The secret of Better sleep, sustained energy, balanced hormones and fewer mood swings? Stable blood sugar. Blood what? Also called blood sugar, blood sugar comes from the foods you eat. It is your body’s main source of energy. Unfortunately, most of us walk around with little (if any) understanding of how it affects our overall health. One moment you feel good, the next you are hungry or dizzy. It’s blood sugar. You devour a plate of French toast, buzzing with energy for one hot second – the next you’re in a sleepy food coma. Blood sugar, friends.
That said, blood sugar does impact our health in other, not-so-subtle ways. Today, we’re diving into the basics: what is blood sugar, why it matters, plus a 7-day meal plan to balance blood sugar.
Featured Image by Teal Thomsen
A Beginner’s Guide to Blood Sugar
Without knowing exactly what it means, you’ve probably heard of the term. Blood sugar balance is critical – it plays a role in energy, feelings, cognitive function, and more. In fact, you may already be familiar with blood sugar peaks and troughs. Hello, hanger! That said, few recognize its day-to-day effects.
High level, blood sugar is the amount of sugar (or glucose) in your blood at any given time. As mentioned, it is the main source of energy for the body. Sugar is produced when we break down any form of carbohydrate. Whether it’s a piece of fruit, a slice of cake, or a piece of toast, this carbohydrate is absorbed into our bloodstream. Immediately or eventually, carbohydrates are used as a source of energy.
How does blood sugar work?
Here is the best way to visualize and think about blood sugar:
Step 1: You eat food.
Suppose you eat a balanced combination of carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Your digestion breaks down your food. Carbohydrates break down into glucose. It is your body’s and brain’s main source of preferred energy.
Stage 2: Blood sugar rises.
Glucose enters your bloodstream and blood sugar naturally rises. How a lot their increase depends largely on the distribution of macronutrients in the meal. More carbs = more blood sugar. More protein + fat = lower blood sugar spike.
Step 3: Insulin is released.
As soon as your body senses the rise in blood sugar, your pancreas releases insulin. Insulin is an important hormone involved in blood sugar management. We don’t want too much, but also not too little.
Stage 4: Blood sugar drops.
Insulin acts as the key to opening up your cells and transporting glucose from the bloodstream into the cells. Glucose is either used immediately to produce energy or stored for later use. Insulin is what keeps blood sugar from getting too high.
The goal: a gradual increase in blood sugar
Just as cortisol and inflammation aren’t inherently bad (in fact, they’re vital to keeping us alive), so is blood sugar. Glucose is not the enemy either, nor is insulin. Ultimately, it’s about eating in a way that keeps glucose and insulin at a happy medium. It’s not about completely avoiding carbs and sugar. Rather, it’s about maintaining a healthy balance and honoring the foods that make us feel our best, most of the time!
The goal is to have a gradual increase in blood sugar levels after eating, and a slow, steady decline in the hours that follow. We want to avoid large increases in our blood sugar. Why? Because they lead to a very drastic and significant decrease. In other words, it’s not just about high blood sugar. We also want to minimize hypoglycaemia and accidents.
How to achieve stable blood sugar and why is it important?
It varies from person to person, but in general, stable blood sugar levels come from proper nutrition and balanced meals. You also want try to avoid these habits which tend to raise blood sugar. So why is glycemic control important? You want to keep your blood sugar within your target range, as often as possible. This helps prevent or delay serious long-term health issues. On a day-to-day basis, staying within your target range is just as important. It can improve your energy, balance hormones, and stabilize your mood. Research shows it fertility aid, too. Speaking of hormones, if you’re struggling with intense PMS symptoms, it could be the result of poor blood sugar management.
What causes blood sugar imbalance?
In fact, more than you think! But armed with an understanding of how blood sugar stays balanced, you can minimize the imbalance.
- Lack of macronutrients: We want to eat protein, fat, and complex carbs at every meal. The sources and amount of each will depend on many factors and will be unique to each individual, but balancing these macros is really important for balanced blood sugar levels.
- Stress: High cortisol levels can cause blood sugar levels to skyrocket. It is so that the body has what it needs to fight or flight.
- Inconsistent meal times: Not eating enough or not eating enough regularly can be very stressful on the body. Remember that food is fuel. No food means low blood sugar. Low blood sugar can be just as harmful as high blood sugar.
- Bad sleep: Impaired sleep can lead to imbalanced blood sugar levels. In fact, just one night of poor sleep can decrease insulin sensitivity, affecting our food choices and cravings.
- Exercise: Being too sedentary or exercising too much can impact blood sugar levels.
- Intestinal health: Digestion determines how food is broken down. This, in turn, impacts how quickly sugar enters the bloodstream. An imbalanced microbiome can negatively impact blood sugar levels.
- Liver function: The health of our liver determines our cells’ ability to absorb insulin, as well as how the body stores excess glucose for later use.
Fortunately, you can control your blood sugar with these simple guidelines!
Foods That Help Balance Blood Sugar
While there are many foods that help lower and regulate blood sugar, these are some of the best! They cause a minimal blood sugar spike (for most people), support sustained energy, and help with fullness.
Protein is essential for blood sugar control. It helps slow digestion and prevent blood sugar spikes after meals, while increasing feelings of fullness. A high intake of fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines, has been shown to help improve blood sugar regulation. That said, organic chicken, pastured eggs, and grass-fed beef are also great for blood sugar.
Creamy, delicious, and versatile, avocados are low in carbs and high in fiber, which is great for blood sugar stability. Plus, the healthy fats in avocado can help you use your insulin more efficiently.
Nuts and nut butter are great for stable blood sugar because healthy fats don’t cause blood sugar to spike. Interestingly, in a study people with type 2 diabetes consuming both peanuts and almonds throughout the day (as part of a low-carb diet) reduced both fasting and post-meal blood glucose levels.
Brightly colored and full of fiber and antioxidants, pumpkin seeds are packed with healthy fats and proteins, making them an excellent choice for blood sugar control.
Chia and flax seeds
Chia and flax seeds (especially ground flax seeds) are high in fiber and healthy fats. In turn, they can help lower blood sugar levels. Adding chia and flax to your bowls of smoothies, oatmeal and yogurt is an easy way to boost fiber and help stabilize blood sugar.
Beans and Legumes
Beans and lentils are rich in nutrients, such as magnesium, fiber and protein. All of these help lower blood sugar. They are particularly high in soluble fiber and resistant starch, which help slow digestion and may improve blood sugar response after meals.
Kimchi and Sauerkraut
Fermented foods, like kimchi and sauerkraut, are packed with probiotics, minerals, and antioxidants. Their consumption is associated with improved blood sugar and insulin sensitivity.
Meal plan to balance blood sugar
Ready for delicious, nutrient-dense meals to help balance blood sugar, boost energy, support hormones, improve digestion, and fuel your busy lifestyle? Click here to get my 7-Day Blood Glucose Reset Guide!