin (or doesn’t effectively use it), the result is mismanaged blood sugar. But let’s back up. What is insulin? Insulin is a hormone. It regulates blood glucose by helping glucose enter your cells. You need glucose for energy. However, if you eat an abundance of glucose-rich foods (carbs) — particularly without adding a healthy fat or source of protein — your body requires more and more insulin to manage blood sugar. Over time, your body becomes insulin resistant. When this happens, insulin is no longer able to shuttle glucose into your cells. This creates two problems: Excess glucose begins to accumulate in the bloodstream (also known as high blood sugar), and the cells become starved for energy. This is known as insulin resistance.
symptoms of blood sugar Imbalance
If you’re insulin resistant, your blood sugar is disrupted. In turn, you end up with a variety of symptoms. Low energy, intense cravings, irritability, sleeping disruption, trouble concentrating, and possibly increased fat storage (particularly around your belly) are all consequences. These are some symptoms that accompany blood sugar irregularities:
- dramatic shifts in energy (spike then crash)
- lethargy in the afternoon (afternoon slump)
- sugar cravings
- light headedness
- frequent yeast infections
- diabetes (type 1, 2 or gestational)
Speaking from personal experience, blood sugar imbalance was one of the issues that caused my PCOS symptoms to flare. You can read more about how I manage my PCOS symptoms here.
How to balance blood sugar with food
Good news is, insulin resistance can be corrected with changes in diet and lifestyle habits. Below are five way to balance blood sugar with food.
On a regular basis, choose complex forms of carbohydrates. Rather than processed or refined ones. For example, low-glycemic fruit (berries), beans, legumes, sweet potatoes, squash, steel-cut or rolled oats, brown rice, quinoa, and spelt, and 100% whole wheat flour.
Add in fiber. Fiber — particularly soluble fiber — can slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. Nuts, seeds, vegetables (especially leafy greens), and 100% whole grains are all wonderful sources of fiber. My daily go-to sources of fiber are chia and ground flaxseed.
Build a balanced plate. When making your meals, you want all of these key players: Complex carbs, protein, healthy fat (avocado, nuts, olives, full-fat cheese, etc.), and fiber. Doing so is imperative to balancing blood sugar. Protein helps to balance blood sugar levels, and fat helps to slow the absorption of glucose to the bloodstream. A balanced plate could look like a filet of roasted salmon with a side of sautéed spinach (I love to wilt veggies in ghee) and jasmine rice.
Fuel up every 3-4 hours. If you have a tendency to skip breakfast (or lunch), make it a goal to eat every 3-4. This helps keep your blood sugar consistent and aids in digestion. This not only creates a more stable energy source, but your metabolism will be engaged at optimal levels all day long. In essence, a skipped meal alters the balance between food intake and insulin production. It can cause your blood sugar levels to drop. Vice versa, eating every couple of hours throughout the day can cause a consistent spike in glucose.
Last but not least, read labels. Just because a packaged food is labeled “sugar-free” or gluten-free” doesn’t mean it won’t have an impact on blood sugar. Be weary of labels. Instead, read the ingredient list and skim the nutrition label. As far as processed foods are concerned, aim for more than five grams of fiber per serving. Those with very little fiber (less than five grams) can cause a spike in blood sugar.
Honoring cravings while balancing blood sugar
All of that said, I encourage you to honor your cravings. At the end of the day, food is more than just fuel. It’s steeped in culture, tradition, and love. In other words, you can keep blood sugar in mind while still eating the foods you enjoy. As a nutrition consultant, I help my clients focus on both eating for pleasure and building a plate of nutritionally gratifying foods. It is possible to experience the incredible impact of being fully nourished, without feeling deprived. Deprivation is never the goal. Said differently: Food can make you feel energized and satisfied without sacrificing flavors and textures. This combines the best of both worlds — eating intuitively while keep blood sugar in check.
Images courtesy of Unsplash.