What Do You Think Of?
Okay, what comes to mind when you read the words “blood sugar management”? For most of us, things unrelated to mood come up, am I right? Typically we think about Diabetes or insulin resistance, but blood sugar ups and downs are actually something a lot of us struggle with every day, leaving us with loads of symptoms in the category of mood, energy levels, anxiety and depression. Even more prevalent is the idea that managing blood sugar is simply the cutting down of sugar, which is not entirely the full picture.
For me, when I hear “blood sugar management”, I think about mood balance, anxiety management, increased energy and better quality of sleep. So what’s the connection? Without getting too scientific, pretty much every time we eat food, that food gets broken down into sugar(glucose) and enters our cells to give us energy. Each little bit of sugar pairs up with insulin, and hand in hand, they go into the cells. That’s the normal process, or it’s supposed to be the normal anyways. Where if we were to look at it on a graph, blood sugar would look like a slow wave, only going up slightly every time we eat food, and slowly rolling down as that food is digested. But for a lot of us, that’s not what it looks like, and the way we can tell that(besides doing a blood sugar test), is by symptoms: low energy, chronic fatigue, trouble falling asleep and staying asleep at night, hormonal imbalances, frequent bouts of anxiety for no reason, headaches, and the list goes on. Does any of that sound familiar for you?
Remember back to a time when you had something really sweet or carbohydrate-dense. Remember what it feels like soon after we’ve eaten that food: we typically feel pretty good and energized, right? But fast forward to an hour or two afterwards. How does that sugar crash feel? We often feel impatient with our surroundings, low energy or ready to take a nap. Now, for you, this might be something that happens once in a blue moon, but imagine someone who more often consumes a diet of high carbohydrate foods vs. other nutrients. If they even had 3 meals a day, think about how that awful blood sugar crashing feeling happening pretty much all throughout the day. The unfortunate thing is that most generally healthy and non-overweight adults aren’t typically requesting a blood sugar test(or their doctors don’t think there’s a connection), and if they are checking their blood sugar, there seems to be little options out there for keeping it managed besides cutting down on sugar. Well I’m here to let you know there’s SO much more you can do to keep your blood sugar in check(imagine me shouting it from the rooftops because I’m just that passionate about this topic!). Even if you’re not at risk for diabetes, or don’t think you experience any symptoms of pre-diabetes, managing blood sugar is the first step to preventing diseases of all kinds.
Here’s what I Recommend:
PROTEIN: this is what’s going to provide us with more stable energy throughout the day(because protein doesn’t break down into sugar) and help to keep us full for longer. For the average person, we should aim to have about 20g of protein per meal(a piece of lean protein should be about the size of your palm—not too big.). Try incorporating chicken, fish, or lean, grass-fed beef. Adding a vegetarian option can help increase the protein content per meal, or mixing in a couple of different vegetarian proteins to ensure you’re getting enough can be done too: lentils, chickpeas, nuts and seeds(pumpkin seeds are my favourite for high protein), beans, hemp hearts or quinoa. There are many good quality vegan and dairy-based protein powders on the market too, which is something to consider adding to smoothies if that’s what works for your day-to-day(especially as a good breakfast option).
HEALTHY FATS: fats are the second most important nutrient for blood sugar balance, because they can help to keep us full for longer periods of time, and a pure oil or fat source doesn’t break down into sugar either. For me, I find incorporating healthy fats helps to reduce sugar cravings too because it makes me feel satiated after a meal. Try getting some good oils for your salads like flax oil, hemp oil, or olive oil. Adding a bit of avocado is a great way to help keep you full for longer, and adding nuts and seeds(including flax and hemp hearts) are a great way to increase the healthy fat content of your meals. Ideally, you want to feel full and satisfied for 3-4 hours after eating a meal, and if you’re feeling hungry before that, it can be an indication that your body requires a bit more of the healthy fat components. So try playing around with it a bit for what works for you!
LEAFY GREENS: I was going to write “fibre”, which is technically the third nutrient we need to incorporate for the best blood sugar balance, but….the reality is, some commonly thought of fibre sources aren’t necessarily “healthy” nor do they help to keep our blood sugar
balanced. Eating a loaf of white bread contains some fibre, and so does a mango or a pineapple. But these foods also break down into sugar super quickly, creating that spike in blood sugar that we want to avoid. No, we’re not looking to completely cut out any foods that contain sugar, but instead we want to load up on more of the leafy greens, which provide us with lots of fibre and very little sugar. At any given meal, about ¾ of your plate should consist of greens: romaine lettuce, kale, arugula, asparagus, Brussels sprouts and some fibres from non-green things too: lentils, beans, chickpeas, etc. Feel free to mix it up that ¾ of your plate. Try 2 different types of fibre to give you a variety of vitamins and minerals too.
The beauty of all of this that there is no such thing as “one size fits all”! If these exact proportions don’t work for you, no biggie! Don’t hesitate to play around with your food portions and figure out what works for your body. Are you still hungry moments after your meal? Then eat! And maybe try adding a bit more healthy fat options or protein so you feel satiated. Makes sense, right? Ultimately, you just go ahead and do you, okay?
There are lots more food-based and natural options to help manage blood sugar, despite what we're often told in the media or even by some healthcare providers. Especially the link between blood sugar and our mood is often dismissed, but it's actually secretly my favourite topic! Feel free to message me to chat more about this topic, because I'm all ears! Happy blood sugar management!