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It’s summertime, which means you need even more energy for the longer days of work and play.
The secret? Maintaining the right blood sugar, or blood glucose levels, in order to deliver optimal cellular functioning. But getting the right balance is more complicated than skipping refined carbohydrates and other processed foods. It comes down to choosing the right nutrients and supplements in order to avoid the highs and lows.
“Everyone knows that elevated blood sugar leads to diabetes, but before this diagnosis is made, often people can experience glucose dysfunction where they fluctuate between high and low blood sugar and can feel weak, lightheaded and shaky – referred to as reactive hypoglycemia,” says Jennifer Stagg, ND, a naturopathic physician and author of Unzip Your Genes: 5 Choices to Reveal a Radically Radiant You (Post Hill Press, 2016). “The goal is to achieve a balanced glucose level where there are not high peaks of blood sugar. Elevations in blood sugar and, in turn, insulin, lead to inflammation, which impacts every body system.”
Stagg helps weigh in on five ways to get the right glucose going for the greatest summer yet.
1. Pick your protein
Switching to protein over carbs for just 5 weeks can result in a significant improvement in total blood glucose response over a 24-hour period in people with type 2 diabetes, according to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Subjects in the high-protein-diet group consumed protein sources that included one 9-ounce portion of baked chicken, 8-ounce servings of yogurt and milk, and 3-ounce servings of cottage cheese. (The study used low-fat dairy, so make sure to swap in full-fat instead.)
Browse our high-protein recipes here.
2. Nosh on nuts
Pasta with pine nuts? Yes, please. Researchers have found that adding tree nuts – including pine nuts, walnuts, almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts and Brazil nuts – to high-carb meals can help manage the blood-sugar drop that might otherwise come from such a meal. “Nuts are low in carbohydrate, have a healthy fatty acid profile and are high in vegetable protein, fiber and magnesium,” add the authors of the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition study.
Get this mint and pine nut topped pasta that fits the bill here.
3. Get ahold of your glycemic load
“To stay balanced, it’s important to eat meals that are balanced in their glycemic load. This means that in response to the meal, glucose levels don’t spike,” says Stagg. “In general, sweets and starchy foods have a higher glycemic load, while foods high in protein, healthy fats and fiber lower the glycemic response to a meal.” A 1-cup serving of peanuts has a glycemic load of 1.6 while a 1-cup serving of white rice has a glycemic load of 43.
4. Turn to Bs, Cs & Ds
Berberine, biotin, D-chiro-inositol and vitamin D – these are some of the key supplements with the most evidence of reducing blood sugar, either alone or in combination with other nutrients, explains Stagg. “Chromium is more effective for people who are insulin-resistant because it makes insulin more active by helping it bind to the insulin receptor more effectively,” says Stagg. “But without a healthy diet, one can’t expect dietary supplements to ‘fix’ dysregulated blood sugar.”
5. Turn out the lights
When the sun rises earlier and sets later, it’s natural to stretch the days for as long as you can, sometimes jeopardizing sleep patterns. But getting extra Zs can be as critical as those Bs, Cs and Ds. As the National Sleep Foundation reports, people who slept only 4 hours per night for six nights had a 40% reduced ability to break down blood sugar versus those who slept for longer periods of time. Your brain needs deep sleep in order to decrease cortisol and restore blood glucose levels to normal.