5 Tips For Balancing Blood Sugar And Protecting Your Brain From Sugar Spikes
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5 Tips For Balancing Blood Sugar And Protecting Your Brain From Sugar SpikesWays You Can Maintain Your Blood Sugar Levels
It’s common knowledge these days that high blood sugar affects your cardiovascular system1, and you may even be aware that it affects your kidneys2 and eyes3 but your blood sugar levels also impact your brain.
Since blood sugar control regulates the body’s inflammatory response, imbalances affect the brain. Episodes of severe hypoglycemia, or blood sugar crashes, lead to higher levels of inflammatory markers such as C-reactive protein and rapid blood sugar spikes may even cause severe brain damage.4
An Australian study5 and a separate American one found that those with high blood sugar tended to have shrinking in the areas of the brain that control memory, problem-solving, and decision-making. Inflammatory responses constrict blood vessels, which reduces blood flow and causes the brain to lose its ability to circulate blood.6 This causes the tissues to become damaged.
With all of this said, how can we protect our brain from blood sugar spikes? The Glycemic Index (GI) is a numerical system for measuring how fast a carbohydrate triggers a rise in circulating blood sugar. The higher the number, the greater the blood sugar response. High-fiber foods such as apples, quinoa, nuts and seeds are some example of low GI foods that stabilize blood sugar. As a general rule, you should try to eat 25-30g of fiber every day. For more information, there is a great GI chart in my book Meals That Heal Inflammation!
Below are 5 other ways you can maintain balanced blood sugar and protect your brain:
1. Start the Day Right: Start every day with a low-sugar, high-protein breakfast. Store bought cereals tend to be full of sugar, so try making your own. My Coconut Granola on page 168 of Meals That Heal Inflammation is a great high-protein, high-fiber option. Don’t forget to sprinkle it with cinnamon! Only a few grams of this warming spice have been shown to lower fasting blood sugar levels and balance cholesterol levels. In one double blind, randomized, placebo controlled clinical trial, levels of fasting blood glucose, HbA1c, triglyceride, weight, BMI, and body fat mass decreased significantly, and participants didn’t even alter their diet or level of physical activity.7
2. Don’t Skip Meals: Skipping meals throws your blood sugar and insulin, one of the hormones that stabilizes blood sugar, into a tailspin. The body does much better eating smaller amounts of food more often throughout the day; it's easier on the intestines, the pancreas, and your digestive enzymes. Depending on your caloric intake you could eat 4-5 small meals (400-500 calories each) at least every 3 hours. Don’t forget to incorporate protein into your snacks and meals! A handful of walnuts, a cup of edamame, or a hard-boiled egg will help stabilize your blood sugar, give you energy, and manage your hunger levels so you don’t overeat at your next meal.8
3. Eat Your Vitamins and Minerals: Without magnesium insulin is not able to transport glucose into your cells and the glucose builds up in the blood causing tissue damage. Magnesium-rich foods include dark leafy greens, beans and lentils, avocado, and pumpkin seeds. The Garlic Bok Choy Stir-Fry on page 233 of Slimming Meals that Heal is a great way to pack in magnesium. Chromium is also essential for regulating blood sugar. Chromium, found in onions, nutritional yeast, mushrooms, and oysters, enhances insulin’s effect in the body, improving the uptake of glucose and balancing blood sugar.
4. Time for an Oil Change: Eat foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, olive oil, flax oil, coldwater fatty fish, and avocado because dietary fat provides blood glucose control for diabetics and restores insulin sensitivity.9
5. Get Moving: Get active for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Moderate exercise can increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin therefore increasing the effectiveness of insulin to maintain blood sugar within the normal range. As an added bonus, weight bearing exercises use up more glucose than cardio. Don’t forget to find time to relax too! When the body is under continuous stress, it needs to find quick energy which can trigger sugar cravings. Yoga and meditation are incredible tools to bust stress and reduce cravings.10
Here is a video clip of me on Dr. Oz sharing more tips on how to reduce sugar cravings.
Julie Daniluk RHN is the author of Meals That Heal Inflammation & Slimming Meals that Heal (Hay House USA, UK). Visit juliedaniluk.com for more information. Follow Julie on Facebook at Julie Daniluk Nutrition, Twitter @JulieDaniluk & Instagram.
1. American Academy of Neurology. (2012). Even in normal range, high blood sugar linked to brain shrinkage. Press Release. Available from: https://www.aan.com/PressRoom/Home/PressRelease/1100
2. Novak, V., Zhao, P., Manor, B. et al (2011). Adhesion molecules, altered vasoreactivity, and brain atrophy in Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 34(11): 2438-41. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3198286/
3. Vafa, M., Mohammadi, F., Shidfar, F. et al. (2012). Effects of cinnamon consumption on glycemis status, lipid profile and body composition in Type 2 diabetic patients. International Journal of Prevntative Medicine. 3(8): 531-6. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3429799/
4. Baum, J., Layman, D.K., Freund, G.G. et al. A reduced carbohydrate, increased protein diet stabilizes glycemic control and minimizes adipose tissue glucode disposal in rats. Journal of Nutrition. 136(7): 1855-61. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16772449
5. Albert, B.B., Darraik, J.G., Brennan, C.M. et al. (2014). Higher omega-3 index is associated with increased insulin sensitivity and more favourable metabolic profile in middle-aged overweight men. Scientific Reports. Available from: http://www.nature.com/srep/2014/141021/srep06697/full/srep06697.html
6. Chu, X., Zhao, Y., Liu, F. et al. 2014). Rapidly raise blood sugar will aggravate brain damage after severe hypoglycemia in rats. Cell Biochemistry and Biophysics. 69(1): 131-9. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24248411
7. Sinha, R. and Jastreboff, A.M. (2014). Stress as a common risk factor for obesity and addiction. Biological Psychiatry. 73(9): 827-835. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3658316/
8. Bedenis, R., Price A.H., Robertson, C.M. et al. (2014). Association between severe hypoglycemia, adverse macrovascular events, and inflammation in the Edinburgh Type 2 diabetes study. Diabetes Care. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25239782
9. A.D.A.M. Medical Encylcopedia (2013). Diabetes and kidney disease. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001524/
10. Rosenbaum, T. (2002). Sugar creates a sticky business: Round up the usual suspects. American Journal of Pathology. 160(5): 1547-1550. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1850860/