The Importance of Blood Sugar
What Is Blood Sugar?
Blood sugar refers to the levels of glucose circulating through your bloodstream. Which is directly impacted by the foods, you consume; some foods have a higher impact on blood sugar levels than others. The amount of influence each food has on your blood sugar is called the glycemic index. Foods such as white rice, white bread, pasta, baked goods, and other processed foods have a higher glycemic index. The majority of these foods are high in the glycemic index because they have had their fibrous parts stripped away. The dense and fibrous part of the grain is what slows down the blood sugar spike. For example, brown rice has a lower glycemic index than white rice because white rice has removed the outer hull. Refined carbohydrates give a quick spike to blood sugar, whereas foods with a lower glycemic index result in a gradual rise in blood sugar.
Why is Blood Sugar Important?
Blood sugar is necessary for our functioning, and this is how our body transports energy. Which means we have to have consume healthy forms of glucose so that it can begin moving through our circulatory systems and the body can utilize it as energy. When it becomes a problem is when the amount of glucose becomes out of balance. Too much or too little can lead to detrimental effects on the body physically and mentally.
For example, let us say patient A eats a blueberry muffin and a vanilla latte for breakfast. This blueberry muffin (made with processed, white flours) will cause Patient A’s blood sugar levels to spike immediately. The body responds to this spike by releasing insulin (the key to getting glucose out of the bloodstream and into your cells to be used as energy), which results in a quick drop in blood sugar and is when the fatigue, irritability, sugar cravings, and "hangry" feelings come into the picture. This is about the time Patient A hits the mid-afternoon slump and reach for another high carbohydrate snack or a cup of coffee. The Patient A then gains energy and after a few hours crashes again.
The body was made to deal with the sugar we eat, but the problem starts to stem when a high sugar intake becomes a heavily repeated pattern. A consistent high sugar intake causes the body to respond with consistent high insulin release to combat the spike in sugar. But over time, the pancreas loses its ability to produce insulin or the body becomes less sensitive to the insulin being produced, also known as insulin resistance. Which in turn, leaves blood sugar levels to start getting higher, while less glucose can get into the cells to be used for energy. Too much free sugar floating around in the blood leads to inflammation throughout the body. So even though one might be consuming food, without adequately functioning insulin no glucose can get inside the cells, and your body is being starved at a cellular level.
Effects of High Blood Sugar (Hyperglycemia):
When we consume too much glucose or get the glucose from low-quality sources, it can negatively impact our health. Some of these symptoms can include:
Increased Sugar Craving
Increased risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer's
How Can You Manage Your Blood Sugar?
Balancing blood sugar requires balance in multiple areas of life. The list below contains tips on how you can maintain healthy blood sugar. Start by picking 2 tips and begin to incorporate those into daily practices. Once those feel comfortable, add in another and repeat that process.
How to Balance Blood Sugar
Eat Minimally Processed Foods: Often, processed foods contain refined carbohydrates, which are known to increase blood sugar severely. Eating high-quality, whole foods prevents the consumption of refined sugars, chemical additives, and flavorings.
Increase Your Fiber Intake: Fiber slows the digestion of carbohydrates, promoting a slower blood sugar rise and can help avoid the dramatic spike in blood sugar post-meal. Good sources of fiber include whole grains, raspberries, apples, lentils, avocados, leafy greens, etc.
High-Quality Protein at Every Meal: Protein slows insulin release, which causes a more gradual blood sugar increase post-meal. Protein also promotes fullness, preventing unwanted snacking on high sugar foods. Consuming high-quality protein at every meal ensures balanced blood sugar and feelings of satiety.
High-Quality Fat Consumption: Fats have been found to improve the insulin response, similar to protein. High-quality fats at most meals is recommended. But the type of oil is essential. Avoid refined and trans fatty acids such as vegetable oils, canola oil, soybean oil, and safflower oil, as they contribute majorly to inflammation.
Whole Grain Carbohydrates: Swap out your refined carbs for whole food, whole grain sources such as vegetables, sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, whole-grain bread.
Balanced Meals: Balanced meals = balanced blood sugar release. A balanced meal includes 1/4 of your plate protein, 1/2 the plate nonstarchy vegetables, 1/4 the plate carbohydrates (sweet potato, quinoa, brown rice), and do not forget to add in a fat source! You want to make sure most meals have protein, fat, and fiber included!
Exercise: When exercising, your muscles will need glucose as fuel, so as they contract, they use up glucose. Exercising also increases your insulin sensitivity for up to 24 hours post-workout.
Decrease Stress: High levels of stress release cortisol (the primary stress hormone), which raises blood sugar. Meditation, exercise, and good sleep are all great ways to combat stress. Check out our article on the effects stress has on your health here.
Naturopathic medicine can play a key role in managing blood sugar-related diseases, such as diabetes or insulin resistance. To schedule your naturopathic consultation today, go to www.redwoodnatmed.com! We offer complimentary free 15-minute consultations to answer any questions you might have about naturopathic care.