It is often thought that a stable blood sugar is only important for people with type 2 diabetes. However, this is not the case; it is important for everyone to keep the blood sugar level stable and to prevent a sugar dip. Not only to prevent type 2 diabetes and other diseases, but also for your overall health. The blood sugar level indicates the amount of dissolved glucose in the blood and is expressed in millimoles per liter (mmol/l) or milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood (mg/dL). The values of these can fluctuate enormously throughout the day. Spikes in blood sugar during the day affect our sleep, mood, skin, weight and immune system with a risk of fertility problems or heart disease.
Glucose is the main fuel of the body and we get this from carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and sugar. The pancreas responds to this by secreting the hormone insulin. Insulin is needed for the transport of glucose from the blood to the cells of the body. If this process is abused, by eating too much sugar and refined carbohydrates, cells lose this ability to respond to insulin. The pancreas responds by pumping out even more insulin, leading to insulin resistance. Also known as type 2 diabetes.
During a glucose spike, glucose flows quickly through our body and this has harmful consequences. The short-term consequences of this include: hunger, migraines, poor sleep, menstrual complaints, cravings, problems in controlling type 1 and 2 diabetes, a deteriorated immune system and a decline in cognitive functions. Long-term consequences of a disturbed blood sugar level due to glucose peaks include: acne, eczema, arthritis, intestinal complaints, infertility, PCOS, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and fatty liver.
The flatter the blood sugar, the better. This means that there are fewer glucose peaks and therefore also that less insulin enters the body, which results in a smaller chance of insulin resistance.
Possible symptoms that indicate a dysregulated blood sugar level:
– Trouble losing weight
– (Sweet) cravings
– Sleeping problems or waking up at night with palpitations
– Having to get through the day on caffeine
– Fatigue and energy dips
– Mood swings
– Hormonal fluctuations, menstrual disorders, PMS, infertility or PCOS
– Acne or inflammation in the body
– Poor immunity often colds
– Memory and concentration problems
Eating fruit also raises blood sugar levels. Fruit juices without added sugars often seem like a healthy choice, but this is absolutely not the case for blood sugar levels. Often the fibers are squeezed out of this, so only the sugars, vitamins and minerals remain. It is therefore better for the blood sugar level to eat a piece of fruit that still contains fiber instead of drinking fruit juice. Red fruits, citrus fruits and sour apples contain more fiber and less sugar than other fruits and therefore ensure that your glucose peaks less. Mango, pineapple and other tropical fruits are full of sugar.
Reduce glucose peaks
The choice of breakfast has a major influence on blood sugar levels and glucose peaks throughout the day. In the morning on an empty stomach, we are extra sensitive to glucose because everything in the empty stomach is digested super fast. Breakfast with, for example, cereal, bread with sweet toppings, granola or even a fruit smoothie may seem like a good idea, but this causes a large glucose peak. This also ensures that we get hungry again faster. It also disrupts our blood sugar levels for the rest of the day, so that lunch and dinner also cause major spikes. Ultimately, a breakfast that is high in carbohydrates puts you right on a blood sugar roller coaster during the day. So don’t focus on empty carbohydrates during breakfast, but on a hearty breakfast and food that is high in protein, healthy fats and fiber.
Adding protein, healthy fats and fiber to your carbohydrates reduces glucose peaks. Fiber slows the absorption of sugar into the blood and helps prevent large increases in blood sugar. Proteins can be found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, beans and legumes. These protein-rich products often also contain fat. Fatty foods slow down the rate at which food is transported through the esophagus and stomach to the intestines. This slows down the absorption of sugar into the blood and helps keep blood sugar levels lower. Please note that this is only the case with healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado and nuts and not with the bad fat that is in hardened or refined cooking and frying oils.
Moving your body after a meal can also reduce the glucose peak. With each contraction of the muscles, glucose molecules are consumed and so glucose moves from the bloodstream to the muscles, reducing the flow of glucose through the bloodstream.
So, all in all, we have more influence on our blood sugar than we think and we can lower our risk of symptoms of blood sugar disorder and type 2 diabetes. It all starts with the right food choices and combinations.
Inchauspé, J. (2022). Glucose revolutie. Fontaine Uitgevers.