Anyone who has ever dealt with low blood sugar knows how debilitating it can truly be. Not only can it make you incredibly hungry, but also moody, angry, lightheaded, and your mental focus may suffer as well (even with all the coffee in the world!). Remember that all of our hormones work together as a network, so when one is out of balance, others will be affected too. Hormones are the messengers to our cells that act as regulators in our body, and it’s incredibly important that we care for them as much as possible.
Our blood sugar is one of the most important issues to consider when taking care of our hormones, as it can control many other responses within our body, and because the hormone insulin that controls our blood sugar is directly affected through how we eat.
Insulin and Our Blood Sugar
Insulin’s job is to use glucose from our food to fuel our metabolism to keep our bodies operating normally. Our brains also run primarily on glucose, which aids in mental focus and function. For most of us, we can largely influence how insulin works in our bodies if we take care of our needs to eat healthy foods on a consistent basis throughout the day. However, when we don’t eat, or eat the wrong foods, our insulin levels aren’t able to work like they prefer to.
Ideally, we would eat a meal and insulin would draw the glucose from our food, release it into our cells and propel glucose through our bloodstream to give us energy and provide our brains with the nourishment they need. When this process doesn’t work as intended, blood sugar issues start to creep up and pose a problem for our health and well-being.
There are some simple things you can do to manage your blood sugar better and support your insulin levels to work for you, instead of against you. Try these out for better blood sugar levels, a healthier weight, and a healthier mood too!
1. Fuel Up First
Along with insulin, your body produces another hormone that affects your blood sugar known as ghrelin. Ghrelin triggers hunger, and is normally released first thing in the morning each day. Ghrelin tells your brain that you need to eat, but when you consistently ignore that signal for long enough and skip breakfast regularly, it can disrupt your body’s natural blood sugar levels and metabolic function.
This is why many people report not feeling hungry in the morning despite knowing they need to eat. The entire process creates a vicious cycle since it contributes to erratic blood sugar levels throughout the day and leaves you to eat more at night, which can prevent you from waking up hungry the next day.
The best way to combat this is to eat a small breakfast to get your body used to eat first thing in the morning again. In just a couple weeks (or even as little as a week), your ghrelin levels will start to normalize themselves again and you’ll find it much easier.
Make it a goal to get up 10 minutes earlier each day to allow yourself enough time to make breakfast. If you have time to squeeze in a workout, this can also help you work up a bigger appetite. Then increase the size of your morning meal over time to match your hunger levels as your body adjusts. Try some of our favorite recipes, whether you opt for a smoothie, oatmeal, a veggie chickpea omelette, some whole grain bread with nut butter, or even chia pudding.
2. Eat Regular Meals
Aside from breakfast, you also need to eat regular meals. Even if you don’t feel particularly hungry every 3-4 hours, it’s best not to wait longer than that to have either a meal or snack throughout the day.
Try some of our healthy snack ideas in place of processed foods; these have fiber, healthy fats, plant protein, and magnesium which all aid blood sugar regulation. Also attempt to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner around the same times each day whenever possible. It can help regulate your blood sugar better on an ongoing basis and will help your body know when it can expect you to give it the fuel it needs. This can also help automate hunger responses naturally.
3. Balance With Fiber and Protein
Fiber and protein are a winning combo to assist with your blood sugar. They slow down the release of sugars from food into the bloodstream and slow digestion to also keep you full longer throughout the day. The trick is to consume whole food sources of fiber (like an apple or oatmeal) in place of processed crackers, breads, etc. that don’t come with as many benefits. Also go for plant protein versus animal protein, since many animal proteins (such as dairy) can actually disrupt healthy insulin levels and increase the risk of diabetes.
Aim for at least 5-10 grams of fiber per meal and at least 10-15 grams of protein per meal for best results. A great option would be a protein-packed breakfast bowl, a green smoothie with plant protein added, roasted veggies and beans, or a veggie-packed salad with some hummus, seeds, or plant protein like tempeh.
4. Get Low
Prioritize low glycemic foods when possible if you notice your blood sugar spikes and falls quickly after higher glycemic foods such as rice, white potatoes, ripe bananas, toast, or other lower fiber, high carbohydrate foods. Low-glycemic whole foods that you should include in your meals are foods with at least 5 grams of fiber per serving and that are free of refined grains and refined sugars. Stellar examples include: green vegetables, sweet potatoes, beans, nuts, seeds, legumes, green apples, citrus fruits, berries, leafy greens, and plant-based protein options.
Coconut and avocado are also two fruits that are high in fiber and very low on the glycemic index. All of these choices contain nutrients needed for healthy blood sugar levels such as magnesium, chromium, B vitamins and iron. While you might tolerate higher glycemic foods fine, this tip is worth a shot to see if your blood sugar improve all by just making a few swaps here and there.
5. Skip the Junk
Though a cereal bar, sugary yogurt, protein bar, or some granola might make for a quick meal or snack, those options will not sustain you very long. Your body digests processed foods very quickly because they don’t break down in the body the same way whole foods do. They also don’t satisfy you the same way whole foods do, and can even make you feel more hungry all day long if you rely on them in place of meals.
So, instead of those choices, go with something like an orange and pumpkin seeds with almonds, a small bowl of oatmeal with a dab of almond butter and some chopped fruit, or make a homemade protein bar or energy bar that’s made from real foods. Your body knows the difference and your blood sugar will thank you!
Taking care of your blood sugar throughout the day is one of the best things you can do to give your body what it needs to stay healthy.
Your metabolism, mood, and energy with all benefit in more ways than one. Caring for your blood sugar can even help you prevent (or manage) health issues like hypoglycemia and/or Type 2 diabetes. For more tips, see Important Nutrients for Healthy Blood Sugar Levels and see a list of blood sugar friendly foods with meal ideas here.