While it's okay to have some sugar in our diet, it's critical to maintain balance. Learning the connection between eating and blood sugar is essential for nearly any health goal, but especially for losing weight or maintaining healthy body weight.
You've probably experienced a sugar high — that feeling of satisfaction after eating a sugary treat. But it's always fleeting — the dip that follows can leave you feeling tired and irritable. But it isn't just cake, sweets, ice cream, or soda that affects your blood sugar. Every time we eat, healthy or not, blood sugar increases. The body uses that sugar for energy, and in the event that there is any excess, it will likely be stored as body fat.
Blood sugar imbalance can be the culprit behind weight gain and many other health concerns. In this article, we'll talk about the nutrition foundations that support optimal levels of blood sugar, promote a healthy weight, and facilitate weight loss.
When the body begins to metabolize food, glucose or blood sugar levels begin to increase. The pancreas releases insulin to manage those sugar levels. This process reduces blood sugar by allowing it to be used in cells as energy.
Glucose is released into the blood at different levels depending on the type of food you are eating. When blood sugar levels rise too quickly and cells aren't able to absorb glucose efficiently, blood sugar levels can remain elevated causing more insulin to be released and over time cells can become resistant -- leading to associated health issues.
So, how do you avoid blood sugar levels spiking?
To start, opt for whole foods versus processed foods, and not just any whole foods. Research shows that plant-based diets have been used as an effective tool in preventing and supporting health conditions associated with blood sugar dysregulation.
Food combining, a method of strategically combining certain foods, is another way you can impact blood sugar levels. For example, eating protein and vegetables before carbohydrates has been shown to support lower post-meal glucose and insulin levels. If you eat higher glycemic (sugar) foods, combining them with fats and protein can also help moderate the blood sugar spike.
The "what" of diet is only part of the equation. Timing your meals is also important. While we don't want to be eating too frequently to allow blood sugar levels to return to baseline in-between meals, depending on your health and goals you may not want to leave it too long either to avoid blood sugar levels dropping too low. Allowing a gap of around 3-5 hours between a meal or a snack works well for most but listen to your body to find what is right for you.
If your body is in a healthy low blood sugar state, it can begin to use stored glucose or body fat as a fuel source. You can't always put food into your body and expect it to be able to regulate blood sugar, digestion and hormones. You have to give your body rest at certain intervals and rhythms and moving to three meals a day is a supportive strategy.
You don't have to rely just on food to support healthy levels of blood sugar. There are several steps you can take after eating that support digestion and blood sugar balance too, such as:
Ultimately, the foods you eat combined with a healthy lifestyle are core foundations that help keep blood sugar levels balanced. Remember, the connection between eating and blood sugar is vital to a healthy body.