‘Balancing your blood sugar’- this is a term that by 2018 most of us are familiar with. Well we’ve heard it or read about it a fair few times but are you clear on exactly what it means? Do you know how to do it? And is it really that important? Let’s explore why balancing your blood sugar levels could be the answer to weight loss, controlling cravings and getting to grips with your binging habits.
WHAT IS BLOOD SUGAR + HOW DOES IT WORK?
Blood sugar (or blood glucose to get technical) levels refer to the amount of sugar in your blood stream. After eating or drinking (except from water), our blood sugar levels rise in response to the solids or liquids we’ve ingested. The higher in sugar the food/drink the greater the rise in blood glucose will be. Although, even low carbohydrate foods will generate a rise in blood glucose (albeit much smaller).
In response to the rise in blood glucose, insulin is released from the pancreas in order to encourage some of that glucose to move into the cells which consequently drops the levels of sugar in your blood. The more sugar you consume the faster this occurs as the pancreas goes into overdrive.
After a high sugar intake we often feel buzzed and full of energy. Once this process occurs and our blood sugar levels drop considerably we can be left feeling sluggish, tired and lethargic. Consequently, you’re likely to reach for another high sugar snack to restart the process and the cycle continues.
WHY DOES THIS MATTER?
Over a prolonged period of time following this constant cycle of sugar high, sugar crash, sugar high, sugar crash (you get the idea), the receptors can stop responding to the insulin. The result of this is type 2 diabetes which then needs to be controlled with medication or injections.
These constant blood sugar spikes and crashes in the short term can stimulate cravings. When your blood sugar is particularly low you tend to crave sweeter foods to generate a fast rise. Consequently your dependence on sugar increases and the amount you consume increases as sugar has a low satiety value meaning it won’t keep you full for very long.
HOW CAN YOU BALANCE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS?
Don’t worry you’re not going to have to walk around with a needle and a blood glucose monitor! Balancing your blood sugar levels is all about consuming the right foods. Foods rich in fibre, protein and healthy fats will help to slow down the release of sugar into the blood stream, meaning that insulin is released at a slower rate.
It is advisable to combine foods. For example if you’re consuming a high sugar food such as dried fruit you should combine it with a source of protein e.g. Nuts or nut butter. Ensure you’re eating plenty of fibre to help control blood glucose levels too. Foods such as nuts, seeds, fruit, vegetables and wholegrains are great sources.
Controlling your blood sugar isn’t overly complicated but it is totally necessary. When snacking opt for high fibre foods such as oat cakes and combine it with a source of protein and or healthy fats e.g. Peanut/ almond butter (because we all need an excuse to eat more of that!)
Anton, S. D., Martin, C. K., Han, H., Coulon, S., Cefalu, W. T., Geiselman, P., & Williamson, D. A. (2010). Effects of stevia, aspartame, and sucrose on food intake, satiety, and postprandial glucose and insulin levels. Appetite, 55(1), 37-43.
Russell, W. R., Baka, A., Björck, I., Delzenne, N., Gao, D., Griffiths, H. R., … & Loon, L. V. (2016). Impact of diet composition on blood glucose regulation. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 56(4), 541-590.
Kaur, B., Ranawana, V., Teh, A. L., & Henry, C. J. K. (2015). The impact of a low glycemic index (GI) breakfast and snack on daily blood glucose profiles and food intake in young Chinese adult males. Journal of Clinical & Translational Endocrinology, 2(3), 92-98.