Maintaining blood sugar balance isn’t only for managing diabetes. In fact, poor blood sugar control (and subsequently insulin resistance) has been linked to poor weight control, Alzheimers, memory decline, aging, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and more. Additionally, constant spikes and dips of blood sugar can contribute to:
On the flip side, learning how to control blood sugar can help you control cravings, manage weight, prevent disease, and promote longevity and overall wellness.
Poor blood sugar control occurs when we consume a high carbohydrate or sugary meal and blood sugar spikes quickly, resulting in a rapid release of insulin and then a rapid drop in blood sugar. And if blood sugar levels are constantly high (resulting in constantly high insulin levels), then the cells become resistant to the action of insulin. This means that the cells need a lot more insulin in the bloodstream before the take up the glucose for energy. These high levels of circulating insulin and glucose are what cause the damage that results in chronic diseases and problems down the line.
Incorporating protein, healthy fat, and/or fiber into a meal or snack will help to slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream. As a result, blood sugar and subsequently insulin will not spike as quickly. This helps to keep blood sugar balanced. It will also help with satiety, fullness, and keep us from getting “hangry” at the next meal.
Especially when it comes to snacks, paying attention to “naked carbs” (or high-carb or sugar foods by themselves) can impact blood sugar levels. Ideally, we want to add either a fat or a protein to a “naked carb” to improve how we metabolize them. For example, adding some nuts to a piece of fruit or a bit of avocado to toast, will slow the blood sugar impact of that snack and help maintain overall balance.
In addition to the composition of meals, timing of meals is also very important for blood sugar balance. Waiting too long between meals can cause blood sugar levels to dip, which means when we eat something else, it spikes again. Instead, we want our meals to last ~3-4 hours and snacks to hold us for 1-2 hours. If we know we’ll be going more than 4+ hours in the day without a meal, sometimes a snack is necessary.
There is evidence that starting a meal with a vegetable (even if the rest of the meal is pasta!) can significantly lower the blood sugar impact. Most American’s are not getting enough vegetables or fiber in their diets. In addition to fiber, veggies are an excellent source of nutrients, antioxidants, phytonutrients, and more. I usually recommend incorporating an abundant amount of veggies in most meals (especially lunch and dinner)!
Similarly to above – by eating dessert right at the end of a meal rather than by itself, we can help slow the absorption of that glucose into the blood stream.
While diet will be the more obvious way to help maintain blood sugar control, regular physical activity can help to improve insulin sensitivity. Even taking a short walk after a meal can lower post-meal blood sugar levels, and stimulate our parasympathetic nervous system to signal “rest and digest” mode.
Regular physical activity can also help to maintain insulin sensitivity, which inherently helps with overall blood sugar control, as well!
Morgan Goodstadt, MS, RD, CDN, LDN, IFNCP
Registered Dietitian, Master’s in Clinical Nutrition, Certified Integrative and Functional Nutritionist and Health Coach. Morgan combines her expertise in nutrition with evidenced-based functional medicine and experience in human behavior to help her clients improve their health, relationship with food, and overall wellbeing. Her philosophy aims to achieve balance in both the diet and other areas of life.
The term “detox” has been exploited as a way to sell diet programs. But is there some truth to it? Do we need to “detox”? The answer, as I typically say with nutrition, is that it depends.