We all know that people with diabetes have to be cautious of their sugar intake, but what about the rest of us? The answer is that elevations in blood sugar have a huge effect on our health. Every time we eat sugar, our immune system is disabled for 4 hours following the meal. This not only leaves you vulnerable to infections but also increases your risk of cancer in the long run. Elevated sugar levels also cause inflammation in the blood vessels which increases your risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. It also puts stress on your pancreas and can lead to type 2 diabetes. But the most immediate effect sugar intake has is fatigue. When we eat a high sugar meal this causes a spike in blood sugar which causes the pancreas to release large amounts of insulin which causes the blood sugar to drop. When the blood sugar drops so does your energy and your body sends you hunger signals. This causes you to seek more sugary foods and the cycle starts over again. This sugar rollercoaster leads to fatigue and lack of concentration throughout the whole day which ends in difficulty sleeping, leaving you tired for the next day, and thus the cycle continues. So how do you break this cycle? Here are a few tips:
- Start your day with a high protein breakfast like oatmeal and nuts, eggs, or even left- over meat or beans and vegetables from then night before. Leave the sugary cereals, doughnuts, and waffles and syrup behind.
- Have a small snack every 2-4 hours throughout the day. These should also contain protein like nuts, or nut butter and fruit or crackers, hummus, quinoa salad, hard boiled egg, yogurt, or a piece of meat or cheese. Any time you have a food that is high in sugar or carbohydrates like fruit or bread, add a protein source to it in order to balance the blood sugar.
- Your larger meals should be made of 50% vegetables, 25% protein source, and 25% grains or starchy vegetables. Dividing your plate down the middle and having one half be vegetables and the other half divided between your protein source and carbohydrate is an easy way to check your portions. Good protein sources are animal products, beans, and legumes.
- If you have a snack after dinner, make sure it is full of protein and has no added sugar so it doesn’t disrupt your sleep.
- Eat whole grains instead of refined grains. The “brown” part of grains is the fiber. Fiber slows the rate at which sugar is absorbed to avoid the spikes. So choose brown rice over white and whole wheat over white breads and pastas.
- Avoid things with added sugar including things with corn syrup, brown rice syrup, and barley malt.
Following these steps will lead to better sleep, focus, and more even energy throughout the day. It also will help prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes. With summer here, try visiting one of the many farmer’s markets in Sonoma county for healthy blood sugar balancing foods. Follow this link to learn more about Windsor’s farmer’s market.