A Balancing Act: Avoiding Blood Sugar Highs & Woes 

Have you ever noticed that your mood takes a turn for the worse if you skip a meal? Do you ever feel tired, lethargic or just plain cranky in the afternoon? If you've experienced this, you'll know that it's not enjoyable for you or for those around you. A good way to avoid these unpleasant situations is to fuel up on foods that keep your blood sugar balanced. Making smart choices will not only improve your health, but also your mood, energy levels, creativity, and memory. Below I’ll tell you about how our food choices can impact our blood sugar balance and how to avoid the dreaded highs and lows. 

Our brains require glucose to function properly. When blood sugar (blood glucose) drops too low you'll notice changes in cognition and mood. You may experience impaired memory, irritability, slowed thinking, or even feelings of depression. For example, if you consume a lot sugary foods your blood sugar levels will spike. When this happens, your pancreas pumps out insulin to help regulate and store any excess glucose found in your blood. In this situation, the body often produces more insulin than needed and, all of a sudden, you've gone from very high blood sugar to very low blood sugar. What happens next? Lethargy, fatigue and cravings for sugary, sweet foods. At this point, you’ll reach for something sugary and sweet, and the cycle continues on.

To prevent this emotional, psychological, and physiological roller coaster, focus your diet on healthy, whole proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.  Your meals should include lots fresh produce (particularly vegetables; extra points for leafy greens), whole grains, pulses (chickpeas, split peas, lentils and beans), and some fats like nuts, seeds, olives and avocado. Why? Because these foods will nourish and satiate you by providing a balanced mix of vital micro and macronutrients. You'll feel full longer, you’ll be more energetic, and you’ll keep your blood sugar stable. 

Having the right kind of snacks can also help balance blood sugar. Having a little bite to eat both mid-morning and mid-afternoon will provide that little top up your body needs to continue functioning at full capacity until your next meal. Some healthy snack options include a handful of trail mix, an apple, rice cakes with almond or peanut butter, hummus with raw veggies or a seaweed snacks (I love dulse these days).  I also regularly remind my clients about the importance of drinking water throughout the day as the onset of dehydration can tigger mental and physical highs and lows. 

You’ll want to limit sugar, alcohol, and processed foods.  Every now and then most of these things are fairly harmless, but be aware that they can trigger blood sugar irregularities. These products are very low in nutrients and high in calories, offering little to no health benefit, and leading to an instant spike in blood sugar. It’s okay to indulge from time to time, but balance is key. If you consume mostly healthy, whole plant-based foods your diet will contain more mood-boosting nutrients.  You’ll also be healthier and happier, with balanced blood sugar to boot.