Before we start chatting about ways to regulate your blood sugar, let’s just talk about sugar. Mmmm, sugar.

When was the last time you bought sugar? You know, the pretty white crystals that you love to put in your coffee or sprinkle on top of your bowl of cereal. Yum. Just take a second to think about the typical five-pound bag of sugar that sits on the shelves at your local grocery store.  Now think about 30 bags of that sugar.  That’s a lot of sugar. Can you imagine eating ALL of that sugar? Surely not. Well guess what, you guys? Americans eat an average of 150 pounds of sugar each year.  Each one of us plows through 30 five-pound bags of sugar in 365 days. Or 150 one-pound bags. Yikes!

Sugar

Blood sugar disregulation is an epidemic in this country, and it is a safe bet to state that every single one of us has some level of it.  And even though sugar (and processed foods which contain all sorts of hidden sugars) is obviously the main culprit, other factors play into our levels of blood sugar. So what can we do to prevent ourselves from becoming one of the growing statistics of people diagnosed with one of the many blood sugar disorders (hypoglycemia, insulin resistance, and diabetes to name a few)?

Let’s start with a very brief overview of proper blood sugar regulation. When we eat, our bodies begin to break down our food, and the carbohydrates are broken down into glucose.  The presence of glucose in the bloodstream triggers the pancreas to release the hormone insulin, and this insulin shuttles the glucose into the cells for energy.  Any excess glucose is stored in the liver for later use.  When blood sugar levels are on the low side between meals or while we are sleeping, another hormone called glucagon is released and the liver releases glucose to bring blood sugar levels back up to homeostasis.  So both the liver and the pancreas are involved in keeping your blood sugar levels stable. In an ideal case, the pancreas and liver are able to do the job of blood sugar regulation without having to call upon any other organs of the body. However, this ideal situation is far from common for most people and the adrenals which are only supposed to be used in emergency situations are called upon on a regular basis. This becomes a vicious cycle and these three organs get so worn out that disease occurs. So what can we do about it? The good news is there are things you can do TODAY to help your body do right by blood sugar.

Two heart shaped fried eggs

Here are 6 things you can start doing TODAY to help regulate your blood sugar levels: 

1 GET RID OF THE PROCESSED FOODS.

Take one look at the ingredient label on any package of processed food and you are sure to find sugar disguised with  fancy, hard-to-pronounce words.  You may think you’re not eating tons of sugar, but if your diet is heavy in processed foods then you are deceiving yourself.  And if it’s low-fat or fat-free, then I can guarantee you that “food” is filled with sugar.  When fat is taken out of a food, sugar and sugar substitutes are put in to make up for the taste that is lost when fat was eliminated. Not to mention that you are depriving yourself of countless nutrients when you eat food that has been over processed to fit into a box that can sit on a shelf for years. (And this is why the 90’s were a hot mess for me. Fat-free/low-fat/non-fat crap wrecked my hormones, destroyed my hair, and had me carrying around at least 10 pounds of extra weight. Ugh, I was an idiot.)

2 USE THE 40/30/30 PRINCIPLE FOR MEALS AND SNACKS.

It is SO important to work on incorporating the proper balance of fats, proteins and carbohydrates into the diet.  The general breakdown is 40{14558ebb005ca3a014f8e1f496704d81e0a2f10192e8e315668058e58697a03a} carbohydrates, 30{14558ebb005ca3a014f8e1f496704d81e0a2f10192e8e315668058e58697a03a} fat, and 30{14558ebb005ca3a014f8e1f496704d81e0a2f10192e8e315668058e58697a03a} protein, though each person needs to find their happy place with these percentages..  Our bodies need all three of these macronutrients to function properly and absorb all the necessary nutrients for optimal health.  Don’t buy into the idea that carbs or fats are bad! Carbs are broken down into glucose, and our brains run primarily on glucose.  And our brains are primarily made up of fats.  And you need fats to make hormones.  I could go on and on about this, but I will spare all of you. But basically, you NEED these foods! The key is to eat good qualities in proper balance. Once you get into the habit of eating an apple with almond butter or a mix of grapes, raw cheese and cashews, you will notice more consistent energy as well as a sense of satiation that is not present when you eat a bag of chips or a venti whatever from Starbucks. 

3 CHOOSE GOOD QUALITY CARBOHYDRATES.

Most of us have probably heard the terms simple vs. complex and low-glycemic in relation to carbohydrates. The point is that not all carbs are equal.  A serving of white bread and a bowl of leafy greens may have the same amount of calories or carbohydrates, but the body responds to them differently. Carbohydrates with a lower GI value (55 or less) are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized. This means they produce  a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and insulin levels as a result. Your best bet is to stick to a wide variety of low-glycemic vegetables and limit the amounts of starchy carbohydrates, such as potatoes. Click here for a quick reference of the GI values of a large variety of foods.  

4 DON’T EAT CARBS BY THEMSELVES.

So many of us reach for carbs when we are hungry because they are easy (and hello, bread is yummy!), but it really sets our bodies up for a massive blood sugar rollercoaster. Think of it as a huge sugar dump into our systems without any proteins or fats to balance things out. The pancreas pumps out huge amounts of insulin to deal with such high blood sugar, and then the flip side is when our blood sugar levels dip so low that we experience energy crashes, major fatigue, and brain fog.  And those are just a few symptoms associated with low blood sugar. Don’t get me wrong, I love rollercoasters! But when it comes to blood sugar, we want the kiddie sized rollercoaster. Nice and easy, little climbs and falls …. those are the kind which keep our bodies healthy and working efficiently. 

5 REDUCE SNACKING.

I will admit right now that I tend to be a snacker, and I used to think it was healthy.  However, I have really changed my way of thought after my nutritional therapy studies.  I’m pretty sure our paleolithic ancestors did not get up early and meal prep for the day, setting up six small meals in tupperware containers.  Our bodies are designed to burn fat in between meals, and when we graze all day then our bodies tend to burn fuel from those meals instead of our fat stores. It is from our fat stores that our bodies get sustainable energy and allow us to avoid the ups and downs throughout the day. I still snack now and then when I feel as if my blood sugar levels are on the low side, but I try to limit it as much as possible.

6 TRY NOT TO OVEREAT.

We have all overeaten at some point in our lives.  I mean, isn’t that the whole point of Thanksgiving anyway? But unfortunately, this is an everyday, every meal occurrence for many people. Overeating often occurs with processed foods, especially poor quality carbohydrates. If you eat an excess of these foods, your body may produce too much insulin. Extra insulin in your bloodstream tricks your brain into thinking you need more glucose, which can trigger a food craving for more sweet foods that can quickly be converted to glucose. This can be the beginning of a dangerous cycle! The constant overproduction of insulin can eventually lead to a worn out pancreas that cannot keep up with the demand, thus causing some of the blood sugar disregulation issues mentioned above.

Blood sugar regulation is a huge topic and we are just scratching the surface here! Please note that these recommendations are primarily for those looking for sustained energy throughout the day and not for people who have been diagnosed with major blood sugar issues.  This is for the person that is all too familiar with that afternoon slump that sends you searching for a Starbucks in desperate need of coffee and a scone. It is for the person who finds themselves tired and hungry throughout most of their days. This is your body’s way of telling you that it needs better fuel! And that better fuel is known as properly prepared, nutrient dense foods in balanced proportions.  

***If you think you are experiencing symptoms that are indicative of a greater problem, please schedule an appointment with your doctor.

Happy blood sugar regulating, you guys!