3 tips to manage your blood sugar levels

There is so much circulating on social media about stopping blood glucose spikes lately.

blood cells

Most people are trying to sell something, either their supplements or a blood sugar monitor. And I’m sorry to be the one to tell you that you don’t need either of these things. Of course, unless you have diabetes, then a blood glucose monitor may be essential.

But there are other ways to manage your blood sugar levels that don’t involve shelling out each month.

First, let’s get into a quick biochemistry lesson about blood sugar control.

What causes our blood sugar levels to rise? 

Our blood sugar levels are kept in check by the work of the hormones, insulin, and glucagon. I’m going to focus on insulin for this bit.

When we eat something containing carbohydrates, these are broken down into sugars (glucose). This glucose then goes into our bloodstream and means are blood sugar levels have risen.

a bowl of white rice

Insulin then comes in and helps to bring the blood sugar levels back down. It does this by acting like a key to our cells. Insulin unlocks the cells and allows glucose to enter our cells.

This makes our blood sugar levels go back down, as the sugar has left the bloodstream and is inside the cells instead. It can then be used for energy.

So to sum it all up: we eat carbs → our blood sugar levels rise → insulin brings it down.

I’ve written this next part to be like a buffet - take what you want and leave what you don’t. Some of the tips might not be things you’re able to do, and that’s okay. Any change you can make is a positive.

Create a balanced meal: 

I know I sing the praises of balanced meals in literally every blog post, but a balanced meal is a great way to manage your blood sugar levels.

A balanced meal contains carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. This is the holy trifecta that will help reduce a sharp rise in blood sugars after eating.

Protein sources are foods like meat, fish, beans, and eggs. They take a long time for us to digest and so if we eat them in a meal mixed with carbohydrates, it’ll slow down the digestion of the carbs too. The same goes for fat. Fats include cheese, oils, and avocado, and they too take some time to digest.

a salad with salmon and boiled egg

So, if we eat a balanced meal, let’s take a shepherd’s pie for example, the protein in the mincemeat and the fat from the cooking oil will balance with the mashed potato and stop a sharp rise in blood sugars.

Eating carbohydrate, proteins and fats together means they’ll be digested together and slowed down by each other.

We also can’t forget about fibre. Fibre is a type of carbohydrate that our bodies don’t properly digest. It slows down our digestion which again helps our blood sugar levels not rise as fast as food will take longer to leave the stomach. 

Sources of fibre include wholegrains, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans.

Make your carbs complex: 

Complex carbohydrates is a fancy name for carbohydrates that take longer for us to digest. In them doing this it means that our blood sugar levels won't rise as quickly, as the carbohydrate won't be broken down into sugar as fast.

Examples of complex carbs include:

  • ·         Wholegrain pasta
  • ·         Brown rice
  • ·         Wholegrain or granary bread
  • ·         Beans/lentils
  • ·         Porridge oats
  • ·         Quinoa

Swapping to complex carbs in your meal is a great way to manage your blood sugar levels and increase the fibre content.

a loaf of brown bread on a chopping board

It can take some time to get used to the wholegrain versions of things. It’s worth having a play around to make them as tasty as possible! One thing I like do is to cook brown rice in chicken stock and season it as it’s boiling for more flavour.

You also might not want to eat some carbohydrates in their complex form. This is absolutely fine too. If you’re having simple carbohydrates (e.g. mashed white potato or white bread), being mindful of the portion size is a good way to help reduce a blood glucose rise.

A handy way to know the portion size, without having to weigh things out, is to aim for your carbohydrate portion to be the same size as the palm of one hand.

2 hands with the palms facing the camera

So having wholegrain carbohydrates or a smaller portion size, you can help to minimise the rise in blood sugar.

Eat your sweets at the end of a meal: 

If you’re like me and have a sweet tooth, you might be used to ending your meal with a little dessert.

If you’re going to have something high in sugar like sweets or biscuits, it’s better to have them at the end of a meal as opposed to a snack between meals.

Sweet things tend to be high in simple carbohydrates. These are the opposite of complex carbohydrates. They’re quick to digest meaning they’ll be broken down into sugar and reach our bloodstream quickly, causing our blood sugar levels to rise.

a basket of cookies

If we eat them on an empty stomach, they’ll lead to a fast rise in blood sugar levels. But if we eat them at the end of a meal, our stomach is already lined with food that needs to be digested, which will slow down the quick digestion of the sugary foods.

Eating sweet foods at the end of a meal and in moderation is a good way to manage blood sugar levels, and your general health.

Key points: 

  • Carbohydrates get broken down into sugars. How quickly they get digested will affect our blood sugar levels.
  • Making your meals balanced with all food groups can help to reduce blood sugar levels as protein and fats take longer to digest.
  • Opting for complex carbohydrates (wholegrains) which take longer to digest can minimise blood sugar rises after eating.
  • Having sweet/sugary foods at the end of the meal instead of as a snack will limit their fast digestion and give better blood glucose control.

I hope you enjoyed this post!

Bye for now 👋






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