Keeping your blood sugar balanced is probably the most important factor in maintaining even energy levels and weight. Your appetite is largely determined by the amount of glucose in your blood. It is the glucose that gives energy to your cells. When the glucose levels are too high the body converts it to glycogen (short term fuel store) or fat. When the glucose levels are too low we experience a range of symptoms including:
- Fatigue, poor concentration
- Digestive problems
Three in ten people have difficulty keeping their blood sugar stable. Over the years this results in increased weight (often over weight) and lethargy. If blood sugar levels are controlled this will lead to even weight and constant energy.
Glucose tolerance check
A “yes” answer to three or more of these indicates a strong possibility that your body is having difficulty keeping blood sugar even.
- Are you rarely wide awake 20 minutes after getting out of bed?
- Do you need a coffee, tea, cigarette or something sweet to get you started in the morning?
- Do you often feel drowsy and sleepy during the day or after meals?
- Do you need naps during the day or fall asleep early evening?
- Do you get dizzy/irritable if you go 6 hours without food?
- Is your energy level less now than it used to be?
- Do you get night sweats or frequent headaches?
Breaking the Habit
We often acquire a taste for sweetness during childhood when it is often used as a reward or comforter and it can be difficult to change life long habits. A few simple changes can make all the difference:
- Avoid concentrated sweetness such as sugar, sweets, dried fruits and neat fruit juice
- ALWAYS dilute fruit juices
- Sweeten breakfast cereal with fruit rather than sugar
Alternatives to sugar, such as honey and maple syrup, are not much better. Most honey is heated so that it can be poured into jars easier. When honey is heated its natural sugar turns into more of a fast releasing one like glucose. If you like eating honey, always buy the untreated kind that is still hard in the jar – never the runny kind.
Artificial sweeteners are not so great either. In large quantities they have shown to have harmful effects on the body and on health and should be avoided wherever possible. We were designed to eat and drink things that mother nature produces, not a huge chemical factory which is where, ultimately, sweeteners are made! You wouldn’t drink chemicals so think carefully next time you reach for a diet drink.
To balance blood sugar:
- Eat WHOLE foods – whole grains, lentils, beans, nuts, seeds and avoid refined, processed and overcooked foods
- Include good quality protein in your diet, ideally with every meal. (carbohydrates eaten with protein slow digestion keeping hunger levels at bay for longer.) Good sources include meat, chicken, fish & eggs. Vegetarians can obtain protein through beans, pulses, nuts & tofu. Protein powders available at health food stores are also a great way of increasing protein in the diet.
- Eat five servings of dark green leafy veg and root vegetables a day – watercress, carrots, sweet potato, broccoli, sprouts, spinach, green beans
- Eat no more than three servings of fruit a day
- Avoid any form of sugar – added sugar, sweeteners and white or refined foods
- Dilute fruit juices and avoid dried fruits
- The herb Astragalus can give you a natural lift (500mg daily)
- Mineral supplements are also important as if any one of chromium, manganese or magnesium are deficient in the body, these can cause sugar cravings as blood sugar levels are out of balance.
Sugar cravings can lead you to becoming the victim of a see-saw effect – soaring and plummeting sugar levels. The best way to beat the sugar rush is to go cold turkey and within a few months your blood sugar levels will have returned to normal.
For more information or advice please telephone 01756 749901