If you’re looking to improve your nutrition habits during quarantine, look no further than the simple habit of balancing your blood sugar! While many people think blood sugar is only something to worry about if you’re diabetic, this isn’t true. The difference is really that unregulated blood sugar is dangerous for a diabetic but uncomfortable for non-diabetics. Still, your blood sugar contributes to your energy, weight, aging, hormones, and chronic disease risk (including type 2 diabetes). It even influences the kinds of foods you crave.
What is blood sugar?
Your body’s primary source of energy is your blood sugar. As the name implies, this is glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream. The glucose in your bloodstream can either be used right away for energy or stored in cells for later use. You want your blood sugar level to remain relatively stable versus fluctuating between being super high and super low. Chronically high blood sugar can cause you to become less sensitive to insulin over time, eventually leading to type 2 diabetes. Low blood sugar, on the other hand, is also not fun.
What happens when your blood sugar is low?
Low blood sugar can feel like fatigue, shakiness, lightheadedness, nausea, headaches, confusion, or irritability. You may also crave foods that are high in refined carbohydrates or sugar - this is your body’s way of attempting to find balance when blood sugar is low.
How does blood sugar become low?
Your blood sugar might be low because you had a snack high in refined carbohydrates or sugar (resulting in a blood sugar spike and crash) or if you skipped a meal and waited too long to eat...and then probably reached for some quick energy in the form of sugar or refined carbohydrates!
As you can imagine, this can become a vicious cycle: a sugary snack leads to a spike in blood sugar followed by a crash, which leads to craving more sugary snacks. All the while, you’re losing steam and becoming more irritable. When we work from home, this might be a more regular occurrence. We aren’t putting the same thought into our food as we do when we plan ahead for work, and we’re also close to the kitchen that has all our favorite snacks that were once only available before and after work.
How do you balance your blood sugar?
The good news is that blood sugar balance is really quite straightforward: it relies on protein, healthy fats, and fiber. Other factors that help your blood sugar stay balanced are having regular meals (i.e. not skipping breakfast), exercising, and getting adequate, restful sleep. If you’re thinking this sounds like the key components of a healthy lifestyle, you’re right!
Reducing your intake of refined carbohydrates and sugar is also helpful, especially if you’re already prone to blood sugar dysregulation. People who fall into this category might include those who are pre-diabetic or diabetic, or those who have PCOS.
However, swearing off sugar and refined carbohydrates isn’t realistic, so just make sure that when you do indulge, you include at least one of those three blood sugar balancing factors previously mentioned: protein, healthy fats, and fiber. For example, if you’d like to have a bagel, have it with avocado and an egg to achieve better blood sugar balance. Craving ice cream? Add some nuts and berries to it for a healthier sundae!
Looking for some blood sugar approved snacks? Try these:
- Fruit + nuts
- Hard boiled eggs
- Vegetables + hummus
- Grass-fed jerky
- Energy bites (like these ones from V+B!)