Blood sugar spikes and drops can lead to less than ideal symptoms. If you are wondering whether or not your blood sugar levels are balanced, read on!
Do you crave sugary or starchy foods? Do you feel sluggish or do you experience brain fog, headaches, dizziness, or hunger more often than you’d like?
These symptoms can be the result of imbalanced blood sugar levels.
Let’s dive into the specifics of blood sugar. We will talk about what it is and how to stabilize your level to keep your energies and feel full all day!
How does blood sugar work?
Before we talk about stabilizing blood sugar, it is important to understand how blood sugar works.
It all starts with carbohydrates
All carbohydrates – whether from fruits and vegetables or from sweets and cookies – are broken down in the body into sugar, which is also known as glucose. In the Foundational Five (the system we teach how to build a balanced meal) there is one major element that contributes to blood sugar: starchy carbohydrates.
Carbohydrate intake introduces sugar into the bloodstream. The type, timing and amount of carbohydrates consumed determine how much sugar is released into the bloodstream at one time.
More complex, natural sources of carbohydrates (think whole grains, beans, legumes, or fruits) introduce sugar into the bloodstream more slowly and gradually. Simpler, processed sources of carbohydrates bring sugar into the bloodstream faster.
We also need to consider whether the carbohydrates were consumed alone or with something else. The absorption rate is slightly faster when consumed alone. However, when consumed with protein, healthy fat, or fiber, it helps slow things down a bit.
Why do we need the sugar from carbohydrates?
This sugar (or glucose) from carbohydrates is important for the body to function properly. From muscle contractions to organs whose energy source is sugar, we really need glucose to keep everything running smoothly.
In short, carbohydrates are the body’s primary source of energy.
Before glucose can be used as energy by the organs, however, it must be brought from the bloodstream to the cells. This is where insulin comes in.
Insulin converts sugar into energy
After we consume carbohydrates, the pancreas produces a hormone called insulin in response. Insulin’s job is to remove the sugar from the bloodstream. It also determines whether we will use the sugar from the carbohydrates that we have consumed as energy now or whether we will store it for later use.
Think of insulin as a little car that picks up sugar, carries it out of your bloodstream, and then delivers it to the cell for it to be absorbed and used as energy.
For example, if there is too much glucose in your bloodstream, insulin says, “Hey! There are way too many glucose molecules for me to put in my car. Please bring some to the liver! “Your body stores this excess glucose in the liver for later use.
Blood sugar spikes
How and when do blood sugar spikes occur?
Without insulin, the sugar would just hang around and float in your bloodstream. When insulin is either absent or cannot do its job properly, high blood sugar or a spike in blood sugar results. This can cause some of the uncomfortable symptoms mentioned earlier, as well as causing long-term damage.
Also, when carbohydrates are often consumed alone or often come from more processed and refined sources, it is a little harder for insulin to keep up. This can also lead to blood sugar spikes.
Blood sugar drops
Now, what about low blood sugar after understanding high blood sugar?
Because high blood sugar isn’t ideal, you may think that low blood sugar is the goal – well, that’s not true either. It’s all about balance.
Low blood sugar occurs when there is an overall increase in insulin or a lack of carbohydrates.
When insulin increases, too much sugar is carried out of our bloodstream. We then crave things like chocolate or cake to make up for that. The body is essentially saying, “I need sugar to make up for this, please!”
Blood sugar fluctuations
In response to the body’s low blood sugar signals, we are more likely to feed our bodies with sugar. The problem with this is that things like chocolate and cake fall into this simpler, more processed category of carbohydrates. After consumption, our blood sugar shoots up again.
This can lead to endless swings in blood sugar levels or spikes and drops over time.
The goal is to find a balance between blood sugar spikes and drops somewhere. This middle ground prevents us from having too much blood sugar or too much insulin, which ultimately helps us do our best.
Signs and symptoms of a spike in blood sugar
So how do we know when this will happen?
If we have frequent spikes in blood sugar, it inevitably leads to low blood sugar levels. The symptoms of low blood sugar are signs that your blood sugar is fluctuating frequently.
Common signs and symptoms of low blood sugar include:
- Shaking hands
- Increased pulse
- Brain fog
- Damp hands
How to prevent blood sugar spikes
Now that you know why it’s important to watch your blood sugar levels, here are some simple tips on how to stabilize blood sugar levels.
1. Focus on healthy fats
Healthy fats take longer to digest than carbohydrates. Therefore, when consumed with carbohydrates, they slow down the rate of absorption of the carbohydrates. In addition, fats do not directly affect our insulin or blood sugar levels.
When consuming starchy carbohydrates, add some healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocados, or coconut oil to slow absorption and prevent blood sugar levels.
2. Make sure that you are getting plenty of fiber
Just like healthy fats, fiber slows the absorption of starchy carbohydrates.
If you eat a diet high in whole foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes, you are likely getting a lot of fiber. On average, you should aim for around 25-35 g / day. This can also be further individualized depending on gender, digestive system and energy intake.
3. Eat balanced meals
The goal is to eat the Foundational Five at every meal. If you’re not familiar with it, you can download our free guide to learn more about it. To give you a general idea, there are five simple elements that make up your plate: protein, healthy fats, non-starchy carbohydrates, starchy carbohydrates, and a flavor factor.
While the taste factor only helps make the dish taste good, the other elements are required to create a balanced meal with all the nutrients you need while stabilizing your blood sugar.
4. Eat lots of protein
I’m sure you’re starting to see a trend here – protein, like fiber and healthy fat, slows the rate of carbohydrate absorption.
Because of this, protein (both plant and animal based) can also help keep you feeling full. The goal is for the majority of your protein intake to come from lean sources of protein. Beans, legumes, nuts, chicken, turkey, tempeh, tofu, and edamame are good examples of this.
5. Manage your stress
Not only can stress trigger a hormonal response and increase cortisol levels, but stress can also lead to sugar cravings.
Cortisol is a hormone that can be released in response to stress. It also has the ability to pull stored glucose out of the liver to help raise blood sugar. This can be helpful in times of significant stress to help an individual “fight” or “flee” from a stressful situation. However, if the stress is prolonged or chronic, glucose can be constantly released from the liver, resulting in long-term high blood sugar.
Due to the fact that sugar cravings increase with stress, sugar consumption is often increased. This, of course, will contribute to elevated and imbalanced blood sugar levels.
Moral of the story, watch out for stress! Here you can try some of these stress reduction strategies.
6. Sleep well
We all know how important sleep is. But think about what if you don’t get enough of them – we usually reach for sugary foods and drinks to boost our energies and get us moving!
Next time don’t take the sugar. Instead, start by analyzing your sleep patterns.
Eat well to stabilize your blood sugar
If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, sign up for our “Eat Well Done Easy” course, which will teach you how to easily prepare balanced meals.
You’ll learn how to use the Foundational Five Formula to safely prepare a simple, nutritious meal every time so you can feel comfortable, save time in the kitchen, and ensure your long-term well-being without following complicated rules.