Diet and Blood Sugar Levels

Blood sugar levels greatly affect our overall energy levels and mood, and our diet has everything to do with it.  Depending on the types of foods we’re eating, we will either have long lasting energy levels or bouts of high energy and low energy.  This has a direct connection to how the foods are broken down into sugars and released into our bloodstream, affecting our blood sugar levels.

 

 

FOODS THAT DRAMATICALLY INCREASE BLOOD SUGAR

Most foods will affect your blood sugar levels but it’s the rate at which they increase blood sugar that is important.  Foods that are high in sugar or highly refined break down into simple sugars quite fast in the body.  This raises blood sugar levels very quickly; within 10 to 15 minutes.  Not only is your blood sugar level raised quickly, its raised above normal levels and is also quickly dropped below normal levels.  This leaves you feeling full of energy for a short period of time, followed by a drastic drop in energy soon after.  This full incline and drop all happens within 45 minutes to an hour of eating a sugary or refined food.

When blood sugar levels are raised above normal levels stress is out on the pancreas to release high amounts of insulin to remove the excess sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream.  Over time continuing this pattern can lead to what’s called “insulin resistance” where insulin is no longer effective in the removal of glucose from the bloodstream, leaving blood sugar levels high all the time.  These dramatic fluctuations in blood sugar levels also affect our mood; making us feel happy and joyful when high and sullen and depressed when low.  Keeping normal levels helps up feel content and satisfied.

Some examples of foods which drastically increase blood sugar levels are:

  • sweets like candies, doughnuts, cookies, cakes, chocolates, and other sugary treats
  • refined grains like white bread, white crackers, white rice, cereals, white pasta, etc.
  • sugary drinks like pop and other fizzy drinks, sweetened fruit juice, liqueurs, specialty coffee drinks, etc.
  • coffee and other caffeinated substances

Caffeine has the same affect as sugary foods as it drastically increases blood sugar levels within a short period of time and reduces blood sugar levels below normal within a short period of time.

Skipping meals can trigger cravings for fatty foods, especially if breakfast is skipped.  When we rise in the morning, we are essentially in a fasting state as we have not eaten for approximately 8+ hours.  If we do not eat breakfast it is very hard for our bodies to raise blood sugar levels back to normal as most of our stores have been used up during the night.  Therefore fats must be used as the fuel source, causing cravings for more fat.  Breakfast literally “breaks the fast” and allows us to raise our blood levels back to normal.

 

FOODS THAT HELP BALANCE BLOOD SUGAR LEVELS

All foods will affect blood sugar in one way or another but what is important is the rate at which they affect blood sugar levels.  As discussed above, sugary foods and refined grains will increase blood sugar levels dramatically and cause a dramatic decrease in blood sugar levels shortly after.  The rate at which blood sugar is increased is connected to the rate at which your food is digested.  Foods that are high in proteins and fats are digested much more slowly than foods high in complex carbohydrates or sugars.  When mixed together, simple sugars are released into the blood stream at a much steadier rate, giving you a sustained energy source.  Mixing complex carbohydrates with proteins or fats can stabilize your blood sugar for up to 4 hours (as compared to 45 minutes).

Some examples of foods that balance blood sugar levels are:

  • whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, kamut, spelt, whole rye, whole wheat, etc
  • fresh fruits and vegetables (all complex carbohydrates), especially sweet potatoes, squashes, avocados, celery, broccoli, leafy green vegetables, and asparagus
  • legumes and beans like lentils, split peas, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, etc
  • nuts and seeds

 

There are many serious conditions which are related to unbalanced blood sugar levels.  Some examples are obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome X.  Taking care of your diet can help prevent these conditions from arising and help you feel more balanced and calm.

Blood sugar levels are at the heart of our appetite and mood control.  The more erratic our blood sugar levels, the more erratic our behaviour; from happy highs to depressed lows.  Keep a steady supply of whole foods in your diet and feel more like a whole person overall!

 

Thanks for reading!

Stephanie Ablett

Holistic Nutritionist

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