Have you ever eaten a meal only to feel starving half an hour later? Surprisingly, the types of foods we consume and components of our meals can be the differentiating factor in stabilizing our blood sugar, hormones, and energy levels. Although factors like body weight, activity, stress, and genetics also play a role in blood sugar maintenance, following a healthy diet is critical for blood sugar control. While some foods, including items high in added sugar and refined carbs, can contribute to blood sugar fluctuations, others can optimize blood sugar control while promoting overall health. By applying these principles, you can feel confident in building a plate that will keep you nourished for hours.
Protein: Proteins are the building blocks of the body, supporting muscle growth and repair. In addition, protein yields the highest thermic effect of food (TEF), meaning protein uses more calories to be digested than any other macronutrient. A palm size amount of protein, or 3-ounces, provides 21 grams of protein. Adding protein sources to our meals and snacks can not only help control blood sugar, but slow down the rate of digestion keeping us fuller for longer.
Healthy Fat: Fat slows down the absorption of glucose into the bloodstreams and prevents sugar highs and crashes. Implementing heart healthy fats also aid in reducing risk for heart disease, absorb fat soluble vitamins ADEK, and nourish hair, skin, and nails. Sources of healthy fats include avocado, fatty fish, nuts, olive oil, and nut butters.
Fiber: There are two kinds of fiber: insoluble and soluble. While both are important, soluble fiber specifically has been shown to lower blood sugar levels (1). Fiber is found in a variety of plant foods including fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. It provides a multitude of benefits including promoting regularity, may aid in weight loss, and is low on the glycemic index scale.
Low Glycemic Foods: The glycemic index was developed to assess the body’s blood sugar response to foods that contain carbs. Both the amount and type of carbs determine how a food affects blood sugar levels (2). When a high glycemic food such as processed snacks, juices, and other refined grains are consumed, a sudden crash in blood glucose and insulin are likely to occur immediately after finishing a meal. For this reason, consuming carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (oats, barley, beans, lentils, legumes, sweet potatoes, corn, yams, and non-starchy vegetables) may be to your benefit.
Consistent Meal Times: A consistent eating routine (every 3-4 hours) can help avoid dramatic peaks and valleys in blood glucose ranges and can help you reach a more stable blood glucose level from morning to night. When we skip meals or go too long without eating, there is a greater chance of hypoglycemia or blood sugar dropping extremely low. This is triggering for massive cravings. When we are finally able to eat, it may result in a massive binge without awareness of our true hunger and fullness signals. For this reason, always keep something to eat on hand in case of an emergency.
Meal and snack ideas for balanced blood sugar:
By choosing wholesome unprocessed foods and combining a balanced amount of lean protein, healthy fat and fiber, it is much more likely that you will feel satisfied, comfortably full, and have the energy to tackle your workouts in addition to the busy day ahead.