You and Your Blood Sugar
My friend and brilliant macrobiotic teacher, Dani Mayor in Barcelona recently wrote a wonderful article on hypoglycemia and how many of us it affects; its impact on our daily wellness is incredible.
According to the National Institutes of Health, 45% of Americans struggle with moderate hypoglycemia while 19% with severe.
This felt like something I should address. So taking my cues from my friend, here we go.
While just about everyone will suffer through an hypoglycemic incident at one point or another, from erratic eating once in a while or a crazy travel day or a non-stop work day…or…or, when it becomes a more chronic condition, we need to wake up and smell the toast.
It’s important to note that severe hypoglycemia is rare and usually occurs with a condition like diabetes, called diabetic hypoglycemia, the result of taking insulin or some diabetes drugs.
But for the rest of us, it seems like a low level version of hypoglycemia is a mini sort of plague that tugs at our wellness, leaving us feeling less than our best.
Here are some ways for you to check in with yourself to see if you might need to balance your food a little better to balance your blood sugar and feel a lot better through the day.
Do you always…always have a craving for something sweet after a meal?
Look, we all love sweets; the trick is to be in control of the sweets, not the sweets having control over you. Erratic eating habits; a reliance on sweets and snacks can contribute to this feeling and take us on a roller coaster of blood sugar levels all day long.
Are you more energetic in the morning, but begin to flag in the afternoon?
Being in balance (as much as modern life allows for that) means that your energy is on a pretty even keel throughout the day. If you work hard, you become a bit tired as the day winds down; that’s simply our bio-rhythms telling us it’s soon time to stop work and cook dinner, preparing for a relaxed evening before sleep. But if you’re ‘tired all the time,’ especially after eating lunch, you are a bit more out of balance than you’d like to be.
It’s time to take a look at your eating patterns. Do you eat meals at relatively the same time each day so that your metabolism and blood sugar stand a fighting chance of finding their balance?
Do you ‘make it’ to lunch after breakfast without a snack?
This is a big one for a lot of people. Even when they eat a hearty breakfast, they find themselves foraging by 10:30 looking for something to tide them over until lunch. That’s all about balancing blood sugar, baby.
For us, that means a breakfast of soft whole grain porridge and some cooked vegetables with some protein like tofu or lentils to create the fuel we need until lunch.
Our bodies like to be fueled with easy-to-digest foods first thing in the morning so we can adjust to the activity of the day. And if you have stopped eating 2-3 hours before going to bed (you do, right?), you’ll wake up a bit hungry with lower than normal blood sugar. For us using a whole grain porridge and vegetables sets the tone for a more balanced day.
Whatever breakfast means to you, finding a balance of macronutrients is the key. And don’t even think about skipping breakfast, because you can’t. Your first food of the day is breakfast, whether it’s in the morning when you rise or later in the day. When you break the fast after sleeping is breakfast.
Can you get through an afternoon without a sweet treat?
As I said earlier…and a million times in my career, we all love sweets, but the trick is to control the sweets, not have them chasing you down the turnpike in your dreams.
The trick with sweet treats is to make them yourself and to make them with the best ingredients you can: whole grain flour, nuts, dried fruit, whole grain or low glycemic sweeteners. And if you think that sounds nothing like a treat, think again. The desserts you can make will satisfy any sweet craving you have.
You need…and I mean need coffee for energy…and you need it more than once a day.
I love coffee. For me, there is nothing like the delicious bitter elixir known as espresso. Do I drink them all day? I do not. I limit my intake to one or two single shots daily and savor every sip. I don’t need espresso; I want and love espresso.
Energy is a resource that we should have plenty of to fuel our activities during the day. If you need coffee or any other stimulant to get you through the adventures of life, you have a blood sugar problem that need balancing. Look, we all have days when we flag (for one reason or another), but if coffee is your go-to for energy more often than every so often, you need to look at it.
Food must become our primary source of energy if we are to live healthy lives; that and physical activity. The combination of whole, unprocessed foods along with keeping our bodies strong and active will provide all the energy we need.
Do you have a hard time thinking clearly or keeping your focus?
Sooooooo many of us can’t focus for long periods and sure, you can blame it on Tik Tok or other social media, but the truth is that if your blood sugar is erratic and all over the place, so will your focus be erratic and all over the place. Flashes of genius will be followed by a block. Not good and not fun.
While some people suffer from ADD-ADHD, many of us just need to find a blood sugar balance to sort ourselves out. Our brains require glucose to feel sharp and to have focus so eating a diet of whole grains, vegetables, beans and good fats, along with nuts and seeds and seasonal fruits will give our hungry energy-burning brains what they need.
If you see yourself in any of these symptoms, you are likely one of the many people struggling with hypoglycemia. Erratic blood sugar levels wreack havoc on our lives and wellbeing.
So what do we do?
Well, you may be sensing a pattern that a balanced diet of whole grains (for complex carbs), beans (for protein), tons of vegetables (especially sweet ones like winter squash, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes and leafy greens like kale and broccoli rabe), along with good fats (like nuts and olive oil) will help you find your way to a more balanced blood chemistry, but here is a great recipe for feeling better, calmer and more centered right now.
Finally, if you’re thinking that the best way to get your blood sugar in line is to skip sweets completely, guess again. People who consume small amounts (three bites) of healthy treats don’t crave them and are able to enjoy them without messing up their blood sugar levels. So have a little fun (but just a little…). Using traditional sweeteners that are complex in nature will let you have your cake and eat it too.
(Thanks to Dani Mayor…my friend, you always inspire me…)