FOCUS ON BLOOD SUGAR

Blood sugar imbalance is relatively common, symptoms of which can be fatigue, feeling drowsy during the day, difficulty concentrating, irritability, headaches, needing frequent meals or snacks, cravings for sweet food or caffeine.  It can contribute to anxiety, poor sleep, weight gain and inflammation, which can lead to other chronic health problems. Dietary changes can quickly help to balance blood sugar levels and regulate insulin. Insulin is released when blood sugar levels increase. Insulin moves sugar (glucose) out of the blood into cells for storage and use. It tells the body to stop burning fat and to take in glucose and store it. Additional glucose (when the storage in the liver and muscles is full) is converted into fat in the liver and stored in fat cells. Carbohydrates increase blood sugar levels (especially refined carbs such as pasta, bread, potatoes, white rice, cakes/biscuits, fruit juice, sugar, etc) therefore reducing the carbohydrate content of meals and increasing protein and healthy fats (which do not create an insulin spike) is a simple way to stabilise blood sugar. Stress (physical, mental, emotional) can also increase blood sugar levels, by increasing the stress hormone, cortisol, which is produced in the adrenal glands. Chronically elevated cortisol levels also trigger your body to store fat and break down muscle. Elevated cortisol can be caused by poor sleep, stress, underlying inflammation.

 

Top tips for balancing blood sugar:

  • Reduce/avoid refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, sugar, etc) (also see gluten avoidance below). These foods break down to glucose very quickly and can cause spikes in blood sugar. Reducing processed, refined carbohydrates and increasing protein and healthy fats (see below) can help to balance blood sugar and keep insulin levels low.

  • Include quality protein with each meal (eggs, fish, meat, poultry). Protein does not cause sugar spikes and also keeps you feeling fuller for longer. 

  • Increase healthy fats (oily fish, egg yolks, avocado, olive oil, coconut, grass few meats). Fats do not increase blood sugar levels. Healthy fats increase satiety and are also very important to keep your cells healthy and sensitive to insulin. 

  • Avoid vegetable oils and trans fats (eg cakes, biscuits, fried foods, margarine, cheese spreads, vegetable oils) as these are toxic to the body and can increase inflammation and increase insulin resistance. 

  • Try to avoid snacking between meals, but if you need to try and include protein/fat to avoid a blood sugar spike

  • Avoid artificial sweeteners - The sweet taste, even from sugar free sweeteners has been shown to increase insulin levels. 

  • Reduce stress - Cortisol (a stress hormone) is released by the adrenal glands when the body is under stress (physical, mental, environmental) and chronically elevated cortisol can trigger your body to store fat and break down muscle, as well as increase blood sugar levels. 

  • Exercise - Exercising uses up some of the extra glucose and can also help to make your cells more sensitive to insulin. However, overtraining can increase stress levels in the body so it is important to make sure you are not pushing your body too hard. Resistance exercises such as walking up hills, lifting weights and interval training (short bursts of high intensity exercises) are good for helping to balance blood sugar. 

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