At a recent health retreat in Utah with the awesome team of Albion Fit, I hosted a nutrition lecture and had several questions come up about blood sugars and the dreaded 2-4pm energy slump. Regardless of your current health, everyone can benefit from knowing how to maintain healthy blood sugar from diet and lifestyle and using these tools for life. Reducing the overall amount of sugar in our diet is crucial to our health, but what about balancing our blood sugars as a whole? Remember, carbohydrates aren’t bad, it’s all about knowing how to balance of them, strategically use them, and the quality. Let’s dive into what you can do today to reduce the rollercoaster of high and low blood sugars.
10 Ways To Maintain Healthy Blood Sugar
Don’t fear the fat. In a nutshell (ha, pun intended) healthy fats from nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut oil, etc. take longer to digest which helps our body slow the absorption of sugars found in carbohydrates. Fats also don’t cause our insulin levels to spike, which isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing and there’s always a time and place, but overall we want our body to maintain nice, steady insulin levels. Many of my clients, if not all, who deal with sugar cravings, digestive issues, or are trying to reverse/prevent blood sugar issues, are on higher fat, moderate protein, lower carbohydrate diets. With these diets they see significant improvements in their HA1c (a measure of blood sugar levels overtime) and non-clinical based outcomes like how they feel, energy, sleep, weight loss, etc. Give healthy fats (mainly from plants) a chance if you want to maintain healthy blood sugars and receptive insulin!
Bulk up on fiber. Fiber, like healthy fats, takes longer to digest which helps our body slowly absorb sugars found in the carbohydrates that we consume. If you’re eating a diet high in whole foods from the earth like vegetables, greens, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes, then chances are you’re getting plenty of fiber. Aim for 30-50g/day, and this can be adjusted depending on your digestive system and energy intake.
Befriend smart supplements. There are supplements that may help our body manage blood sugars and help improve carbohydrate metabolism such as chromium, Coenzyme Q10, chlorogenic acid, ground cinnamon, L-carnitine, and fish oil just to name a few. As always check in with your physician or dietitian before starting any of these. Read more on supplements here.
Be your own health advocate and detective. As much as I lead the way for my clients, one tool and skill I teach them and try to ingrain into their life is to be their own health advocate and detective. Learn from the changes you make in your diet and lifestyle and record any changes you feel whether positive or negative, then go on from there. You know your body best, so pay attention to what foods affect your blood sugars and which ones keep you feeling a steady energy all day long.
Move that bod! We all know that exercise is part of living whole and feeling your best, but did you know that exercise drastically improves the way your body responds to sugar? It does! Exercise can help improve insulin resistance, especially in those with diabetes or blood sugar issues (6, 7).
Stress less. Stress can not only trigger a hormonal response and increase levels of cortisol, but feeling stress can also lead to sugar cravings and consuming more sugar, which of course is going to contribute to elevated and imbalanced blood sugars. Be mindful of stress and try some of these stress boosting strategies here.
Sleep more. We all know how important sleep is, and when we don’t get enough we tend to reach for sugar laden foods and carbohydrate foods to instantly increase our energy and blood sugars to get moving! But, don’t grab that sugar just yet – start with analyzing your sleep patterns. Some studies show that sleep deprivation or sleeping less than 6 hours a night can actually increase insulin resistance (1). Having trouble falling asleep? Cultivate your bedtime routine here.
Drink moderately. First off, when drinking alcohol stay away from simple syrups, juices, and sweet mixes as much as possible if not completely for the optimal option. Drinking alcohol can have opposite effects depending on your biological makeup (i.e. diabetics will notice these effects greater). For example, drinking a couple drinks may increase blood sugars, whereas excessive drinking can cause low blood sugars (2). Side note, alcohol can increase cortisol levels overtime, not the best thing for our waistlines amongst other things (3). Still want to know if alcohol is unhealthy? Read up here.
Don’t get artificial. Artificial sweeteners may seem okay in the long term because they haven’t been around long enough for us to know, but so far science says no to artificial sweeteners on many accounts. I still recommend avoiding artificial sweeteners, if you do use any use a very small amount of stevia occasionally. Try to train your body to go sugar-free (more on this later in the year!) (4, 5).
Balance it out. Aim for balance at meal and snack time! Get plenty of fibrous vegetables and greens (the goal is to make 60-75% of your meal non-starchy veggies) then fill up the rest with high quality proteins and healthy fats. Carbohydrates like fruits, grains, beans, etc. can be toppers/additions in small amounts. This will provide plenty of vitamins, minerals, and a powerful blood stabilizing combination!
I hope these tips are helpful for you in managing your blood sugar levels and keeping your energy balanced, but if you’ve tried these and feel like you need support from a registered dietitian, reach out through the Services page!