Eating to Manage Your Blood Sugars
Have you ever heard that chronically high blood sugars are bad for your health? Or perhaps you’ve heard of foods that cause blood sugar “spikes”? This article is going to walk through what exactly blood sugars are, and how you can manage them through your diet.
There are different types of sugars that flow through the bloodstream—these are called blood sugars. One of the most common types of sugar is glucose. Glucose provides energy to the body and it can either be found in food or it can be made by the liver. This sugar is found in the highest quantities in carbohydrate-rich foods, like whole grains, legumes and certain vegetables. However, many processed and packaged foods, like soda, baked goods or candy, contain excessive amounts of sugar while lacking the nutrient-density of the whole foods listed above. Having high quantities of sugars from these types of foods can be harmful to your health over time, leading to disease like hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes (from chronically high blood sugars), obesity, and more.
When glucose is consumed through foods or beverages, the hormone insulin gets released from the pancreas to help store the blood sugars. To put it simply, when blood sugar levels rise, insulin comes in to lower them! Consequently, the body maintains a tight regulation when it comes to your blood sugars to protect your body.
However, there are some conditions, such as diabetes, where the body either cannot make insulin in the pancreas (type I), or cannot use the insulin it has effectively (type II). For these reasons, individuals with diabetes have to monitor their sugar intake and their insulin levels. Both type I and type II diabetes are examples of hyperglycemia—high blood sugars. Hypoglycemia, on the other hand, is when the body’s blood sugars are lower than normal. This could be due to a natural occurrence unrelated to diabetes, like drinking too much alcohol or taking certain medications.
Here are a few simple practices that can help regulate blood sugar levels.
First, exercising is a natural way to lower blood sugars. Many health organizations recommend that everyone (with or without diabetes) should get at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Some of the best types of exercise for blood sugar control are aerobic exercises—such as walking, jogging, or biking!
Stay mindful of your portions
Overeating, or getting too much sugar at one time, can lead to high blood sugar levels. For an easy tip, try using your hand as a guide. You can use the size of your fist to estimate the amount of carbohydrate-rich foods like grains, starches, or fruit to have at one sitting.
Healthy eating away from home
Being mindful of what you eat when away from home can help you stay on track with your goals. Restaurant foods are often packed with lots of added sugar, salt, fat and calories, so try cooking at home more often. Alternately, try a meal delivery service to get healthy foods straight to your door.
Choose fibre-rich foods
Choosing foods high in fibre will slow the rise in blood sugars, can improve cholesterol levels, and provide a feeling of satiety. Foods high in fibre include fruits and vegetables, beans, lentils, and whole grains.
Stress plays a large role in overall health and can lead to increased blood sugars. Therefore, it is important to keep stress levels at a minimum. Aside from exercise, there are many ways to stay calm and relaxed (many of which are completely free!). Try spending time with friends and family when you are upset or stressed, support can help relieve feelings of loneliness and improve your mood.
All in all, eating a balanced healthy diet and adopting healthy behaviours, like exercise and stress management will help you balance your blood sugars. Remember, a sugary treat once in a while won’t permanently impact your blood sugars - that’s why we have insulin! Consequently, it’s important that we stay mindful of unhealthy behaviours long-term, as these are the ones that can impact our overall health!
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