Ever feel like you’re about to throw a toddler-level tantrum at work—and then realize that you accidentally skipped breakfast? Do donuts or fresh-pressed beet, carrot and apple juice give you the sugar shakes? Those are sure signs that your blood sugar is out of whack.
Even if you’re not diabetic, it’s important to regulate blood sugar. Your body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose. It travels through your body to power every bodily function you perform, from hitting “Yes, I’m still watching” on Netflix to solving complex math problems or running a marathon. If your blood sugar is too low, you’ll get dizzy, fatigued and even nauseated. If it’s too high, you might find yourself feeling shaky, hyperactive and otherwise miserable.
Luckily, it’s not difficult to regulate your blood sugar. Here’s how to make smart food and lifestyle choices to stay on an even keel.
Keep your blood sugar level with these eating habits
- Cut down on refined sugars. Unless you’re making every meal from scratch, you’re probably eating a lot more refined sugars than you realize. Even bottled salad dressing contains sugar. Start looking at labels, and opt for healthy choices that are labeled “no refined sugars” whenever possible. That also means skipping the sweet treats more often—no one’s saying you can’t have a chocolate bar here and there, but if you eat your feelings in the form of cupcakes on a regular basis, your blood sugar is going to suffer.
- More fiber, please. Fiber might not be the sexiest solution to your blood sugar woes, but it does help balance the blood sugar. Fiber is slow to digest and will fill you up faster, so you’ll also be less tempted to cram a brioche roll in your face as a snack.
- Look for foods with a low glycemic index. The glycemic index demonstrates how fast our bodies can break a food down into glucose. Check this chart for the glycemic index of many common foods. The higher the number, the faster your body breaks it down and raises your blood sugar levels.
- Find sources of chromium and magnesium. Chromium and magnesium can both help regulate your blood sugar levels, so look for foods with high levels of these nutrients. Avocados, greens, broccoli, green beans, tofu, nuts and seeds are all good sources. If these aren’t your favorite foods, don’t worry: there are also supplements, if you can’t find an appetizing way to cook the mineral-rich food sources.
- Spice it up with cinnamon. Fall is right around the corner, which means there’s going to be cinnamon in just about everything for the next four or five months. That’s good news, because cinnamon also helps regulate blood sugar.
- Consider a low-carb diet. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or just avoid the 3pm post-lunch fatigue, low carb diets like keto are a great way to maintain your blood sugar. Your body will break down fat for fuel, instead of relying on that (admittedly delicious) pizza crust. Best of all, your blood sugar levels will stay consistent longer.
Other ways to regulate your blood sugar
Of course, diet isn’t the only way to keep healthy blood sugar levels. There are several common-sense actions you can take, which will prime your body to process its fuel in a better way.
First, make sure you’re getting enough sleep. If you get under six hours of sleep, your body’s insulin sensitivity will decrease. Similarly, you need to make sure you’re managing your stress. Global pandemic and unrest aside, it’s something to strive for. Stress hormones—specifically, cortisol and epinephrine—increase your blood sugar. That’s good if you’re in a true life-or-death situation. That mom who lifted a car off of her baby probably needed the extra fuel, fast. But if your stress is more of the “I didn’t get any sleep, my kid got sent home from school for mooning the class and the bills are piling up” variety, you don’t need the extra blood sugar spike. Find ways to manage your stress, and stick with them.
One great way to manage your stress? Exercise. You guessed it: exercise also helps regulate your blood sugar. So does staying hydrated. In turn, these healthy habits will not only regulate your blood sugar, but they’ll also help you sleep better. Sometimes these “easy” solutions are harder than others. However, if you make a consistent effort to maintain good blood sugar levels, you’ll notice big changes in your overall well-being.