We’ve all been there. It’s 3pm and you’re chugging along when all of a sudden you get lethargic, shaky, moody, and downright hangry. This response is your blood sugar levels taking a roller coaster ride and influencing metabolic state and mood in the process. Here’s how to fix that and naturally balance blood sugar at the same time.
What Is Blood Sugar?
Blood sugar is controlled by insulin, a hormone that is secreted in response to the sugar we consume. Not only do cupcakes and ice cream promote the secretion of insulin, apples and quinoa do too, as they are primarily carbohydrates made up of glucose (sugar).
When carbohydrates hit the blood stream they are metabolized into sugar. Consuming a large amount of carbohydrates in a short amount of time (hey there, pizza and beer night) can lead to blood sugar peaking and falling on a roller coaster ride of sugar.
When blood sugar goes haywire, you unsurprisingly crave more sugar and carbohydrates, because insulin is still flowing through the body. This can lead to a vicious cycle of carbing up, crashing, and burning.
Here’s how to prevent the blood sugar roller coaster and naturally balance blood sugar. Trust me, it’s easier than you think.
1. Eat A Balanced Meal
Balanced meals composed of fiber, healthy fats, high quality protein, and complex carbohydrates take longer to break down and digest in the body. In turn, blood sugar is slowly released resulting in an elongated blood sugar curve, not a course of dramatic high and low peaks.
Enjoy high quality protein like organic eggs, wild fish, and grass-fed beef with ample healthy fats to slow down sugar in the bloodstream. Healthy fats include nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, avocado, ghee, and grass-fed butter. Fill up on fiber from beans and legumes, leafy greens, and vegetables.
2. Skip Juice
Although drinking a daily juice seems like a healthy do, it’s actually a blood sugar don’t. Most fruit and vegetable juices are packed with sugar, even the trendy green ones. For example, Juice Generation’s Get Ur Green On juice, made of kale, pineapple, mint, spinach, and apple has 36 grams of sugar per bottle -- about the same as a can of soda. This is roughly nine teaspoons of sugar – which is more than a Snickers bar.
Juicing strips fruit and vegetables of their fiber resulting in a sugary tonic that hits the bloodstream instantly when consumed. When this happens, so too does the inevitable blood sugar roller coaster ride.
If you must have a fresh-pressed juice, limit consumption to once or twice a month and always consume it with a balanced meal.
A blood sugar stabilizing drink of choice? Water.
3. Add Cinnamon (to Everything)
Spicy and fragrant cinnamon has potent blood sugar stabilizing properties. A 2013 review and meta-analysis of 10 studies found that consuming cinnamon resulted in a “statistically significant” decrease in glucose, total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides. Participants who consumed cinnamon in the studies also increased their HDL (good) cholesterol.
Sprinkle cinnamon on oatmeal, add to smoothies and baked goods, and use in a seasoning rub for chicken, vegetables, and meat – it’s one versatile spice.
4. Consider Carbohydrate Quality
There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Both types will raise blood sugar levels, but they will do it very differently.
Simple carbohydrates are found in “white foods” including white potatoes, flour, sugar, baked goods, and processed and packaged snack foods. These foods lack fiber and are rapidly broken down in the body, resulting in blood sugar fluctuations.
Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are filled with fiber and break down much more slowly in the body. This creates less of an impact on blood sugar levels. Foods rich in complex carbohydrates include beans, legumes, chia seeds, oats, flax seeds, quinoa, and root vegetables like sweet potatoes and butternut squash.
5. Stress Less
Managing stress is key to balanced blood sugar. When our body is stressed, we not only reach for extra cookies, we pump out the hormone cortisol to respond to it.
When cortisol is secreted, all other non-essential body functions (like digestion and reproductive function) are temporarily put on hold to deal with the stressor at hand. When this happens, insulin is suppressed, glucagon (glucose stored in the liver) releases glucose into the bloodstream, and immune function is put on the back burner until the threat is managed. Once the stressor is resolved, the body goes back to normal functioning. Insulin rebalances blood sugar levels by storing glucose into cells, the liver, and muscles.
This very normal adaptive response was significant from a biological perspective as it helped our ancestors to run from lions and bears, for example. In our modern world, stressors like angry bosses, traffic, and finances keep cortisol levels high, impacting blood sugar levels. When the signaling process of insulin and cortisol become too stretched, cells can become resistant to insulin, leading to metabolic diseases like type-2 diabetes, high cholesterol, and high triglycerides.
How can we stress less in our very busy lives? Take walks, make a hot cup of herbal tea, call your mom, have a bubble bath, cook, read a book or magazine, and get a good night’s sleep.
With these five simple methods, it's easy to naturally balance blood sugar levels.
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