Many of us are more affected by our blood sugar levels than we realize. Do you sometimes experience a lack of concentration before lunch or an after-lunch slump? What about brain fog before breakfast or crankiness before dinner? What and when we eat can have a profound effect on how we feel and function.
For those who have been managing diabetes, or have a prediabetes diagnosis, you already know you need to watch how much sugar you eat and when. But it’s not only about how many teaspoons of sugar we do or don’t have in a day. Our overall eating patterns affect our blood sugar, too.
Ruth Goldstein, Cheshire Medical Center’s Outpatient Registered Dietitian, has three basic tips to help you eat to control your blood sugar. “When trying to reduce sugar, it’s important to step back and look at the foundations of how you’re eating,” she says.
Here are Goldstein’s three tips:
- Feed yourself regularly. That’s three meals a day and often one or two snacks each day, too.
- Make sure your meals are balanced and that they contain healthy protein. “Especially breakfast!” said Goldstein. “If you’re not getting enough protein early in the day, you will more than likely get sugar cravings later in the day.” Good protein sources include eggs, peanut butter on whole-grain toasts, and Greek yogurt with nuts and berries.
- Eat an afternoon snack, between 2 and 4 pm that has protein in it. Some of Goldstein’s favorites are an apple with a couple of slices of cheese, hummus with veggies and nuts with baby carrots. “Having a healthy snack reduces hunger, fatigue, brain fog, general crankiness, and anxiety,” she says.
Blood sugar 101
Blood sugar levels are mostly affected by the type and amount of carbohydrates we consume. This is because carbohydrates are turned into sugar by your body, which moves throughout your body in your bloodstream. This is where insulin comes in. Insulin helps move the sugar into your cells where it is consumed to produce energy or stored for future use. The bodies of people with type 1, type 2 or gestational diabetes either don’t make enough insulin, can’t use the insulin well, or both.
Symptoms of high blood sugar levels can include excessive urination, thirst, and hunger. The symptoms can often develop slowly, which can make it hard for people to respond quickly. But if high blood sugar levels aren’t dealt with swiftly they can lead to kidney problems, eye damage, obesity, headaches, and fatigue.
And it’s not just food that can affect your blood sugar levels. According to the American Diabetes Association, other factors include:
- Side effects of medications
- Infection or other illness
- Changes in hormone levels, such as during menstrual periods