A Beginner’s Guide to Balancing Your Blood Sugar
Average read time: 4 minutes
Reviewed by Mary Shomon
You may be thinking, I don’t have diabetes. Do I really need to worry about my blood sugar?
The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
Blood sugar control is not just important for diabetics. Keeping your blood sugar in a healthy range is absolutely critical for optimal health. Blood sugar that is too high (hyperglycemia) or too low (hypoglycemia) not only leads to serious health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, but also causes more common symptoms like fatigue, weight gain and sugar cravings.
Unstable blood sugar also directly impacts your thyroid health. It does this by suppressing your pituitary and reducing thyroid hormone output, reducing the rate of thyroid hormone conversion, and creating an inflammatory cascade that aggravates any autoimmune attack on your thyroid.
Luckily there are some simple things we can do to keep these levels stable and our thyroid healthy and happy!
1. Eat balanced meals
Combine each of the main macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) in every meal. This ensures a slower release of sugar into the bloodstream.
To build a balanced meal, first pick a protein (such as fish, chicken, meat, eggs or a serving of vegan or collagen protein powder). Include a natural source of carbohydrates (such as root vegetables or fruit). Then add in some healthy fats (like avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, ghee, nuts, or seeds).
Finally, pile on unlimited amounts of non-starchy vegetables with plenty of fiber to further slow down the release of sugar into the bloodstream.
2. Avoid refined sugars and processed carbohydrates
Avoid refined sugars (such as white sugar, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, sucrose, fructose and dextrose) and processed carbs (such as pasta, bread, cereal, cookies, bagels and chips) like the plague. These foods cause an instant spike and are highly inflammatory.
Instead of bombarding your body with processed sugar and refined carbohydrates, include moderate portions of naturally sweet fruit and vegetables in your diet to help provide energy and satisfy your sweet tooth.
Good vegetable choices include yams, beets, sweet potatoes, parsnips, onions and all varieties of winter squash. High-fiber green vegetables like spinach, broccoli and kale are also good choices, and can be steamed or cooked to reduce their goitrogenic (thyroid-slowing) properties (see note). All of these vegetables contain fiber, release energy slowly and help maintain proper blood sugar balance when enjoyed as part of a balanced meal.
The best choices of fruit are those that are low in sugar (such as berries and green apples). Also, make sure to eat fruit in its whole form, rather than juicing. Fruit juice has the same effect on your blood sugar as candy because it is missing the fiber, which naturally slows down the release of sugar into the bloodstream.
up next: Candida: What is it and How Does it Affect My Thyroid?
3. Skip the coffee
Caffeine affects insulin release in the same way as eating carbohydrates and can lead to temporary surges in blood sugar in some people, so it’s best to either skip it entirely or keep it to a minimum.
If you simply cannot miss your daily coffee, make sure you don’t have it on an empty stomach. Drinking your coffee with a balanced meal will help minimize any blood sugar spike. You can also try adding some collagen protein and coconut milk to help blunt the glucose response.
4. Get good quality sleep
Sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on blood sugar. Not getting enough sleep reduces insulin sensitivity (meaning your cells have a harder time taking up sugar to use as energy). This leads to an increase in blood sugar levels. The other problem with inadequate sleep is that when you’re tired, you eat more because your body is desperate for energy. And of course, the only foods you typically crave at this point are the sugary, carby foods that will spike levels even more, setting off a never-ending cycle of spikes and dips.
Try to get to bed before 10:30 pm and aim for at least 7 to 8 hours sleep. Ensure that your bedroom is completely dark (or wear a sleeping mask) and switch off all electronics around the bed area to stop blue light and EMF radiation from interfering with your sleep.
Moderate exercise and relaxation are great to help even out blood sugar levels, but too much cardio and high-intensity activities like running, spinning or extreme training workouts will keep your heart rate elevated for too long, spike your stress hormones, exhaust your adrenals, and throw your blood sugar off balance.
Gentler forms of exercise like walking, slow yoga and pilates are excellent movement choices to help lower blood sugar. In fact, research has shown that just taking a 10 minute walk after meals is effective in helping to get your blood sugar levels back to normal.
6. Consider natural blood sugar balancing supplements
Note: Always consult with your health care practitioner before incorporating supplements, as there may be risks such as drug interactions.
Nature is bountiful with ingredients that can help balance your blood sugar. Cinnamon, for example, is an especially delicious and effective way to lower fasting blood glucose. Half a teaspoon of real cinnamon a day has been shown to significantly reduce blood sugar levels. And it’s so easy to incorporate into your diet. I love adding cinnamon to my coffee, soups and stews, and even sprinkled on roasted sweet potatoes!
Speak with your doctor about other blood-sugar balancing supplement options that are appropriate for you.
7. Track your blood sugar using a glucose meter
An easy way to ensure your blood sugar stays in a healthy range is to track your levels using a glucose meter.
There are two measurements to focus on. The first is fasting blood sugar, which is a measure of your blood sugar first thing in the morning before you eat or drink anything. A healthy range is between 70 and 100 mg/dL.
Second, you want to track post-prandial blood sugar, which is a measurement of how your blood sugar level responds after a meal. You want to make sure that your blood sugar is down to 120 mg/dL within one or two hours after you eat. Most healthy levels are at or below 140 mg/dL two hours after a meal.
Blood glucose meters are affordable and can be purchased from any pharmacy. They’re very simple to use. I recommend using one to see how your blood sugar responds when you implement points 1 to 6 in this article. Then you can customize your food choices to best control blood sugar fluctuations. Frequent blood sugar monitoring will really help to measure your progress and keep you motivated in your quest towards optimal health.
Note: Most experts now agree that there is no need to avoid “goitrogenic” foods in the diet, unless you have hypothyroidism induced by iodine deficiency. Read more here.