By Renell Cronk, RDN, LD
November is American Diabetes Month. Here’s what you need to know about balancing your blood sugar.
What is blood sugar?
Blood sugar, also known as blood glucose (glucose is a form of sugar), is the amount of sugar or glucose in the bloodstream at a given time. Our blood glucose levels fluctuate throughout the day depending on what we eat. It is typically the lowest when we wake up in the morning and the highest after a meal.
Carbohydrates effect on blood sugar?
When we eat carbohydrates (carbs) or sugar such as bread, chips, candy, cereal, cookies, rice, potatoes and fruits, our body will digest and break these carbs down into glucose. This glucose is then transported from our digestive tract into the bloodstream, causing blood glucose levels to rise. The more glucose digested, the faster the rise of blood glucose levels.
What is insulin?
Insulin is a hormone that is released from the pancreas in response to glucose in the blood stream. Insulin’s function is to help us use glucose for energy. Insulin also delivers glucose to our muscle, liver and fat cells to store for future use. Without insulin, glucose cannot travel to or gain access into the cell. Think of it like a concert, you are glucose, and insulin is your ticket. Without your ticket (insulin), you (glucose) cannot get into the concert (cell). Insulin is critical in that it aids your blood glucose levels from getting too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia).
What causes unhealthy blood sugar levels?
Ingesting processed carbs and sugary foods will cause blood glucose levels to rise rapidly. This rapid rise is a shock to your body that can be very damaging. Your pancreas compensates by releasing excess levels of insulin. This excess of insulin causes glucose to be rapidly removed, which can lead to something you’ve likely heard of, called a “sugar crash”. A “sugar crash”, or extreme drop in blood glucose, can cause brain fog, fatigue, and a strong craving for more carbs/sugar to help bring blood glucose levels back to normal. Putting our body in this state causes us to be in a constant fat storage mode which can lead to weight gain.
What can lead to insulin resistance?
Over time, these rapid fluctuations can be damaging to the body and could cause the body to become insulin resistant. Insulin resistance is when either your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, or your cells start to resist insulin from delivering glucose to them. Typically, your fat cells are the last cells to become insulin resistant. This is known as Type 2 Diabetes.
What supports healthy blood sugar levels?
Consuming a meal balanced with protein, healthy fats and complex carbs slows down digestion causing glucose to be slowly absorbed over time. This slowed absorption keeps your blood glucose levels in a healthy, balanced range, which supports energy levels, clear thinking and reduced cravings. Keeping our blood sugars in a balanced range promotes a fat burning mode, which can support weight management/loss.
What is a crash meal vs. a balanced meal?
Since breakfast is key to start the day off right, let’s compare a crash breakfast vs. a balanced one. A crash breakfast might consist of cereal with skim milk and orange juice; mostly carbohydrates. A balanced breakfast would consist of scrambled eggs with spinach, a sprinkle of cheese, and a few berries on the side. This contains a balance of protein, fat and complex carbs.
Sisson, Mark. The Primal Blueprint. Primal Nutrition, Inc., 2012.
About the Author
Renell Cronk is a Registered Dietitian with PsyMed, Inc. She helps educate and prepare Nicholson Clinic patients before and after surgery with meal planning, recipe ideas, nutrition education and more. Nothing gives Renell a greater feeling of accomplishment and joy than helping individuals achieve their health, lifestyle and nutrition goals.