Would you rather read than listen?
According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2018, 34.2 million Americans, or 10.5% of the population, had diabetes. And, in 2015, 88 million Americans age 18 and older had prediabetes.
Alarming as that may sound, you may be sitting here thinking that just can’t be true. But then you think about your grandma who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and your coworker that has to “watch her sugar” or your friend who was warned that she was pre diabetic. Maybe it is even you!
Cue the mental visions of chocolate chip cookies dancing in your head while you ride down a slope of vanilla icing on your chocolate bar raft. Mmmmmm…
Wait, reality check —
Maybe that is going to far, but the struggle is real! There is great reason for the upswing in diabetes and pre-diabetes cases. Sugar is everywhere we turn!
It is in donuts and cookies and cakes. It is in ketchup and spaghetti sauce and salad dressings. It is peanut butter — seriously, peanut butter?
Even if you do not directly deal with a diagnosed blood sugar issue, you want to be aware of how it can affect you.
Sugar is a sneaky little devil. It is put into your food (or naturally occurs) which is then absorbed by the body and, when continually bombarded with the white sweetness, your body can start to react defensively and you, my friend, could eventually have an unregulated blood sugar diagnosis.
Even before the long term effects, blood sugar handling, or the way your body responds to the amount of sugar in your body, could cause concern in your health — weight gain, hormonal imbalances, stress, cravings, fatigue, depression, anxiety, just to name a few.
Seriously, why is there added sugar in peanut butter?
If that is not enough to get you a little knocked off your rocker, then consider this — Diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the United States in 2017 based on the 83,564 death certificates in which diabetes was listed as the underlying cause of death. In 2017, diabetes was mentioned as a cause of death in a total of 270,702 certificates.
This is not meant to be a scare tactic. It is a sneak peak into the effects that out of control sugar consumption can have on your health. And, why getting your blood sugar handling under control is one of the very basic foundations of health that can quickly boost your health and serve you for a lifetime.
Here are some starting points to get your blood sugar moving in the right direction:
- Your first meal of the day. This is your power meal. It can set your blood sugar up to be regulated in a smooth way that feels like you are riding the energy train right through Good Moodville all day long. Or, it can set you up for your body to have difficulty handling your blood sugar, leaving you on a wild roller coaster ride of emotional ups and downs, draining your energy tank the whole way through. How do you create your power meal? Start your day off with some high quality proteins and fats. You can have carbohydrates, but depending on your own unique body, it may be best to limit them, keep them low glycemic, or eliminate them all together. The key here is the protein and fats. What would this look like? You could try 2 scrambled, pastured-raised eggs with 1/2 sliced avocado and a 1/2 cup of your favorite berries. Or, you could try 1 cup of organic greek yogurt with 1/4 cup walnuts and 1-2 tablespoons of hemp seeds sprinkled with cinnamon. Yum!
- Quality matters. Sugar in the body is sugar. Yes — this is true. But not all sugar and foods that break down into simple sugars are the same. Some break down slower and some foods with sugar add more nutrients in the body. Some sugars are better absorbed and used to fuel us throughout the day. Eating carbohydrates that are more starchy and rich in fiber will be broken down slower, add more nutrients and usable components to keep us healthy, and create a source of fuel that is more of a slower burn (think big logs on a fire rather than small, quick-burning kindling). Those are called complex carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are like the kindling — they burn quick and give you bursts of energy, but, without something to slow down the burn (i.e., proteins, fats, and fiber), they can easily spike your blood sugar and cause it to drop dramatically. What does this look like in real life? Complex carbs are foods like brown rice, potatoes, vegetables, quinoa, etc. Simple carbs are foods like candy, fruit, honey, maple syrup, etc. The more that a food or meal has of these components, the more it can affect your blood sugar levels. Remember, quality matters! Eating foods that are more whole food based and not processed or packaged will also help to stabilize your blood sugar by taking stress off the body and giving your body food and nutrients that it knows how to break down more easily!
- Hidden sugars. Sugar can be hidden everywhere! If your diet consists of a lot of packaged foods, then I encourage you to definitely read the labels. You might be surprised how much sugar is added into foods that you would never think would have sugar. Again, why does peanut butter have sugar? Below is a list that Women’s Health had released that gives you some ideas of sneaky hidden sugar names. It is like a list of fake ID names — you never know what name the food industry may be calling the sugar trying to be slipped into your food!
- Low VS High glycemic. This tip relates to tip #2, yet it goes a little deeper. Some foods fall higher on the glycemic index than do others. Why should you care? Lower glycemic foods are more slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized and cause a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and, therefore insulin levels. Layman’s terms? Blood sugar stays more even and you feel more energy and even keel in your moods. What can you do? Go to the glycemic index website and choose many foods that are on the low end of the index. Not all foods have to be low and they shouldn’t be — there are some very healthy foods that are high glycemic. I just advise that you eat them less often or you time them around your workouts or activities that require you to burn more glucose, the fuel that your body uses.
- Don’t eat it alone. This is especially true for diabetics and pre-diabetics, but it is a good habit to get under your proverbial belt now. Eating carbs, especially simple carbs, by themselves could cause dramatic spikes in your blood sugar. If the food doesn’t have fiber or protein or fat to slow down the burn, it could really affect you. Rumbly tummy? If you do find yourself getting bloated or gassy or digestively distressed from this, it is also healthy practice to slightly space out some of those simple carbs because of their ability to ferment in the stomach with certain foods. For example, if you eat fruit with a meal, have your fruit 15 minutes prior to your meal.
- Stay away from mindless eating. Our gut health and our digestion actually starts in the brain. Crazy, right? No so much! When we are stressed or eating in a stressed environment, this causes our digestion and ability to digest our food to get a little wonky and not operate as effectively. And, when we are not paying attention to our food, we may eat more and feel less satisfied. There are two common mindless eating environments that happen — First, eating at your desk at work while you are working or even eating while driving in your car. Both of these are being done mindlessly, but also in a potentially stressed environment. You are less likely to pay attention to how the food is tasting and feeling and smelling, which then decreases your satiety and can increase your cravings for more. The second common environment is sitting in front of the tv or a computer screen and snacking. You may not be stressed, but you do have the mindless component! When you are not paying attention, it is so easy to get lost in the bag and not even come back to reality until your hand hits the bottom. Make sure that when you do eat, it is mindful and you are connected into what you are eating. It is also super duper important to eat your food somewhere that feels comforting or low stress. Both of these tactics will cause you to eat less and feel more satisfied, but they will also more likely keep your cravings at bay as the day moves on!
Stabilizing your blood sugar so that you feel at your best all day long is not impossible, but it does take some attention. These 6 tips are an effective place for you start and help get your energy and your blood sugar under control!
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