Have you ever had your blood
sugar levels tested or heard about eating to balance blood sugar?
You know I talk about it a bunch, so if you have ever worked with me you have heard this.
wondered about the science behind how foods affect blood sugar?
importantly, which foods affect your blood sugar more than others?
If so, this post is for you. If not you, maybe someone you love.
It’s all about the glycemic index
and glycemic load. And it’s not boring, promise!
Read on because you may want
to pay attention to foods that are high on the glycemic index or high glycemic
load. And if you’re at risk of blood sugar issues, pancreas conditions, or even
diabetes this is IMPORTANT for you to know. And if you aren’t and don’t want to ever be, this is important too.
What is the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load?
Glycemic this and glycemic that.
Does it matter?
You’ll notice that they both
begin with “glycemic.” That’s one tip that they have to do with
sugars and carbs. Not only how much sugar is in foods, but more importantly,
how it affects your blood sugar levels.
In general, diets that are high
on the glycemic index (GI) and high in glycemic load (GL), tend to increase the
risk of diabetes and heart disease.
FUN FACT: Starches like those in
potatoes and grains are digested into sugar; this is because starch is just a bunch
of sugars linked together. Digestive enzymes break those bonds so that the
sugars become free. Then those sugars affect your body the same way that eating
sugary foods do.
Glycemic Index (or “how fast”)
The most common of the two terms
is “glycemic index” (GI).
As the name suggests, it
“indexes” (or compares) the effect that different foods have on your
blood sugar level. Then each food is given a score from 0 (no effect on blood
sugar) to 100 (big effect on blood sugar). Foods that cause a fast increase
in blood sugar have a high GI. That is because the sugar in them is quickly
processed by your digestive system and absorbed into your blood. They cause a
“spike” in your blood sugar.
So, you can probably guess that
pure glucose is given a GI rating of 100. On the other hand, chickpeas are
right down there at a GI of 10.
Regarding GI: low is anything
under 55; moderate is 56-69, and 70+ is considered a high GI food.
Remember, this is a measure of
how fast a carbohydrate containing food is digested and raised your blood
sugar. It’s not a measure of the sugar content of the food.
How the carbohydrates in food
affect your blood sugar level depend on other components of the food. Things
like fiber and protein can slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream, and
this can make even a high-sugar food, low on the GI scale.
So, lower GI foods are better at
keeping your blood sugar levels stable because they don’t increase your blood
sugar level as fast.
FUN FACT: Can you guess which
food has a GI of higher than 100? (Think of something super-starchy) White
potatoes! They have a GI of 111.
Glycemic Load (or “how much”)
The glycemic load is different.
Glycemic load (GL) doesn’t take
into account how quickly your blood sugar “spikes”, but it looks at how high
that spike is. Basically, how much the food increases your
GL depends on two things. First,
how much sugar is actually in the food. Second, how much of the food is
Low GL would be 0-10, moderate GL would be 10-20, and high GL would
Example of GL and GI
So, let’s compare average (120 g) servings of
bananas and oranges:
Serving size (g)
GL per serving
Excerpt from: Harvard Health
Publications, Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods
As you can see, the banana and
orange have almost the same glycemic index.; this means they both raise your
blood sugar in about the same amount of time.
But, the average banana raises
the blood sugar twice as high (11) as the orange does (5). So, it contains more
overall sugar than the same amount (120 g) of orange.
Of course, this is all relative.
A GL of 11 is not high at all. Please keep eating whole fruits. This is an easy example.
So…What does this all mean for
Certain people should be aware of
the effects that foods have on their blood sugar. People who have diabetes or
pre-diabetes conditions like insulin resistance need to be aware of the glycemic index and
glycemic load of foods they are eating regularly.
The GI and GL are just two
factors to consider when it comes to blood sugar. Some high GI foods are pretty
good for you but if you want to reduce the impact on your blood sugar, have
them with a high-fiber or high-protein food. That’s why I always talk about eating with a fiber food or protein.
If you have blood sugar
imbalances or diabetes, you should probably be aware of the GI and GL of your
If you are at risk of diabetes or
heart disease, you might try swapping out some higher GI/GL foods and replacing
with lower GI/GL foods.
If you want to prevent either of those in the future, remember these tips.
Oh, and check out this low GI recipe I
have for you.
Recipe (low GI): Mediterranean
1 cucumber, chopped
½ cup chickpeas, drained and
½ cup black olives
¼ red onion, diced
½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp basil
½ tsp oregano
1 dash sea salt
1 dash black pepper
Place first five ingredients
together in a bowl.
Add remaining ingredients to a
jar (to make the dressing) with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously.
Add dressing to salad and gently
Serve & enjoy!
Add chopped avocado for even more fiber and healthy fat.
When you try it…come back here and let me know!
How Do I Keep My Blood Sugar Stable?
And do I need to worry about it if I am not a diagnosed diabetic?
Oh, the words “blood
Does it conjure up visions of
restrictive eating, diabetes medications, or insulin injections?
Blood sugar is the measure of the
amount of sugar in your blood. You need the right balance of sugar in your
blood to fuel your brain and muscles.
The thing is, it can fluctuate. A
This fluctuation is the natural
balance between things that increase it; and things that decrease it. When you
eat food with sugars or starches (“carbs”), then your digestive
system absorbs sugar into your blood. When carbs are ingested and broken down
into simple sugars, your body keeps blood sugar levels stable by secreting
insulin. Insulin allows excess sugar to get it out of your bloodstream and into
your muscle cells and other tissues
Why keep my blood sugar
Your body wants your blood sugar
to be at an optimal level. It should be high enough, so you’re not
light-headed, fatigued, and irritable. It should be low enough that your body
isn’t scrambling to remove excess from the blood.
When blood sugar is too low, this
is referred to as “hypoglycemia.”
When blood sugar is too high, it
is referred to as hyperglycemia.
Prolonged periods of elevated blood sugar levels (chronic hyperglycemia)
can lead to “insulin resistance.”
Insulin resistance is when your
cells are just so bored of the excess insulin that they start ignoring
(resisting) it, and that keeps your blood sugar levels too high.
Insulin resistance and chronic
hyperglycemia can eventually lead to diabetes.
So let’s look at how you can
optimize your food and lifestyle to keep your blood sugar stable.
Food for stable blood sugar
The simplest thing to do to
balance your blood sugar is to reduce the number of refined sugars and starches
you eat. To do this, you can start by
dumping sweet drinks and having smaller portions of dessert.
Eating more fiber is helpful too.
Fiber helps to slow down the amount of sugar absorbed from your meal; it
reduces the “spike” in your blood sugar level. Fiber is found in plant-based foods (as long
as they are eaten in their natural state, processing foods removed fiber). Eating nuts, seeds, and whole fruits and
veggies (not juiced) is a great way to increase your fiber intake.
FUN FACT: Cinnamon has been shown
to help cells increase insulin sensitivity. Not to mention it’s a delicious
spice that can be used in place of sugar. (HINT: It’s in the recipe below)
Lifestyle for stable blood
Exercise also helps to improve
your insulin sensitivity; this means that your cells don’t ignore insulin’s
call to get excess sugar out of the blood.
Not to mention, when you exercise, your muscles are using up that sugar
they absorbed from your blood. But you already knew that exercise is healthy,
Would you believe that stress
affects your blood sugar levels? Yup! Stress hormones increase your blood sugar
levels. If you think about the “fight or flight” stress response,
what fuel do your brain and muscles need to “fight” or “flee”?
Sugar! When you are stressed signals are sent to release stored forms of sugar
back into the bloodstream, increasing blood sugar levels. So, try to reduce the stress you’re under and
manage it more effectively. Simple tips are meditation, deep breathing, or
Sleep goes hand-in-hand with
stress. When you don’t get enough quality sleep, you tend to release stress
hormones, have a higher appetite, and even get sugar cravings. Sleep is
crucial, often overlooked, factor when it comes to keeping your blood sugar
stable. Make sleep more of a priority – it will do your blood sugar (and the
rest of your physical and mental health) good.
Your body is on a constant
24-hour quest to keep your blood sugar stable. The body has mechanisms in place
to do this, but those mechanisms can get tired (resistant). Long-term blood sugar issues can spell
There are many nutrition and
lifestyle approaches you can take to help keep your blood sugar stable.
Minimizing excessive carbs, and eating more fiber, exercising, reducing stress,
and improving sleep are all key to having stable blood sugar (and overall good
Recipe (blood sugar
balancing): Cinnamon Apples
2 apples, chopped
1 tbsp coconut oil
½ tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp vanilla extract
Place chopped apples into a small
saucepan with 2 tbsp water. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring
occasionally. After about 5 minutes the apples will become slightly soft, and
water will be absorbed.
Add 1 tbsp coconut oil. Stir
apples and oil together.
Cook for another 5 minutes,
stirring every minute or so.
Add cinnamon, salt, and vanilla.
Cook for another few minutes,
stirring until the apples reach your desired softness!
Serve and enjoy!
Tip: Keeping the peel on increases the fiber, which
is even better for stabilizing your blood sugar.
Let me know when you try the recipe! And if you want to know more on specifically how to stabilize your Blood Sugar…reach out! I am here to support you.