Why Your Blood Sugar Matters & How To Keep It Balanced
First, Why Is It So Important To Keep Your Blood Sugar Under Control?
Even if you’re not among the estimated 13.6 million Brits at risk of type 2 diabetes, it’s smart to keep your blood sugar stable. Beyond draining your energy levels, imbalanced blood sugar can affect your mood and, if chronically elevated, wreak havoc on your long-term health. “A few blood sugar spikes here and there isn’t a big deal,” Sophie Chabloz, co-founder of Avea Life, tells us. “However, if elevated for a long time, it can lead to serious health problems. By damaging the blood vessels that supply vital organs, a high blood sugar level can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, kidney disease, and vision and nerve problems. Frequent spikes, over time, can also lead to insulin resistance, which is the precursor to type 2 diabetes.” Keeping your blood sugar on an even keel has short-term benefits too, says Sophie. “It’ll improve your focus, mood, sleep and skin, while also supporting weight loss.”
What Are The Signs Your Blood Sugar Is Out Of Balance?
Even if you think you lead a relatively healthy lifestyle and have your blood sugar under control, not everyone is good at spotting the warning signs. When you don’t manage your blood sugar level appropriately, spikes will occur, and side effects include fatigue, headaches, trouble concentrating, mood swings, anxiety, dry skin, blurred vision and excessive thirst, says Belinda Blake, registered nutritional therapy practitioner and clinic tutor at the Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION). “When we talk about blood sugar, we are talking about levels of glucose in our bloodstream. Glucose largely comes from carbohydrates in the diet and provides a source of fuel for pretty much every cell in the body. So, when glucose levels in our blood are unbalanced, we can feel it in lots of ways. Primarily, you may experience drops in blood sugar as fatigue (both physical and mental) as cells literally run out of easily available energy. You may also find yourself feeling ‘hangry’, unreasonably irritable or anxious, or craving sweet or starchy food, or a caffeinated drink.”
Experts have always said blood sugar control is a vital way to keep on top our health – think low GI diets and low-carb diets like Atkins – but new studies have added a fresh dimension to current thinking. “Research shows fluctuations in blood sugar are extremely stressful for the body,” continues Belinda. “Plus, over time, excess glucose in the bloodstream may lead to insulin resistance, which is an inability for the body to burn glucose effectively for fuel – a simple case of having too much of a good thing. Excess glucose in the blood is extremely dangerous and can trigger the release of free radicals – chemicals that can damage the DNA of our cells and stop them working altogether. Studies show this type of oxidative stress can lead to type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cognitive decline. Poorly managed glucose levels can also impact how effectively our immune system works, and this has been in the news recently as having the potential to increase the severity of symptoms experienced with Covid.”
How To Get Your Blood Sugar Back Into Balance
Improve The Quality Of Your Carbs
Creating balanced blood sugar levels requires consuming whole foods and cutting highly processed foods and sugar-based drinks. “The first step is to eliminate highly processed foods and refined grains like white flour, white pasta and white rice that has been stripped of its outer layers,” says Belinda. It’s then vital to ensure you’re balancing your carbs with protein and fat, adds Jessie Inchauspé, aka The Glucose Goddess. “One of my golden rules is to never let your carbs go out naked – always put some clothes on your carbs. What does this mean? It means that when we eat carbs (starches like bread and pasta as well as sugary desserts), we should pair them with a source of protein or fat to reduce the glucose spike. For example, instead of having a couple of plain rice cakes, serve them with some nut butter; have avocado instead of jam on toast; and pair plain pasta with some form of meat, olive oil or cheese.”
Start A Meal With Vegetables
Eating your food in the right order may sound simple but it makes the world of difference when it comes to controlling blood sugar. “If you eat your veggies first, then protein and fats, then starches and sugars, you can reduce the glucose spike of the meal by up to 75% compared to eating the foods in no particular order,” says Jessie. “You don’t need to change what you’re eating, just how you’re eating it. You can go one step further and add a plate of vegetables to the beginning of your meals. The fibre in the vegetables will coat your intestine and prevent the body from absorbing too much of the glucose crashing down afterwards.”
Build Your Breakfast Around Protein
It’s been proven that what you eat for breakfast sets your blood sugar response for the rest of the day. So, if you’ve had a bowl of sugary cereal for breakfast and then a sandwich for lunch, your body will produce more of a glucose spike after the sandwich than if you’d had a protein-rich breakfast, such as a couple of poached eggs with avocado. “If you’re not ready to say goodbye to a sweet breakfast, first eat protein, fats and fibre – an egg, for example, or a couple of spoons of full-fat yoghurt – and then have the sweet food, such as jam, granola or cereal,” says Jessie. “Remember that when your stomach contains other things, the impact of sugar and starch will be lessened.”
Be Careful With Sweeteners
Sugar substitutes like xylitol are better than normal sugar, but don’t overly rely on them, advises Belinda. “While artificial sweeteners have zero calories, they can still cause sugar cravings as they have the same impact on blood sugar as glucose,” she says. “Erythritol and stevia are exceptions, and can be used to sweeten food or drinks without causing blood sugar fluctuations.”
Sleep More, Stress Less
Both a lack of sleep and stress can raise cortisol levels, which in turn raises blood sugar. “Fluctuations in blood sugar aren’t just caused by food,” Belinda says. “Stress can also be a trigger. In a stressful situation, cortisol releases stores of glucose into the bloodstream to fuel the ‘fight or flight’ response. Good stress management should therefore be an important consideration in blood sugar regulation.”
Take A Walk After A Carb-Heavy Meal
When you exercise, your muscles use sugar from your bloodstream; over time this can lower blood sugar levels. Scientists have shown that being physically active can prevent or delay the development of some conditions, including type 2 diabetes, so paying your daily rent can pay off in the long term when it comes to optimising your health. “Go one step further and walk for ten minutes after a carb-heavy meal,” says Sophie. “It doesn’t need to be intense exercise – even a 10-15-minute easy walk after a meal has been shown to reduce sugar spikes by up to 30%.”
Narrow Your Window Of Eating
Time restricted eating – or intermittent fasting – is the idea of narrowing your window of eating to prevent erratic eating throughout the day, in turn supporting stable blood glucose levels. “At the very least, aim to eat all your meals in a 12-hour window,” says wellness expert Simone Thomas. “This gives your digestive system, gut and body time to rest and process all the nutrients you provided it with during the day, and can help maintain blood sugar levels.”
Drink Vinegar Before Meals
Vinegar, when consumed before or with a meal, can be associated with lower post-meal glucose levels, which keeps future food cravings in check. It’s believed acetic acid – the key ingredient in apple cider vinegar – interferes with the breakdown of carbs and promotes glucose uptake by the muscles. Drink one to two tablespoons of organic, raw apple cider vinegar before meals. The right supplement can also make a difference, says Sophie. “Avea Life’s Stabiliser can be taken ten minutes before a meal – it’s been proven to block the absorption of sugar and carbs by around 40%. This, in turn, will curb sweet cravings, support weight management and turn high-GI foods into low-GI foods.”
Try A Glucose Monitor
Keeping a physical eye on your blood sugar levels in real time may seem excessive, but it’s a science-backed way to ensure you’re on the right track. Plus, the more you use it, the more you’ll learn how your body responds to certain foods, and at certain times of the day. Like a Fitbit for your metabolic health, Levels’ glucose monitor is worn like a plaster on your arm and is designed to monitor your body’s glucose response. “It’s a simple piece of equipment that can measure your blood glucose levels throughout the day and allow you to better understand your own personal reactions to different foods and situations,” says Belinda. “If you are looking to make long-term changes to your health, a continuous glucose monitor may encourage healthy shifts in diet that are specific to you,” she says.
For more information visit ION.ac.uk, Avea-Life.com, SimoneThomasWellness.com and GlucoseGoddess.com. Also follow @GlucoseGoddess on Instagram for blood sugar control tips and tricks.
DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.
DISCLAIMER: We endeavour to always credit the correct original source of every image we use. If you think a credit may be incorrect, please contact us at email@example.com.