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Do you know how important your blood sugar is to your body? When you ignore your blood sugar, you run the risk of serious health consequences. Give your blood sugar the attention it deserves, and find foods that stabilize your blood sugar today. After all, It’s never too late to start eating with your health in mind.
Why Blood Sugar Matters
Our bodies are constantly dealing with swings in blood sugar, and blood sugar problems are not simply reserved for those dealing with conditions like diabetes. When we keep our blood sugar in check, we keep our body operating properly.
The blood in our system drives our bodies, and when our blood sugars are all out of whack we run the risk of those areas (like our brain, for instance) not working properly. In the past, I’ve shared some tips of my own to get the conversation started (1). Today, we’re going to talk even more about eating with your blood sugar in mind.
First, let’s pay attention to what a “normal” blood sugar level looks like. This means that we also need to understand the difference between normal and optimal. Normal is where your blood sugar should be, and optimal is where you want your blood sugar to be.
Bottom Line: When it comes to your blood sugar, you should always be looking to achieve that optimal status. You should never be settling for less than normal.
For your morning fasting glucose level…
- Normal: <99 mg/dl
- Optimal: 75 – 85 mg/dl
For your post-prandial glucose level (which is 1 – 2 hours after a meal)…
- Normal: <200 mg/dl
- Optimal: <120 mg/dl
How do you test this at home? When you have a glucometer (2), it’s easy to keep a close eye on your blood sugar levels. If you feel like you need a glucometer, talk to a medical professional to figure out which is right for you.
Common Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar
There are a number of symptoms like you might deal with when your blood sugar is low. These might include:
- Energy crashes
There are also less common, but just as serious, symptoms like:
- Muscle pain
When we start to identify the forces underpinning these symptoms, we might start looking at more serious diseases behind our reduced blood sugar levels. There are many different diseases associated with low blood sugar, like:
- Heart disease
- Many forms of cancer
Bottom Line: Your blood sugar matters, and it matters because the symptoms and the diseases associated with poor blood sugar performance are serious. Know what’s normal, and what’s optimal, and know where your blood sugar stands.
Source: Thanks to my friends at iheartguts.com for this picture. At our clinic, we have tons of their gland-inspired plush toys sitting around.
Blood Sugar and Thyroid Disease
Your blood sugar and your thyroid share a very intimate, and very important, relationship. This means that what you do to your blood sugar can affect your thyroid, and what you do to your thyroid can affect your blood sugar (3).
Basically, increased instances of stress in your body can damage your thyroid – the same way that you cannot abuse so many parts of your body. When your blood sugar levels drop, your body begins producing cortisol – because it views a drop in blood sugar as a danger to your survival. While it might fix your blood sugar, it adds unnecessary stress to your body (4). When it happens repeatedly, it can start doing real damage to your thyroid.
Bottom Line: Your thyroid and your blood sugar are intimately linked. When you allow your blood sugar to drop to unhealthy levels, you run the risk of severely damaging your thyroid.
How Foods Affect Your Blood Sugar
Before we dive into exactly the kinds of foods we should be eating, let’s focus on the big picture. There are three distinct types of foods that we should be eating to help stabilize our blood sugar. So, what are they? Here’s where we need to start:
- Proteins – Eating the right kind of protein is going to be incredibly helpful, when it comes to eating for your blood sugar (5). Especially thanks to the effect protein has on gastric emptying, which research has shown to play a large role in determining post-meal blood sugar levels (6). Stocking up on the right amount, and the right kinds, of protein is going to be invaluable to your body.
- Fats – Polyunsaturates and monounsaturates release the hunger-reducing hormone cholecystokinin, which plays a great role in aiding digestion in our bodies (7). Saturated fats are also known to increase insulin resistance (8), which can play an important role in keeping our blood sugar at the right level.
- Carbohydrates – As always, we want to focus on the good kinds of carbs that we want to work into our diets. Resistant starches (9), mucilage and soluble fiber all play important roles in mitigating our gut health and helping our blood sugar levels truly perform. We’ll see a lot of these good carbs as we go through our top 12.
Bottom Line: The three types of foods you need to effectively stabilize your blood sugar include: proteins, fats and (good) carbohydrates.
Top 12 Foods That Stabilize Blood Sugar
Understanding the value of our blood sugar, and the types of foods we should be ingesting, was only the beginning. Now, we want to break it down even further. Here is my list of the top 12 foods you should be incorporating into your diet, so that you can stabilize your blood sugar and give your body what it needs.
Okra falls into the category of what I’m going to call “slimy” foods. These kinds of foods are really good for your blood sugar. They work to soothe the intestinal tract, and help reduce the amount of insulin made after meals. This, ultimately, reduces postprandial (post-meal) blood sugar elevation, that can be common and dangerous.
An excellent source of lignans, fiber and mucilage. The trick to using flax seeds with your blood sugar in mind is all in the grind. Grind the seeds, add them to liquid and let them form a gel (10). Not only will they go down easy, but they will help stabilize your blood sugar.
Getting more and more mucilage into our diets is so important, so we’ve got to get it from a variety of sources. Eggplant is another great source of plant mucilage.
Green Banana Flour
This has to be one of my favourites. Green banana flour is high in resistant starch, and it is super tasty. You can add it to smoothies or cooked, hot cereal. Either way, it is going to be a great addition to your diet.
Oat bran is the highest source of soluble fiber. It helps to increase the volume in your stomach, and reduces insulin production. Cook it just like you would rolled oats. Please look for brands certified as gluten-free.
You might not know it, but sardines are high in omega-3 fattys and constitute a “clean” protein.
Adzuki beans are the highest source of magnesium that we can easily get into our diets. Chances are you could use more of this powerful micronutrient, and it’s quick to cook and great to the taste. It’s also an excellent source of resistant starch.
Rich in soluble fiber, kabocha squash can play a great role in stabilizing our blood sugars. It consists of slowly-absorbed good carbs, and includes beta carotene. Beta carotene has shown the potential to help downplay the risk of Type 2 diabetes (11), so the more we get the better we may feel.
This dense source of bioflavonoids, especially rutin, improves the health of your veins. It can also reduce the liver’s tendency to make too much sugar, typically from an over-response of glucagon (12).
The monounsaturated fats in avocado may help improve insulin sensitivity, which can go a long way in improving the stability of our blood sugar. This friendly green fruit is also rich in soluble fiber, as well as vitamin B6.
The highest source of potassium possible, which can help prevent the risk of Type 2 diabetes (13). It also has roles in blood sugar regulation, too.
Last but not least, potatoes are one of the best foods to help you stabilize your blood sugar. Clinical studies have shown that potatoes have the ability to reduce hunger, while stabilizing blood sugar longer than any other food (14). It also helps that they are easy to cook, easy to work into any meal and are delicious.
Top Foods to Avoid for Blood Sugar Regulation
Now that we have considered some of the best foods, we also have to go through some of the worst. What we want to do is avoid the foods that can send our blood sugar levels going out of control. The point of this exercise is to keep things stable, and to keep things optimal.
With that in mind, let’s look at some of the foods you should be avoiding…
Bottom Line: There are so many foods that can help improve the stability of your blood sugar. Instead of picking one or two from this list, try to incorporate as many as possible. Use potatoes as a foundation, and start adding other ingredients. Your blood sugar will thank you.
It’s hard to imagine a role that processed sugar can play in our health, overall, but it is especially damaging for trying to keep our blood sugar in check (15). Not only are the cravings bad, but the erratic blood sugar is going to give your body fits. Sometimes, it’s best to cut out sugar (and all of its alternatives) altogether. That’s what works for me, and I hope it will work for you.
We spoke earlier about how we want to keep our liver from producing excessive amounts of sugar. That is also why we want to avoid alcohol when we are trying to regulate our blood sugar. Alcohol itself is already high in sugar, but it also makes our livers produce sugar, too (16).
Alcohol may also cause what is known as reactive hypoglycemia, where blood sugar gets high and then drops off (17). It puts your body through an undue amount of stress, and should generally be avoided.
Putting caffeine into your system can cause your muscles to break down glycogen (which is stored sugar) and pour it directly into your bloodstream (18). That’s why even though caffeine isn’t sugar itself, it gives you a rush because it forces your body to create a whole bunch of sugar on its own.
This is an example of the bad kinds of carbs, as opposed to the good kind, we were talking about earlier. Flour products cause things to be absorbed too quickly, so they should generally be avoided. What we want to do is look for foods that stay in our bodies, and to help us keep our blood sugars regulated. When they simply disappear, they do not do our bodies any good.
Bottom Line: Caffeine, alcohol, flour products and processed foods are going to do more harm than good to our bodies. It’s best if we find a way to work them out of our routine, so that we can stop craving them entirely!
Is your thyroid happy?
Do you know the state of your thyroid? Your thyroid can be such an important determinant to your overall health, it is best if you know exactly what is going on. Please take a moment and check on the health of your thyroid, with this incredibly helpful quiz.
Dr. Alan Glen Christianson (Dr. C) is a Naturopathic Endocrinologist and the author of The NY Times bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet.
Dr. C’s gift for figuring out what really works has helped hundreds of thousands of people reverse thyroid disease, lose weight, cure diabetes, and regain energy. Learn more about the surprising story that started his quest.