Longevity Living | The Glucose Connection: How Blood Sugar Affects Your Energy Levels

The Mexican tradition of taking a siesta after lunch definitely has its merits, but if your workday doesn’t have a built-in nap time, you may need to look at your eating habits for ways to find extra energy. Sometimes it’s about what you eat. Sometimes it’s about WHEN you eat. Both are important… You probably already know several reasons why WHAT you eat is important.

Balancing Blood Glucose

Blood glucose is the answer to why WHEN you eat is important. Sometimes referred to as blood sugar, it's what supplies energy to the cells in our bodies. If you have a balanced glucose level, your get-up-and go energy level should be fine. It’s when it’s not balanced that you have a problem. The glucose in your blood is made from the food you eat. The problem is that not all foods are created equally in this department. Sugary foods (like donuts or pop), processed foods (like puffed rice cereal or pretzels), and refined carbohydrates (like pasta and white bread) can quickly raise your blood glucose level. The short-term effects of eating these foods feel great. You might get an energy surge or “sugar rush”. The longer-term effects, however, are not so great. When your body gets a rush of glucose, your body sees this as an anomaly and produces insulin to quickly get your blood glucose levels down to normal. (People with diabetes have a problem producing enough insulin, so they have to be particularly careful about their blood glucose levels.) This sudden and inevitable drop in blood glucose is what makes you feel like curling up into a ball and snoozing after a big meal. For some people, it can also cause headaches, foggy thinking, or even a jittery feeling. The good news is that there are ways to control this rollercoaster glucose effect. It involves balancing your glucose intake by watching what, how much, and when you eat. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. Once you know some of the basic rules, it’s pretty easy to figure out.

Eat a Little a Lot

The easiest way to keep your blood glucose levels balanced is to eat lots of small meals and light snacks. This can sometimes be a little difficult, as much of our social culture involves eating large, long meals with others. But try to get creative. For example, have a little trail mix as a mid-morning snack so you’re not ravenously hungry at lunch. Or instead of having two helpings of casserole at dinner, just have one and promise yourself a yogurt later in the evening. If you want to munch on something while others are still at the table eating, try low-glucose foods like raw veggies.

Eat Low Glucose Foods

Yes, that's probably stating the obvious. The trick is figuring out which foods are low in glucose. If you’re really interested in this there are lots of websites that list the Glycemic Index (GI) of foods. The GI measures how a food containing carbohydrates affects blood sugar. A food with a low GI is good. The higher the GI, the more a food raises blood glucose. But unless you are diabetic, you probably don’t want to bother with looking up a food’s GI every time your tummy starts to rumble. Fortunately, there are some general guidelines to help you figure out if a food has a low or high GI without any fuss:

  • Most fruits and non-starchy vegetables have a low GI. However, there are a few exceptions. For example, some fruit – like melons and pineapple – have a high GI. There are also some starchy vegetables like sweet potato and corn that have a low GI. Another point to keep in mind is that the riper the fruit is, the higher the GI.
  • Processing food tends to increase the GI, so try not to overdo it with processed foods. Have a piece of whole fruit instead of juice, oatmeal instead of processed cereal or whole wheat bread instead of white bread.
  • In most cases, the longer a food is cooked, the higher its GI. Eat lightly steamed vegetables instead of boiled vegetables, or better yet, eat your veggies raw.

Balance the Where and When Factors

If you have some high GI foods in your diet – and most people do – try to balance what you eat them with and when. In other words, combine high and lower GI foods in the same meal. Some dieticians refer to this as “sharing the health wealth”. Your body can only use so many nutrients at a time, so spread out eating the good stuff. For instance, instead of having a humongous sandwich at lunch and a salad for dinner, have half a sandwich and half a salad for two meals. In this case, a mix of the yin and yang in your diet will help you to have enough energy to make it through your day.

Article Resources: www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/249413.php www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/glycemic-index-and-diabetes.html www.diabetes.ca/diabetes-and-you/living-with-type-2-diabetes www.telegraph.co.uk/men/active/10344206/How-to-stop-feeling-tired-and-maintain-your-energy-levels.html www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/symptoms-of-low-blood-sugar-topic-overvie www.oprah.com/health/Keeping-Your-Blood-Sugar-Levels-Under-Control www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/glycemic-index-and-diabetes.html www.fitnessmagazine.com/health/energy-boosters/tips/get-more-energy/

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