Blood sugar is a hot topic these days, and for good reason. The concept isn’t new, diabetes was first recorded in English in a medical text written around 1425. The illness was discovered due to the sweet taste that had been noticed in urine (News Medical Life Science).
Insulin is a hormone created by the pancreas that controls the amount of glucose in the bloodstream at any given time. It helps store glucose in the liver, fat, and muscles and regulates the body’s metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. Sound important? That’s because it is.
When we eat, our blood glucose levels rise, which leads a typical person’s pancreas to release insulin, so that the sugar can be stored as energy for later use. Without that pancreatic ability blood sugar levels may rise dangerously high, or drop too low. (Endocrineweb)
According to the CDC, approximately 96 million people in the US age 18 years or older have prediabetes and 37.3 million have diabetes. Even more reason for concern, 8.5 million people, or 23.% of adults, have diabetes but remain undiagnosed. Even those of us who haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes can protect ourselves by implementing tips to help blunt the blood sugar spike and keep insulin levels under control to reduce the risk for illness.
Break the Fast
Prioritize the first meal of the day. Eating breakfast helps stabilize blood sugar, even in those who don’t have diabetes, and can help minimize blood sugar spikes later in the day. Of course reaching for a donut or bear claw isn’t exactly doing yourself any favors. Go for breakfast options that contain fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins and healthy fats.
According to the American Diabetes Association, physical activity can help muscle cells use available insulin. When muscles contract, the cells are better able to absorb glucose and use it for energy. The effect physical activity has on blood sugar will vary depending on how long you are active, among other factors. If you are at risk for hypoglycemia you should test your blood sugar before doing any physical activity.
Not sure where to begin? Some ways to get started include find something you like, start small, set a goal, schedule time and have fun!
Protein is one of the three essential macronutrients that our bodies need. It helps grow new tissue, build muscle and repair damage. Protein can help stabilize blood sugar by blunting the absorption of carbohydrates and sugar. Protein breaks down into glucose more slowly than carbohydrates, so the effects on blood sugar levels occurs more gradually. Quality protein sources include sustainably caught fish, pasture raised poultry and eggs, grass fed beef, and organic beans, lentils, nuts and seeds.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate found mainly in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. It helps keep us regular, but it offers many other health benefits as well, especially for people with diabetes or prediabetes. Fiber is our friend because it helps with blood sugar control and weight management and can lower the risk of heart disease and some cancers. Fiber can help with blood sugar because, since the body is unable to absorb and break down fiber, it doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar the way other carbohydrates can, which can help keep blood sugar in the target range. (CDC)
Healthy fats that is. Fat is not to be feared, and in fact it is essential to healthy body function. Fat cushions organs, stores energy, insulates the body against elements, supports cell growth and more. What’s important is the type of fat we eat. Trans fat and saturated fat are the two to avoid, and typically come from animal fat and processed foods. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the good stuff and come from sources such as fatty fish, avocados, nuts, flaxseeds, olive oil and chai seeds. Fat does not break down into glucose and can slow down the digestive process helping to delay the rise in glucose levels and improve insulin control.
Check the Label
When managing blood sugar it’s important to be mindful of what we’re eating. Start by reviewing the list of ingredients and avoid excess salt, sugar, unhealthy fats and artificial ingredients. Sweeteners, including artificial sweeteners, can increase insulin release. Also look at the total carbohydrates, which are often refined and will turn straight to sugar once in the bloodstream. Regardless of whether or not diabetes is a factor, focus on a diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and high quality protein and avoid highly processed foods.
I am not a doctor, and this blog is not meant to diagnose or treat illnesses. Consult your physician before making any diet or exercise changes.