How to balance blood sugars through food

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The human body is an extremely sophisticated and intelligent machine. Every second, your body is undergoing millions of reactions to maintain basic life processes like breathing, blinking and maintaining your heart beat. To fuel these processes, and the many millions more, energy must be provided from the foods you eat. All macronutrients, that is, protein, fat and carbohydrate, act as energy sources – but carbohydrates take the cake. They are the main source of energy for your body, and especially your brain! 

 

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are found in a wide variety of foods. This includes foods such as cereals and grains (think: bread, breakfast cereals, pasta and rice), vegetables (like potato and corn), fruits, legumes (i.e. beans, chickpeas and lentils) and dairy.

 

In your body, carbohydrates are broken down into their simplest form of sugar – glucose. This sugar is then moved from your blood to the areas of the body that need it the most, thanks to the hormone insulin. With Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), however, this insulin is not entirely efficient, so blood sugar can build-up and become too high.

 

On the other hand, when blood sugar levels drop too low, you are at risk of hypoglycaemia (i.e. having a ‘hypo’). Low blood sugar can make you feel lightheaded, shaky and faint. These events are commonly caused by missing a meal, an imbalance of medication, not eating enough carbohydrates or undergoing intense exercise.

 

The Basics

When it comes to carbohydrate-rich foods, it’s best to look for those that have a low glycaemic index (GI). That’s because low GI foods are slowly digested, so the glucose enters your bloodstream at a slower rate compared to high GI foods, which are rapidly digested and spike your blood sugar. 

 

Quick tips for managing blood sugar levels

Blood sugar levels are directly affected by the foods you eat, so it’s easy to manage them and prevent those unwanted spikes and dips. To give you a helping hand, here’s a quick how-to:

  1. Eat regular main meals containing small portions of carbohydrates.

  2. Snacks are important, too. Think fresh fruit, yoghurt, wholegrain crackers, and nuts. 

  3. Make smart swaps like grainy bread instead of white, brown basmati rice instead of short grain white or rolled oats instead of sugary breakfast cereal

  4. Balance each meal with a sensible portion of protein, like 100 grams of fish or a cup of legumes.

  5. Don’t forget to consider fats! Make the switch from butter to avocado, cook with small amounts of olive oil and swap cakes or doughnuts or nuts or a slice of peanut butter toast.