Do you ever find yourself reaching for candy or chocolate when you need a quick snack, only to finish the whole bag and then feel hungry again 30 minutes later? Trust me, I’ve been there!
Your first instinct might be to eliminate these tempting treats from your life entirely. But what if I told you there’s a better way to keep enjoying our favorite indulgences while still feeling nourished and satisfied after eating?
The secret lies in balancing our blood sugar. By slowing down the transfer of sugar from our food into our bloodstream, we can enjoy more consistent energy levels without giving up carbs and sugar altogether. In this blog post, we’ll explore what blood sugar is, why it needs to be balanced, and how you can achieve this balance while still savoring the foods you love.
What is Blood Sugar?
Blood sugar, also known as blood glucose, is the sugar that circulates in our bloodstream and is the primary source of energy for our bodies. It comes from the foods we eat, particularly those rich in carbohydrates like bread, pasta, rice, fruits, and sugary treats.
When we eat these foods, our digestive system breaks them down into glucose, which is then absorbed into our bloodstream. This influx of glucose triggers the release of insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, to help regulate our blood sugar levels and shuttle the glucose to necessary areas of the body, like our brain and muscles. This is a completely normal (and vital!) process for our bodies to function properly. Our body’s preferred source of fuel is glucose, so although keeping blood sugar levels balanced is a great tool for energy maintenance, it’s unrealistic to expect that our blood sugar will be perfectly stable at all times.
Why Should We Care About Balancing Blood Sugar?
Balancing blood sugar is critical for maintaining a stable and steady supply of energy throughout the day. When our blood sugar levels spike rapidly and then crash, we may experience that familiar roller-coaster of energy, mood swings, and cravings. This is not only uncomfortable but also detrimental to our long-term health.
Here are some key reasons why blood sugar balance is crucial:
Energy Stability: Balanced blood sugar provides a consistent source of energy, helping you stay focused, alert, and energized throughout the day.
Mood Regulation: Rapid spikes and crashes in blood sugar can lead to mood swings and irritability. Balancing blood sugar can help you maintain a more stable mood.
Reduced cravings and extreme hunger: Stable blood sugar levels can help to reduce cravings and extreme hunger by preventing those crashes, which leave us wanting more, fast-energy foods.
Preventing Chronic Diseases: Consistently high blood sugar levels can contribute to the development of conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
With this being said, it’s important to remember that while there are tactics we can implement to help soften the spike of blood sugar, it would be near-impossible to keep blood sugars perfectly balanced at all times.
Does Balancing Blood Sugar Mean Cutting Out Carbs and Sugar?
The short answer is no; you don’t have to eliminate carbs and sugar from your diet to balance your blood sugar effectively. In fact, it’s not necessary and, for most people, not sustainable! As a Dietitian, my biggest concern is making sure that changes we make are not only effective, but sustainable enough to be done for a lifetime.
Instead of fearing carbohydrates and sugar, think about how you can incorporate them into your eating pattern mindfully while pairing them with other types of food that help to slow down the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream.
Part of balancing blood sugar involves combining carbohydrate-rich foods with sources of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. This combination helps slow down the release of glucose, preventing spikes and crashes in blood sugar. Here are some examples of how to balance blood sugar while still enjoying the foods you love:
Pairing Nuts (Fat and Fiber) with Your Favorite Chocolate or Candy: The healthy fats in nuts and their fiber content slow down the absorption of sugar from chocolate or candy, providing sustained energy and satisfaction.
Add Hummus (Fiber and Fat) to Chips: The fiber in hummus and the fat content can help balance the blood sugar increase caused by chips.
Pairing Peanut Butter (Fat and Protein) with Fruit: While fruit already has lots of fiber in it (a win!), combining peanut butter with fruits provides protein and healthy fats, too.
Adding Trail Mix (Fat, Fiber, and Protein) to Popcorn: The combination of trail mix components can turn plain popcorn into a more balanced and satisfying snack.
Do I need to eat like this all the time?
The short answer is no; you don’t have to maintain perfectly balanced blood sugar at all times. And in reality, that wouldn’t be realistic!
It’s perfectly fine to enjoy your favorite indulgent treats in moderation, all on their own. Think of this information as helpful tips to incorporate when possible, but it’s about achieving a balance that keeps you feeling your best while still enjoying the foods you love.
This blog post is in partnership with the Canadian Sugar Institute. As always, all opinions are my own.