By Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN
When we think of blood sugar we often think diabetes; however, balanced blood sugar applies to everyone, and it’s something all of us should pay more attention to. Diabetes prevention is extremely important, but balanced blood sugar plays a role in energy, weight loss, weight maintenance and overall health for everyone.
Blood sugar is regulated by two key hormones:
When blood sugar is high, insulin is released, which helps to bring glucose (sugar) out of the blood and into the tissues for use and storage; likewise, when blood sugar is low, glucagon is released, causing blood sugar to rise.
The main concern with persistent elevated blood sugar:
The body must release a consistent stream of insulin into the bloodstream to maintain healthy sugar levels. Over time the tissues become what is known as insulin resistant due to the constant exposure to insulin, which causes more and more insulin to be released to remove sugar to the tissues. Over time this process can lead to persistent high blood sugar.
Besides potentially contributing to diabetes, heart disease and many other chronic diseases, long term blood sugar imbalance may contribute to other conditions like increased fat storage in the abdomen- which is also dangerous for heart health, and may also cause inconsistent and poor energy. Poor energy, tiredness, and fatigue due to unbalanced blood sugar may promote making poorer food choices, as it’s common to reach for sugary, carbohydrate-laden items when we feel tired. So, balancing blood sugar is key.
A spice that has also been suggested to play a role in promoting balanced blood sugar can be added to tea, yogurt, hot or cold cereals, or as an ingredient in soup.
3. Healthy Fat
Healthy fat acts to slow digestion, which can help to prevent blood sugar spikes and through slowing digestion may also help to promote satiety.
Good sources of healthy fat include: unsalted nuts and seeds, nut butter, avocado, flax and chia seeds, cold pressed and unrefined oils such as olive, coconut, avocado, macadamia; wild or organic fish including salmon.
Protein works in a similar way to fat when it comes to promoting satiety and slowing digestion; both key factors when it comes to promoting blood sugar regulation. Protein comes in all shapes and sizes and from many different sources so it’s important to choose wisely.
Good sources of healthy and lean protein: Lean organic and wild animal meats- turkey, chicken and grass-fed beef, whole soy protein from edamame and tofu, and pea-based proteins such as hemp, sprouted rice and pea- can be a great addition to a juice or smoothie.
Fiber also works similarly to protein and healthy fat in that it can help to promote satiety and slow digestion therefore acting to blunt blood sugar spikes, and also may help promote weight loss. Another great benefit of fiber is that it’s usually accompanied by many other healthful plant-based nutrients given that fiber comes from plant-based sources.
Good sources of healthy fiber: Sources include whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains- quinoa, teff and brown rice; nuts and seeds.
7. Eat Regularly
This is one of the most important tips when it comes to balancing blood sugar. Eating inconsistently can lead to eating larger meals, which provides more opportunity to spike blood sugar; whereas, eating smaller meals on a consistent schedule, every 2-3 hours really helps balance blood sugar.
8. Eat Balanced Meals
It’s important to eat both meals and snacks that are balanced with both healthy carbohydrate (from grains or vegetables) and a source of protein or healthy fat as this helps to slow digestion and blunt a sugar-spiking effect. For example, nuts and a piece of fruit, carrots and hummus, smoothie with added protein.
9. Get Exercise
Particularly when it comes to battling insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, exercise and movement (both help to allow the body to remove sugar from the blood stream and instead moves it to the tissues and muscles where it can be utilized and stored. Another huge benefit of movement is its effect on promoting weight maintenance.
10. Don’t Miss Your Zzz’s
Research suggests that individuals with inconsistent and inadequate sleep patterns may suffer from more inconsistent blood sugar levels. Experts often recommend 7-8 hours not only for overall health, but perhaps for improved hormonal regulation and therefore blood sugar as well.
For more information about juicing and Rebooting with elevated blood sugar check out our expert blog posts:
Rebooting and Juicing with Diabetes
How to Manage Your Sugar Intake
Not All Sugar is Created Equal