With so many Americans suffering from obesity and diabetes, it is becoming more important than ever to be aware of your food’s effect on your blood sugar levels. Having high or low blood sugar can lead to myriad issues, such as decreased insulin sensitivity, mood swings, stress, headaches, and mental fogginess. But, luckily, these 6 habits can benefit your insulin sensitivity and keep you healthy in the long term.
Eat enough fats. Fat slows down sugar absorption in the bloodstream and prevents a roller coaster of spikes and crashes. Many people are afraid of fat, but eating fat will not make you fat. Once more: eating fat does not make you fat. In fact, fat keeps you satisfied longer, which can discourage overeating, so don’t nix it from your diet. If you’re trying to keep your sugar levels balanced, make fats — like coconut oil, chia seeds, nuts, egg yolks, avocado — a steady part of your diet. Worried about all that saturated fat giving you heart disease? According to the research, there’s no significant link between the two.
Don’t eat constantly. Eating many small meals can actually disturb your body’s natural hunger signals. Instead of force-feeding yourself every few hours in the name of health, wait until you are authentically hungry to eat. This can be hard to get used to at first, especially if your body is used to constantly snacking. However, by restricting your eating for a few days, you’ll start to understand when your body actually needs food in contrast to when you find it comforting to have a snack. Your body knows when it needs food. Once you start listening to what your body needs, it will become infinitely easier for everything else to fall into place.
Eat protein. Like fat, protein slows the absorption of sugar in the body. If you are indulging in a sugary food, like a big slice of apple pie, it is smart to balance it with a small companion of protein — like Greek yogurt, sliced turkey, or even some cheese. This simple combination can mean the difference between a blood sugar spike (and inevitable fat storage) and a steady rise. It will also fill you up and dissuade you from licking clean the entire pie plate. Additionally, research has shown that eating a high protein breakfast can actually benefit your sugar levels at meals later in the day.
Enjoy roots and fruits. Fruits and roots are great sources of carbohydrates on their own. Grains can cause inflammation for many people, so eating complex starches likes sweet potatoes and fiber-rich fruits like apples are often a better carbohydrate bet for smart digestion and blood sugar levels. The fiber in these natural, wholesome foods actually slows the absorption of sugar, making them supportive of healthy blood sugar levels. Again, be sure to balance these with protein and/or fat for the most controlled blood sugar rise.
Sleep well. Balancing blood sugar and maintaining a healthy weight isn’t all about what you eat or don’t eat. Studies have actually shown that chronic poor sleep can increase your risk for obesity and diabetes. Not only does too little sleep affect your judgement and leptin levels (the hormone responsible for satiety), but it also decreases your insulin sensitivity. Aim for 7-9 hours a night, and cut out all electronics an hour before bedtime to ensure a quality night’s shut eye.
Practice gentle exercise. If your body is stressed or imbalanced, heavy-duty cardio may not be the best idea. Cardio can increase cortisol levels, which in turn wreaks havoc on the body. Instead, practice yoga and Pilates — both of which can be intense, but generally tend to decrease cortisol levels. Moderate strength training has also been shown to have blood sugar-balancing effects. Steady, long-term exercise is always the smart choice for your body, mind, and wellbeing.
If you keep your lifestyle balanced, it will be easier to keep your blood sugar levels balanced. Have a balanced plate of fats, proteins, and wholesome carbohydrates when you’re hungry. Get a balanced night of sleep. Practice moderate exercise that will improve, not hinder, your progress. By taking small steps to improve your quality of life, an improvement in health and wellbeing will soon follow.