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Blood sugar is a relatively common health phenomenon across the globe, but there’s still a lot to learn about it.
Blood sugar or glucose is carried through the bloodstream to provide energy to your body.
Glucose increases when you eat–particularly foods that contain refined carbohydrates, vegetable oils, and sugar. Protein, but not fat, can be converted to glucose when needed, too.
Since organs function best with balance, the body tries to maintain stable blood sugar levels. This internal balance is referred to as homeostasis.
When you eat carbs, they are broken down into simple sugars during the digestion process.
Glucose is the primary simple sugar that fuels the body.
Blood sugar levels rise after eating, but then typically return to homeostatic levels within an hour.
Blood sugar is at its lowest levels in the morning after fasting during the night.
Once glucose is broken down during digestion, it needs to be delivered into the cells. Insulin is the hormone that allows glucose to enter the cells for energy.
Without insulin, the cells would not be able to receive glucose.
Insulin releases when glucose is present.
When blood sugar levels are high, like with diabetes, insulin levels rise correspondingly to evacuate the glucose from the bloodstream. But because one of the causes of high blood sugar is insulin resistance, the insulin keeps flooding your bloodstream without aiding cell absorption of glucose.
In other cases, the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to keep up with demands, as is common in type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is often referred to as insulin dependent diabetes because even when dietary glucose is limited, there is still not enough insulin to handle the glucose load.
In other cases, typically with type 2 diabetes, the body becomes desensitized to the presence of insulin. This is known as insulin resistance.
The pancreas produces more insulin, but in becomes harder for the insulin to stimulate the absorption of glucose.
In a nutshell, glucose is a simple sugar that is needed for cellular energy. Insulin allows glucose to be absorbed into the cells for energy.
In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. In type 2 diabetes, the body cells become resistant to insulin actions.
And how does your diet affect blood sugar levels?
Since all the glucose in your body is derived from your diet, what you eat has a big impact on your blood sugar levels.
How much glucose is produced, and how your body responds to it, is determined by a few key factors:
Genetics can be a primary factor in how your body responds to glucose and insulin.
Certain populations can be at a greater risk of diabetes than others.
Dozens of other specific genetic mutations can increase the risk of type 1 or type 2 diabetes and the associated glucose and insulin problems.
So, while some people may claim their genetics are at fault and diet has nothing to do with it, the management of genetic-induced diabetes still requires lifestyle modifications.
If you indulge a diet high in refined carbs, vegetable oils, and sugar, then you’re likely getting more glucose than your body needs for energy.
When you consume excess glucose that insulin cannot take into your cells, it gets stored as fat. This is because your body can draw from your fat tissue when it needs extra energy. However, this extra fat can lead to obesity, which further fuels the hormonal chaos that happens when insulin resistance becomes a chronic problem.
The glycemic index was designed to help diabetics manage their glucose levels. It takes 50 grams of any given carbohydrate-containing food and subtracts fiber grams (which are indigestible). The net number that remains indicates the glycemic index of the food in question.
Higher count glycemic index foods will spike glucose more than lower count ones.
But trying to manage diabetes on the glycemic index alone can be difficult…
Lifestyle and dietary modifications can be very effective, especially when a diet focuses on whole foods and ditches refined and processed carbs.
And while some people with type 2 diabetes may need to focus on low carbs to reduce the glucose surge and regain insulin sensitivity, not everyone with diabetes will need to cut carbs…
High quality carbs such as those found in fruits and vegetables, are beneficial because they offer nutrients that can help reverse chronic conditions.
The best way to ensure eating healthy carbs won’t spike glucose is to choose carbs with high fiber content, or pair them with quality fats and proteins. This will slow down digestion and regulate the speed at which glucose is released into the bloodstream…
While creating a more stable environment as insulin escorts glucose into the cells.
When it comes to blood sugar regulation, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Starting the day off with a breakfast high in protein sets the tone for balanced blood sugar throughout the day.
In general, aim for 20 grams of protein or higher.
The bottom line…
Controlling blood sugar is easier with a Paleo diet focusing on whole foods as opposed to a diet full of refined carbs and sugar.
Quality protein and fat help balance carbohydrates intake, especially when it’s part of a healthy breakfast.
And what foods should you indulge most for a well-balanced, steady blood sugar?
There are many foods of course, but some stand out…
Ceylon cinnamon is known to help control blood sugar and insulin levels. It’s effective at balancing blood sugar because of the presence of antioxidants, which help improve hormonal communication and proper glucose storage and use.
And while there are 2 types of cinnamon, Ceylon cinnamon loads the best health benefits.
Cassia cinnamon is most commonly found on grocery store shelves. So be sure to find the one that’s clearly labelled “Ceylon”.
Health food stores and online markets are usually the best source.
Salmon fish–it’s rich in protein and healthy fats, which prevent blood sugar spike.
Additionally, it reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, thanks to the presence of anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids.
Blood sugar can spark inflammation within the body, but Omega-3s, abundantly found in salmon, work to counterbalance the inflammatory problems, as well as restoring normal glucose usage in the body.
And while some may struggle to eat salmon, especially if they are not “fish people“, recipes like salmon burger with mango slew are a good way to introduce salmon to your diet without being put off by that “fishy” taste and smell.
Eggs have a spot on the list, too…
Rich in protein and healthy fats, eggs are a quick and easy food that makes a good meal or snack. They promote fullness and have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar.
They also promote the good kind of cholesterol that protects against inflammation and chronic health problems.
Eggs are rich in folate, B12, selenium, and a host of other nutrients that promote stable blood sugar, thanks to a balance between protein and fat.
One of the best and tastiest ways to add eggs to your diet is to eat them with avocado, since they share similar nutrient profiles, which help increase satiety and balanced blood sugar long after you’ve finished eating.
What about Walnuts?
While most tree nuts can be beneficial for diabetes and overall health, thanks to their protein content, walnuts are in a class of their own…
They promote healthy insulin levels and weight loss due to their high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids.
These PUFAs can help decrease fasting insulin levels by improving hormonal communication and glucose usage.
Walnuts are also rich in B vitamins, which nourish the nervous system and promote a balanced mood.
They are also rich in minerals like zinc, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorous.
Notably, walnuts have a distinctly nutty taste and may not be the preferred snacking nut, but you can work them into your diet painlessly by adding them to a delicious chicken salad.
Apple Cider Vinegar is yet another blood sugar friendly food…
Drinking apple cider vinegar before meals can improve the body’s ability to take glucose into the cells by increasing muscular blood flow and reducing insulin resistance.
Taking ACV before bed can also improve the next morning’s fasting glucose, thanks to better blood flow to the muscles, which can be dramatic for anyone battling type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
And the list of foods continues…
With Chia seeds kicking in…
They’re high in fiber and low in carbs that raise glucose, making them a perfect blood sugar-friendly food.
Chia seeds also contain almost six grams of protein in a single ounce, besides being an abundant source of calcium, potassium, phosphorous, and natural antioxidants.
Chia seeds can help address insulin resistance by improving hormonal communication and helping the body better regulate blood sugar and insulin levels. This makes them an ideal food for the prevention and reversal of the hormonal distortion.
It’s now time to flip the script and look at the list of specific foods that offend your glucose by causing a spike and stimulating insulin resistance…
Excess sugar–added sugars are the most obvious culprits for increasing blood sugar, but there are others like honey and maple syrup that can silently contribute to the problem.
Sodas and high-fructose foods are also in this category.
Following a Paleo diet that is low in processed foods, and which focuses on meats, vegetables, fruits, fats, nuts, and seeds, will result in a natural avoidance of added sweeteners.
Those trying to balance glucose or reverse insulin resistance should strive to limit or avoid baked foods, including Paleo ones that add sweeteners and use higher-starch-laden flours like cassava.
Grains— they don’t fall into Paleo category because of the phytates and lectins they contain. These properties, otherwise known as anti-nutrients can cause digestive upsets and other health problems.
So, whether it’s white rice, quick oats, or refined wheat, grains are more likely to spike blood sugar than the carbs in vegetables or nuts. This is partially because grains don’t have much protein or fat to slow the digestion and release of glucose.
Foods fried in Hydrogenated Oils or Trans Fats–such foods increase inflammatory markers, mess up the good bacterial balance in the gut, and increase fat tissue, while altering the way the liver and other detox organs work.
Trans fats also alter the way insulin works in the body, leading to complications.
And taking care of your blood sugar goes beyond food to encompass some lifestyle factors…
One of them is exercise…and getting the recommended amount of physical activity can have a huge impact on your glucose management.
Walking is always a good form of exercise, given that almost anyone can do it, and it can be done for short or long periods of time.
Regular exercise is more important than the specific type, and it can reduce the likelihood of diabetes in predisposed persons, besides helping to manage it as an existing condition.
Yoga can be very effective in reducing fasting and postprandial (post-meal) glucose levels, resulting in better use of glucose and healthy redistribution of fat.
Whether or not you’re a yoga enthusiast, it can be an enjoyable and relaxing form of exercise, and a great start or end-of -day routine.
And Vitamin D?
When D levels are low, the risk of insulin resistance and developing diabetes increases. In fact, optimizing a child’s vitamin D levels can reduce the risk of developing type 1 diabetes.
The best source of vitamin D is sunlight, and you’ve no reason to suffer deficiency, especially if you live in the tropics.
Natural dietary sources of vitamin D abound, like cod liver oil from fish, and most food sources are artificially supplemented with extra vitamin D.
The Vitamin D Council advises supplementation in most cases to meet the recommended daily amounts, ranging from 1,000 iu for infants to 5,000 iu daily for adults.
Vitamin D3 is the superior supplemental form as opposed to the less active D2.
Levels should be monitored by a practitioner to ensure optimal supplementation and health benefits.
And did you know that stress is a big factor in the blood sugar puzzle?
In order to maximize efforts to balance blood sugar, you should find healthy ways to reduce and manage stress levels…
Whether it’s engaging in a regular form of exercise, cutting sugar entirely, practicing meditation, or finding an enjoyable hobby, there are many healthy ways of combating the negative effects of stress.
And what follows next needs no be-laboring because it has been said enough times…
Adequate, quality sleep should be a top priority.
Not getting enough sleep can disrupt blood sugar, increase the risk of insulin insensitivity and poor hormonal communication, trigger more stress, and lead to chronic health conditions.
In today’s time-poor and hectic lifestyle trends, it’s very easy to sacrifice sleep at the altar of being “busy“. But sustained sleep deficiency is perilous to your health, even at the most modest amounts.
Up to this point, you’re at a very good point on your journey to managing blood sugar effectively for optimal health…
And although this article is in-depth to some extent, it’s just a fraction of what you need to know about blood sugar!
But don’t start scratching your head…
I know time is always short and of the essence…
Against this backdrop, I’ve stitched together, a very comprehensive resource, specifically designed to enrich your knowledge in blood sugar and hand you back the reigns of your destiny.
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