Creating balance can only be achieved if we find balance in life and one major factor that plays a big role in how we feel and our health is our blood sugar balance...
If we go through the day with ups and downs in our blood sugar levels, its inevitable that we will feel up and down, our moods and energy levels will be affected, our sleep disrupted, our gut health disrupted and our overall wellbeing will certainly not be balanced.
You may think that blood sugar doesnt effect us that much, but it really does and when I work with clients, this is one of the big major factors that we work on. By balancing out blood sugar levels can have a profound effect on hormones, energy, mood, gut and wellbeing.
The key to blood sugar levels is looking at the type of foods we eat..
Refined sugars from refined carbohydrates, are known as simple carbohydrates which are foods such as white bread and white pasta, white flour, cereals etc whereby there sugar components are broken down very rapidly within the body into simplest components which is sugar and used within the body quickly and results in blood sugar levels rising rapidly but dropping dramatically often resulting in sugar highs and then a drop in energy levels once those sugars have been used.
You see these refined carbohydrates, insulin breaks them down very quickly for fuel and storage which can leave us with a big slump in energy very quickly and that's why we can get an almost quick high from a chocolate bar, fizzy drink or cake but when this sugar has been broken down, we have an energy slump.
If the body is influxed with simple sugars, the body keeps producing insulin and more sugar is stored in the fat cells but ultimately the body can only store so much, eventually the remaining sugars will enter our bloodstream causing increased blood sugar levels which can not be sustained.
It also means that the body becomes resistant to insulin and produces more in response. This is known as insulin resistance and is the leading cause of type 2 diabetes with symptoms such as fatigue, hunger, difficulty concentrating, weight gain around the middle, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels as well as increased blood glucose levels.
Did you know that sugar can also increase free radicals those molecules that like to wreak havoc on our cells and cause damage, increase inflammation within the body, cause skin aging, and repress the immune system.
Sugar also likes to feed the bad bacteria in our gut. You see there are some bacteria that is beneficial to our health and some that are not so beneficial, and the bad bacteria loves to feed on those simple sugars which can ultimately lead to bloating, wind, diarrhea, constipation, pain, reflux etc.
Sweeteners can also negatively affect the gut bacteria as they can change the balance of bacteria within the gut.
So how to do we stabilise Blood Sugar Levels and avoid those mid morning and mid afternoon energy slumps... The simple answer is eat an unprocessed and complex carbohydrate breakfast, include protein in each meal and of course eat the rainbow.
Complex carbohydrates such as wholegrains, oats, quinoa, beans, legumes, vegetables and fruit although are broken down into sugar, they contain that all important fibre that helps to slow down the breakdown allowing the body to use the sugars as energy over a longer period. Fibre feeds the good bacteria within the gut and as they are unprocessed they contain amazing nutrients, antioxidants and minerals that will also help to support your health and wellbeing.
I always recommend starting the morning off with a nourishing breakfast that contains a source of complex carbohydrates such as rolled oats, wholegrain bread, along with a protein source such as yoghurt, milk, nuts and seeds, as well as including some wonderful fruit and vegetables such as antioxidant rich berries which are also low in sugar, avocado, spinach, beetroot, courgette. This is a great way to not only eat the rainbow and meet your 8 a day but support those energy levels.
Look at swapping your regular white bread for either wholegrain bread that can provide you with a great source of fibre, vitamins and minerals or sourdough bread which will help to avoid the rise in blood sugar levels.
Include protein rich sources in each meal such as quinoa, legumes, beans, pulses, which will all help to stabilise blood sugar levels. add them to salads, wraps, make dips, add to sauces.
The aim for balancing out blood sugar levels is to eat 3 meals a day, skipping meals causes blood sugar levels to drop which can result in you grabbing a quick fix food such as chocolate, sweets, cake, fizzy drink, coffee that will only increase the blood sugar levels but this will then result in a quick sugar high followed by the sugar crash leaving you again with low energy.
I always advise to eat 3 nourishing meals each day, leaving at least 3 hours in between each meal. Of course at first you may have the need to snack as your body starts to find its balance but opt for good quality snacks such as oat cakes, nuts and seeds, yoghurt and nuts, fruit, hummus and crudites, homemade trail mix including nuts, seeds and dried fruit, dark chocolate is a great snack option too but aim for 85% cacao content or higher.
What we want to avoid is eating foods that will spike our blood sugar levels without providing us with the energy we need. Its about eating nutrient dense foods, including complex carbohydrates, good quality protein, healthy fats and of course eating the rainbow.
Try to avoid processed foods, cakes, biscuits, refined flour bread and pastas , fizzy drinks,and try to make the swap to wholegrains, protein rich sources, homemade snacks, biscuits, cakes using unrefined sugar options or low sugar baking.
It really is about finding a balance, of course you can still enjoy a cake or biscuit every now and then but if you are eating them each day then our body will rely on this form of sugar for energy rather than nourishing foods that will provide us with the nutrients our body needs.
Its about having fun with food, eat the rainbow, eat carbohydrates, enjoy sweet foods when you want them but making sure your making the right choices and swaps so changing up refined sugars with natural wholefoods that provide you and your body with fibre and nutrients.
There will be days where we have no time at all to prepare foods for the day, then this is the time to make the right decision if we need to eat on the go, look at the food your about to eat, is it colourful, does it have vegetables, wholegrains, good protein source, healthy fats...if the answer is no, then its unlikely that it will support you through the day, so by looking at what we eat or about to buy and how this food will support our health, we are on the right track.
Remember that it is all about enjoying the food we eat, eating colourful food and not putting restrictions on our already busy lives.