High levels of sugar in the blood occur when the body does not properly use insulin or does not make enough insulin. Insulin is a hormone which assists the entrance of glucose into your cells for energy.
High blood sugar over time can lead to diabetes. About 1/3 of all Canadians either have diabetes or pre-diabetes, even if it has not been formally diagnosed.
In order to prevent or manage diabetes, blood sugar levels should be kept at a steady level throughout the day with smaller increases after meals. The good news is that through dietary and lifestyle changes alone- we can impact blood sugar levels. We can decrease both the frequency and the volume of spikes in the blood sugar throughout the day.
Here are my top 5 tips if you’re trying to manage your blood sugar levels throughout the day.
Avoid simple carbohydrates and sugar-sweetened beverages. Simple carbohydrates are foods that rapidly turn to sugar in the blood stream. These include foods such as bagels, cereal, noodles, pizza, pasta, pie, bread, white rice, and many condiments. If consuming carbohydrates, try to stick to complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates take longer to break down into their sugar completes in the blood- creating less of a blood sugar spike. Complex carbohydrates include foods such as: black beans, chickpeas, lentils, starchy vegetables such as squash, sweet potato, cooked carrots or whole grains such as quinoa. Sugary beverages deliver a high volume of sugar to the blood stream very quickly. Sugar-sweetened beverages don’t just include sodas but also drinks such as fruit juices (even if completely natural), Vitamin Water, and Gatorade.
Increase your fibre intake. Fibre slows down the digestion of carbohydrates and therefore fibre-rich foods create a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels rather than a spike. Fiber slows carbohydrate digestion and sugar absorption. For these reasons, it promotes a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels. The recommended daily intake of fibre is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. Some common sources of fibre include: flax seed, psyllium, chia seeds, non-starchy vegetables such as asparagus, okra, broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cucumber, lettuce, mushrooms, and spinach.
Increase your protein intake. Just like fibre, protein blunts the spike in blood glucose and creates a more gradual increase in blood sugar levels. Protein sources include lean meats such as turkey or chicken, fish, eggs, legumes, or tofu.
Exercise. Regular exercise increases your body’s sensitivity to the hormone insulin. When the body is more sensitive to insulin, the sugar in the blood is distributed into the cells to use for energy more rapidly. This means more energy but also less sugar sitting around in the blood stream. Exercise can include weight lifting, walking, swimming, jogging, an exercise class or playing a sport. Consistency is key when it comes to exercise.
Get adequate amount of quality sleep. Poor sleep can impact blood sugar levels and decrease the sensitivity to the hormone insulin. Poor sensitivity to insulin means sugar stays in the blood for prolonged amount of time. With poor sleep, appetite also increases, promoting sugar cravings throughout the next day.
Although general lifestyle tips can be helpful to most, it is always important to speak to a healthcare provider before implementing changes into your routine. Are you looking for individualized assistance in managing your blood sugar levels? Let’s chat!