Understanding Blood Sugar Balance

Dec 16, 2022

Most of us have heard the term “insulin resistance” and “high blood sugar”, but what does this mean? Think of insulin as a key to the cell – it unlocks the cell and allows glucose into that cell to prevent blood sugar levels from rising in the blood.  A diet consistently high in sugar along with unhealthy fats and processed foods, can cause the pancreas to produce more insulin. Overtime, the pancreas can't keep up with the demand (produces less insulin) and causes the cells to respond poorly to insulin, which may lead to Type 2 Diabetes.

Below are some recommendations and tips on how to help balance your blood sugar.

Balance your macros, Balance your blood sugar

Macronutrients consist of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Along with micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients), they are the fuel that keep our bodies running and functioning properly. How much of each macronutrient should we be consuming? Let’s break it down:

Protein: A general rule of thumb is getting somewhere between 0.8 and 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, per day. This number depends on exercise, age, and health status.

Carbohydrates: Calculating your carbohydrate intake varies from person to person and it is generally not advised to go below 100 grams per day (especially for women). If you are exercising, then getting anywhere from 250 – 400 grams might be required to support muscle function and recovery.

Fats: On average, your daily fat intake should make up 20-35% of your total calories. This is equivalent to 44-78g of fat for those following a 2000-calorie diet. The majority of fats should consist of monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats while limiting saturated fats to no more than 22g per day.

There are also some general factors to consider when choosing your macro sources. Eat the rainbow! Choose brightly colored fruit and vegetables, along with some grass fed/free range animal protein/eggs, some whole grains & legumes, and healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, seeds, and avocadoes. Eat lower glycemic carbohydrates like greens, some fruits, whole grains, and vegetables. Limit refined carbs like white rice and white bread.  

Stay Hydrated

Water is involved in almost every bodily function such as circulation, digestion, absorption, and elimination of wastes. It also helps your kidneys flush any excess sugar out of the blood, through urine. Water requirements can vary from person to person depending on the climate, our activity level, and diet. On average, we should be consuming about 8-12 cups of water per day. This amount doesn't have to come from drinking water alone, but can also come from the food we eat (like fruit and vegetables).

Increase Your Fiber Intake

Dietary fiber is broken down into insoluble and soluble fiber.  Soluble fiber, which has the most beneficial effects for blood sugar control, includes foods like beans, cruciferous vegetables, avocadoes, oats, and pears. Along with fat and protein, fiber slows down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates and prevents quick spikes in blood sugar. Some population studies show that blood sugar imbalances are related to inadequate fiber intake (1). So how much should one take? Aim to get 35-50 grams a day. If you are new to fiber rich foods, be sure to increase fiber slowly as it may cause abdominal discomfort like gas and bloating. Or you can always try consuming an easily digestible fiber supplement like acacia, before some of your meals, if you can't get enough from your diet.

Exercise Regularly

Regular exercise (3 to 4 times a week) can help you maintain a healthy weight, enhance insulin sensitivity, and help improve glucose metabolism (2). Choose an activity that you enjoy and try to increase your heart rate for around half an hour each session. It is important to have a combination of strength training, stretching, and aerobic exercises as they all play a role in keeping your metabolism functioning optimally.

Eat Foods high in Chromium and Magnesium

Micronutrients like vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients are important too! Especially minerals like magnesium and chromium. If you are not absorbing these minerals or not getting enough in your diet, they may be a contributing factor to high blood sugar and even diabetes. Chromium works closely with insulin as it helps the uptake of glucose into the cell. Without it, insulin cannot function properly which may result in a rise of glucose levels in the blood. Foods rich in chromium are meat, mussels, oysters, egg yolks, whole grains, green beans, and broccoli. Magnesium also plays a role in glucose metabolism, among its many other functions. That is why a deficiency in magnesium may increase your chances of becoming diabetic. Foods rich in magnesium are tofu, nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables.

The Low Glycemic Diet and why it’s important

Did you know that not all carbohydrates are the same? Some digest more slowly than others, therefore having a different effect on our blood sugar. But how do we know which ones? Thankfully, we don’t have to guess. A measurement system (The Glycemic Index) that was created by Dr. David Jenkins, a Canadian professor, ranks foods containing carbs according to their effect on blood sugar levels. There are 3 GI ratings and they are as follows:

Low: 55 or fewer

Medium: 56 – 69

High: 70 or more

There are of course a lot of factors that can influence the GI rating such as cooking method, ripeness, etc., but choosing the majority of foods that fall into the low range is preferred. While you can still eat foods that fall into the other ranges, these foods should be limited and/or combined with low glycemic foods if you struggle with blood sugar control.

Some low glycemic foods include:

Whole grains such as sourdough bread, rye, barley, brown rice, quinoa, and popcorn

Fruits such as apples, berries, grapefruit, mangoes, oranges, apricots, plums and pears

Vegetables such as broccoli, asparagus, cucumber, cauliflower, mushrooms, peppers, and celery

Legumes such as lentils, soybeans, split peas, chickpeas, and kidney beans

Important Blood Sugar Balancing Tips

Just 10 minutes of movement (i.e. walking, working out, etc.) after eating prevents large blood sugar spikes and reduces inflammation. How? Your muscles soak up glucose to make energy therefore preventing a drastic spike in blood sugar.

East your food in the right order. Veggies first, then protein, fat, starches, and sugars. If the food is mixed together, eating them all at once is totally fine. Just make sure you have some protein, fat, and fiber in that meal to slow down gastric emptying.

Can’t give up your oats for breakfast? We don’t want you to! By adding lower glycemic fruits like berries, fiber & protein from chia or hemp seeds, and some healthy fats like nuts to your oatmeal, you can greatly reduce a spike in blood sugar.

Add cinnamon to your meals. Cinnamon may help lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity by making insulin more efficient at moving sugar into cells (3).

Try cooling your starches. Love your white rice and potatoes? By cooling these starches for 24 hours at 4 degrees Celsius, can lead to an increase in resistant starch content (acts a prebiotic fiber) and therefore lowers the glycemic response (4).

Sourdough bread, for many reasons, is often a healthier choice. Not only does it contain more bioavailable nutrients, it also helps slow down the digestion of starch which results in a lower glucose spike.

Overall, balancing your blood sugar is a very individualized approach. It takes times, there can be a lot of trial and error, and sometimes Pharmaceutical intervention is necessary (which is TOTALLY fine). Start slow, be patient, and seek medical advice if you are on medication and/or have a blood sugar related condition/disease. 

 

(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5883628/

(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5569266/

(3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5220230/

(4) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26693746

All information and tools presented and written within this article are for educational and informational purposes only. Any nutrition, lifestyle and product recommendations are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Before starting any new supplements, diet and exercise program please check with your doctor or practitioner.

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