Living the sweet life by balancing your blood sugar

What is blood sugar and why is it important?

Healthy Eating


Dr. Owen Wiseman, ND


31 March 2022

Blood sugar is the main source of energy for the body's cells and the only source of energy for the brain and nervous system. 

Keeping your blood sugar at a healthy level is important for maintaining a healthy weight, preventing type 2 diabetes, and reducing your risk of heart disease.

There are two types of blood sugar: glucose and fructose: 

  • Glucose is the main type of sugar found in the blood and is the type of sugar that the body uses for energy. 
  • Fructose is a sweetener found in fruits and honey. It is also used by the body to make glucose.

The best way to keep your blood sugar at a healthy level is to eat a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. You should also exercise regularly and avoid foods high in sugar and saturated fat.

If you have diabetes, it is important to monitor your blood sugar closely and follow your doctor's instructions for treatment. 

There are many treatments available for diabetes, including medication, insulin therapy, and diet and exercise. It is important to find a treatment plan that works best for you and stick with it. 

Managing your blood sugar can be challenging, but it is important to do everything you can to keep yourself healthy.

How to maintain stable blood sugar levels

Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas. Insulin helps the body use glucose for energy. When you eat foods that contain carbohydrates, your blood sugar levels rise. The pancreas then secretes insulin into the bloodstream to help the sugar enter the cells to be used for energy. If you have diabetes, your body either doesn't make enough insulin or can't use the insulin properly. This causes your blood sugar levels to become too high, something medically known as hyperglycemia.

One of the best ways to manage your blood sugar levels is by keeping track of them. This can be done by checking your blood sugar levels regularly. You can use a glucometer, also known as a blood sugar meter, to check your levels. For example, it allows you to track your response to various foods and identify which might be considered 'more safe' and which require you to have insulin close at hand.

There are four types of insulin: rapid-acting, short-acting, basal, and long-acting. Each type works differently to control blood sugar levels. It is important to work with your doctor to find the type of insulin that works best for you.

  1. Rapid-acting insulin starts working within minutes after injection and peaks within 2-4 hours. It is used to control blood sugar levels within 1-2 hours after eating.
  2. Short-acting insulin starts working within 30 minutes after injection and peaks within 3-6 hours. It can be used to control blood sugar levels within 3-4 hours after eating.
  3. Intermediate insulin starts working slowly and lasts for 24 hours. It can be used to control blood sugar levels throughout the day and night.
  4. Long-acting insulin starts working slowly and lasts for up to 36 hours. It is used to control blood sugar levels overnight or between meals.

Foods that help.

If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar balanced is critical for your health. But did you know that there are foods that can help to do this naturally? Here are a few of the best ones to eat:

  1. Berries: All types of berries are excellent for stabilizing blood sugar levels despite the perpetual myth out there saying otherwise. They're also low in sugar, high in fiber and low on the glycemic index. Diabetic associations around the world acknowledge the beneficial role that fruit plays in a healthy diet for those battling diabetes. Fruit juices though – out!
  2. Beans: Beans are a great source of protein and soluble fiber, both of which can help to balance blood sugar levels. They are packed with complex carbohydrates and are incredibly versatile and can act as a main, side, mash or even a salad. A systematic review of randomised controlled trials showed those battling type 2 diabetes and consuming beans had lower HbA1c, fasting blood insulin, fasting blood glucose and reductions in 2-h postprandial glucose.
  3. Whole grains: Whole grains are a good source of fiber and nutrients, which can help to stabilize blood sugar levels. Choose whole grain breads/pastas, and steel cut oats to get the most benefit. Those who consume higher levels of whole graine foods have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
  4. Fatty fish: Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help to combat side effects of diabetes like damage to the eye. One study showed doses as low as 500mg per day significantly reduced the risk of eye disease in people with type 2 diabetes.
  5. Leafy greens: Leafy greens like spinach and kale are high in fiber and nutrients like iron. Consider adding them to your diet whenever possible for the best results.

Eating these foods can help to support healthy blood sugar levels and keep you feeling your best. Try incorporating them into your diet regularly and see the difference they make!

Herbal and nutritional options

Coffee contains caffeine which is a stimulant. When caffeine is consumed, it causes the release of adrenaline which in turn causes the body to release glucose into the bloodstream. This is why people who drink coffee often have a spike in their blood sugar levels. 

Caffeine can also interfere with the absorption of glucose from food which can further impact blood sugar levels. However, coffee also has some benefits which include improving mental clarity and energy levels. If you are going to drink coffee, moderation is key. Try to limit your intake to 1-2 cups per day and make sure to combine it with a balanced meal or snack.

Coffee substitutes like Bambü are made from chicory root, figs and acorn. They can help you cut down on caffeine while still enjoying the flavor of coffee. Chicory root has a slightly sweet and nutty flavor that makes it a great addition to coffee blends. It also contains fiber, calcium, and other nutrients that make it a healthy choice. Acorns can be roasted and ground like coffee beans, or they can be used to make a tea-like beverage. 

Next time you're craving the sweet smell of a morning brew without the caffeine, consider a mug of hot Bambü.

Nut butters are a great way to stabilize blood sugar levels. They are a good source of protein and healthy fats which help to slow down the release of glucose into the bloodstream. Nut butters can be enjoyed on their own or added to other foods such as oatmeal, smoothies, or toast. Options like Natur are oil-, sugar- and salt-free and contain only dry roasted peanuts.

Certain fermented dairy products can help regulate blood sugar levels. Standardized food products such as Molkosan are rich in L+ lactic acid, a prebiotic that is broken down by certain species into butyrate, a substance that promotes healing of the gut cells – the colonocytes. When prebiotics are administered to nourish the residents of the gut, they have been shown to promote the activity of white blood cells and the cells lining the intestine. For those who want a different taste from whey, Molkosan Berry is an option which has the added taste of pomegranate and aronia berries which contain polyphenols that are beneficial to the gut. Ellagitannins, a compound found in pomegranate, has also been shown to stimulate the growth of healthy gut bacteria. Molkosan can be consumed on its own or added to other foods such as yogurt, smoothies, or salad dressings.

What about movement as medicine?

Exercise is very important in managing blood sugar. When you exercise, your muscles use up the glucose in your blood. This helps to keep your blood sugar level stable. Exercise also helps to improve your insulin sensitivity, which means that your body can use the insulin it produces more efficiently.

Exercise doesn't have to be strenuous to be effective. Even moderate exercise, like walking or biking, can help to improve your blood sugar control. And if you have time for more vigorous exercise, all the better!

Managing blood sugar levels can be challenging but with a few lifestyle changes and some dietary adjustments, you may find that it's not as difficult. First of all, try to cut down on the amount of caffeine in your diet or better yet drink coffee only when necessary. You should also eat more protein and healthy fats which will help slow down glucose from being released into the bloodstream. And finally, make sure to get regular exercise; even moderate activity can help to improve your blood sugar control. Happy Nutrition Month!

Reference

1. Mathew, Thomas K., and Prasanna Tadi. "Blood glucose monitoring." StatPearls [Internet] (2020).

2. Mouri, Michelle, and Madhu Badireddy. "Hyperglycemia." StatPearls [Internet] (2021).

3. Donner, Thomas, and Sudipa Sarkar. "Insulin–pharmacology, therapeutic regimens, and principles of intensive insulin therapy." (2015).

4. Bielefeld, Dale, Sara Grafenauer, and Anna Rangan. "The effects of legume consumption on markers of glycaemic control in individuals with and without diabetes mellitus: A systematic literature review of randomised controlled trials." Nutrients 12.7 (2020): 2123.

5. Hu, Yang, et al. "Intake of whole grain foods and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective cohort studies." bmj 370 (2020).

6. Sala-Vila, Aleix, et al. "Dietary marine ω-3 fatty acids and incident sight-threatening retinopathy in middle-aged and older individuals with type 2 diabetes: prospective investigation from the PREDIMED trial." JAMA ophthalmology 134.10 (2016): 1142-1149.

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