Does the phrase 'blood sugar' conjure up visions of restrictive eating, diabetes medications, or insulin injections? It did for me!
Blood sugar is the measure of the amount of sugar in your blood. You need the right balance of sugar in your blood to fuel your brain and muscles. The thing is, it can fluctuate a lot and you often hear me talking about it because learning to manage it throughout the day is important for so many reasons.
This fluctuation is the natural balance between things that increase it; and things that decrease it. When you eat food with sugars or starches ("carbs"), then your digestive system absorbs sugar into your blood. When carbs are ingested and broken down into simple sugars, your body keeps blood sugar levels stable by secreting the hormone insulin. Insulin allows excess sugar to get it out of your bloodstream and into your muscle cells and other tissues where it is needed for energy. But when there's excess, and in the standard American diet, there tends to be, it gets turned into fat.
Why keep my blood sugar stable?
Your body wants your blood sugar to be at an optimal level. It should be high enough, so you're not light-headed, fatigued, and irritable ('hangry' anyone??) It should be low enough that your body isn't scrambling to remove excess from the blood.
When blood sugar is too low, this is referred to as "hypoglycemia." When blood sugar is too high, it is referred to as hyperglycemia. Prolonged periods of elevated blood sugar levels (chronic hyperglycemia) can lead to "insulin resistance." Insulin resistance is when your cells are just so bored of the excess insulin that they start ignoring (resisting) it, and that keeps your blood sugar levels too high. Insulin resistance and chronic hyperglycemia can eventually lead to diabetes.
So, what are some of the ways you can optimize your food and lifestyle to keep your blood sugar stable?
Food for stable blood sugar
The simplest thing to do to balance your blood sugar is to reduce the number of refined sugars and starches you eat. To do this, you can start by eliminating sweet drinks and having smaller portions of dessert or eat ones with healthier ingredients at first. By removing the junk, you will also give your digestive system a break from all the irritating foods like sugar, gluten and conventional dairy which cause havoc on your blood sugar and keep it unstable.
Eating more fiber is helpful too. Fiber helps to slow down the amount of sugar absorbed from your meal; it reduces the "spike" in your blood sugar level. Fiber is found in plant-based foods (eaten in their natural state.)
Eating nuts, seeds, and whole fruits and veggies (not juiced) is a great way to increase your fiber intake. Protein in moderate amounts is also key for balance. And then, there's fat; it helps to keep you fuller longer and keeps cravings at bay.
If you're constantly craving, then you're not managing your blood sugar efficiently!
FUN FACT: Cinnamon has been shown to help cells increase insulin sensitivity. Not to mention it’s a delicious spice that can be used in place of sugar. (HINT: It’s in the recipe below)
Lifestyle for stable blood sugar
Exercise also helps to improve your insulin sensitivity; this means that your cells don't ignore insulin's call to get excess sugar out of the blood. Not to mention, when you exercise, your muscles are using up that sugar they absorbed from your blood.
Would you believe that stress affects your blood sugar levels? Yup! Stress hormones increase your blood sugar levels. If you think about the "fight or flight" stress response (more on that HERE), what fuel do your brain and muscles need to "fight" or "flee"? Sugar! When you are stressed signals are sent to release stored forms of sugar back into the bloodstream, increasing blood sugar levels. So, try to reduce the stress you're under and manage it more effectively. Simple tips are meditation, deep breathing, or gentle movement like taking a walk.
Sleep goes hand-in-hand with stress. When you don't get enough quality sleep, you tend to release stress hormones, have a higher appetite, and even get sugar cravings. Sleep is crucial, often overlooked, factor when it comes to keeping your blood sugar stable. Make sleep more of a priority - it will do your blood sugar (and the rest of your physical and mental health) good.
Your body is on a constant 24-hour quest to keep your blood sugar stable. The body has mechanisms in place to do this, but those mechanisms can get tired (resistant). Long-term blood sugar issues can spell trouble.
There are many nutrition and lifestyle modifications you can make to help keep your blood sugar stable. Minimizing excessive carbs, and eating more fiber, exercising, reducing stress, and improving sleep are all key to having stable blood sugar (and overall good health). I’ve created a FREE program around helping women eliminated processed sugars in all its forms in just 5 days.
In this program, I also make sure to give you alternatives so that you don’t feel deprived in any way. You will begin to feel more energized because you will be feeding your gut and brain better food and learn all the tricks to make this a lifestyle change along the way!
There are tons of recipes you can choose from and a sample meal plan too. Click below to start today!
Check out a sample recipe below…
2 apples, chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil
½ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp vanilla extract
Place chopped apples into a small saucepan with 2 tbsp water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. After about 5 minutes the apples will become slightly soft, and water will be absorbed.
Add 1 tbsp coconut oil. Stir apples and oil together. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring every minute or so. Add cinnamon, salt, and vanilla. Stir well. Cook for another few minutes, stirring until the apples reach your desired softness!
Serve and enjoy!
Tip: Keeping the peel on increases the fiber, which is even better for stabilizing your blood sugar.
'til next time!