The holidays are here, and along with holiday cheer comes an increase in holiday treats. While we indulge (in moderation!) there are things we can do to help balance our blood sugars and prevent blood sugar spikes. A 2018 Stanford study showed that 80% of non-diabetics experienced high glucose spikes from common foods. Frequent yo-yoing of blood sugars and excess glucose in the blood stream can impact many body systems, including the blood vessels, skin, hormones, and energy levels.
As your body goes between fed and unfed states throughout the day, your blood sugar levels will naturally fluctuate up and down. Blood sugar spikes are sharp rises in blood sugar levels. They can happen due to a variety of factors, but often occur when you eat too many simple carbohydrates that can be broken down and absorbed quickly. Examples of these are baked goods made with white flour, table sugar, fruit juice, soda, candy, and honey.
- Tip 1: Start with vegetables. Veggies contain fiber which coat the small intestine and slow down gastric emptying, leading to glucose from the rest of your meal being absorbed slower creating a smaller glucose spike.
- Tip 2: Have a savory breakfast. Starting your day with protein and healthy fats instead of sugars leads to smaller glucose spikes. This means steadier hunger hormones, no glucose crash, less insulin release, and more available energy so you stay full longer and avoid cravings the rest of the day.
- Tip 3: Move your muscles after meals. By using your muscles after a meal, the glucose that was just consumed gets used immediately to fuel your muscles instead of creating a spike in the bloodstream. This could be a 10-minute walk, dancing around the kitchen, or some intense house cleaning. You may feel like you want to rest after a meal, but in reality, getting movement in will help stabilize your energy the rest of the day!
- Tip 4: Dress up those carbs instead of eating them alone! Veggies should come first, followed by proteins and fats, then starches and sugars last. The fiber in vegetables coat the small intestine, leading to slower emptying of the stomach. Fats also slow down gastric emptying, meaning carbs are entering the small intestine, where they are broken down into sugars, slower, and creating a slower absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. Dressing up your carbs can also mean mixing them in. If you don’t want to eat your carbs last, stir them in with your veggies, fats, and proteins!
- Tip 5: Eat sweets as dessert, not a snack. Sugar is better eaten at the end of a meal, when your stomach is full of all the healthy things you just ate, instead of as a snack on its own. This goes for fruit as well! Always start with a healthy fat or protein (think a handful of nuts before eating strawberries) to help prevent glucose spikes.
- Tip 6: Try adding some vinegar before meals, or to a veggie (like a vinaigrette on your salad!). Vinegar slows down how quickly starches break down into glucose during digestion, and tells our cells to burn more fat. It also tells our muscles to absorb more of the glucose from the bloodstream. Mixing 1 tablespoon into water 10 minutes before meals has been shown to lead to a steadier glucose curve, but ACV gummies do not have the same effect. Lemon juice is also acidic, but studies have shown that you need 3 lemons worth of juice to have the same impact as 1 tablespoon of vinegar.
Enjoy your holiday treats with these tips and tricks to maintain a healthy bloody sugar and overall well-being!