The 4 Best Ways to Balance your Blood Sugar Or: How keeping almonds in my purse saved my life
I used to (and occasionally still do) suffer from blood sugar dips and the seemingly ubiquitous “hanger”.
I would get home from work and shove 5 cookies in my mouth while I was thinking about what I would eat. Crazy, right?
A little bag of raw almonds changed all that.
The protein, fat, and fibre in my purse meant that I was saved from the sugar-and-carbohydrate-rich snack that my body was pushing me towards. Instead, I could take a deep breath and make a mindful choice about my lunch. (I even found a recent study that found that eating almonds improved that mid-afternoon slump! Yay.)
Blood sugar swings and dips are the most common issue that most people site when it comes to improving their diet or losing weight. The cravings for carbs and sugar can be intense and hard to manage.
However - getting off the “rollercoaster” of high blood sugar, followed by a crash, followed by another sugar craving is very important for weight loss, and for your overall health. Irregular blood sugar can lead to insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, and Type II Diabetes.
These conditions can make losing weight even more difficult as the way the body manages your food alters drastically. Never mind the other health issues that come along with these conditions. It can be serious stuff.
But it is not all doom and gloom! It is possible to help your body get off the rollercoaster.
Here are some of my best tips and things to know about your blood sugar.
The reason you can’t stop eating sugar/carbs isn’t because you are “weak”
There are physiological reasons why we crave these foods and why they are so addictive (aka: it’s your body, baby) - it is not just lack of willpower on your part!
When you start the day with something high in refined carbs or sugar (think that great croissant with jam from your favourite French bakery), your blood sugar spikes quickly.This is followed by a flood of insulin from your pancreas. Insulin is like the gatekeeper for sugar – it knocks on the door of your cells and lets the sugar in so it can be used to produce energy in the body. However, too much sugar in the bloodstream can cause damage to the blood vessels, so insulin pulls LOTS of the sugar out of the blood. Then you crash. Then, in this state of depletion (foggy head, rumbling tummy, possible irrational behaviour), your body sends you searching for something that will fix the problem quickly. And you know what that is? More refined carbs or sugar. The rollercoaster goes on.
While this info may not help you cut back on these foods, it is nice to know that you’re not just some weak-willed creature with no ability to say “no thank you” – your body is driving your behaviour. So be kind to yourself.
2. “Crowd out” the sugar and carbohydrates with better options
The more good stuff you have in front of you, the easier it is to leave the not-so-good stuff behind.
Plan your meals. Make bulk batches of salads, soups, stir fries, curries, etc. in advance. Cut up your veggies and bring hummus to work and make yourself eat that first, and then decide if you still need a cinnamon bun. Make the better stuff easier, more attainable, more up-in-your-grill than the high carb refined stuff.
You’ll likely find that as you eat more veggies and fruit (which are full of miraculous, antioxidant-rich chemicals which would blow your mind if you knew the details), you’ll naturally eat less of the other stuff. Just crowd it out. No drama.
3. Eat protein with every meal and snack This is where the almonds come in!
Protein provides a more steady release of blood sugar than carbs/sugar, as it takes more time and energy to break it down. Having protein with your meals takes you off the rollercoaster and onto more of a kid’s ride. Like one where you sit in a giant swan and just float around the lake. Less dramatic and exciting, yes, but also wayyyy better for your body. And I’m not saying that you still can’t ride a real-life-rollercoaster. Remember, this is just a metaphor 😉
4. Eat more fat (but the kind of fat counts)
Fat makes us feel full, and is actually used for a wide variety of functions within the body (unlike carbohydrates, whose only job is to provide energy). Studies of people on higher fat diets found that they naturally ate less calories and lost more weight than those on higher carb, low-fat diets. Fat provides the outer layer of all of our cells, so you know, we can’t survive without it. It is also part of the makeup of our hormones. Some of the worst hormone issues I have seen, especially around menopause, were in women who had been on a low-fat “diet” for the better part of the last 20 years. Boo. Urns. Picking good fats is an important part of this strategy. I’m not talking about a McDonald’s hamburger or a bag of chips. I’m talking about whole fats from real foods. Avocados. Olives. Eggs (yay also protein). Nuts and seeds (ditto protein). Greek yogurt. Fish and meat if you swing that way. Just whole, unprocessed foods. Ta da!
My top protein & fat picks:
Nuts and seeds (unroasted unsalted- or do it at home if you want them salty), eggs, beans and legumes (eg: lentils, chickpeas), fish, chicken, cheese and yogurt if you can do dairy, meat
Still hangry? Want someone to take the guesswork out of your meals? Check out my new 90-day, comprehensive online meal-plan program Taste Success. Coming to an internet near you soon!
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