Maintaining stable blood sugar levels is essential for helping women feel well. Blood sugar imbalances are a root cause of many other hormone imbalances including PMS, PMDD and PCOS. Over time blood sugar imbalances may lead to chronic health conditions like metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Once blood sugar is stabilised many women find that quite a few of their hormonal and gut health symptoms disappear on their own. As a bonus blood sugar regulation is also important for fertility and can be a vital component in helping women achieve pregnancy. While there are various factors that contribute to blood sugar management, incorporating specific strategies can greatly improve glycemic control. These are the tips and rules I live by when eating and tips I often discuss with my clients.
Tips for Blood Sugar Balance
1.Lower Refined Carbohydrates: Minimising the consumption of refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, sugary beverages, and processed snacks, is crucial for blood sugar management. These foods are rapidly digested and can cause sharp spikes in blood sugar levels which are often followed by quick and sudden drops in blood sugar. Opt for whole grains, fruits, legumes and vegetables instead, as they provide a steady release of glucose into the bloodstream, helping maintain stable blood sugar levels.
2.Adequate Protein: Protein slows down digestion and the absorption of glucose, preventing rapid spikes in blood sugar. Additionally, protein helps promote satiety, reducing the likelihood of overeating, sugar cravings and subsequent blood sugar imbalances. Choose plant-based protein-rich foods first as these have better long term health outcomes especially for diabetes but ensure enough protein is obtained from plant sources as plants are lower in protein than animal sources. The ideal amount for protein for good blood sugar control is 20-30g protein per meal aiming for at least 60-100g daily. Protein needs increase with increased energy demands. Good plant-based protein sources include beans, lentils, soy foods like tofu and tempeh, nuts and seeds. If consuming animal protein choose fish, quality dairy, eggs and a small amount of poultry and other lean meats. Read more in my protein article here: https://talidavoinea.au/how-protein-affects-womens-hormones/
3.Increasing Fibre Intake: Dietary fibre, found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, offers numerous benefits for blood sugar management. Fibre slows down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, leading to a gradual release of glucose into the bloodstream. This helps prevent blood sugar spikes and supports overall glycemic control. Aim for at minimum of 30g fibre daily. Upwards of 50g fibre is beneficial for blood sugar balance however fibre should be increased slowly as to not create digestive upset. Aiming for 30 different whole plant foods a week is a good way to ensure enough fibre intake.
4.Balanced Meals and Desserts: Creating balanced meals that include a combination of protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates is essential for maintaining stable blood sugar levels. Including these macronutrients in each meal helps slow down digestion, regulate glucose absorption, and provide sustained energy throughout the day. This is a rule that can also be applied to desserts. Higher protein and fat desserts that are full of fibre are less likely to impact blood sugar as much as overly sweet desserts. Eg, add yogurt to chocolate cake to make it more blood sugar friendly or choose healthier dessert recipes. Check out my healthy dessert recipes here: https://talidavoinea.au/recipes/desserts/
5.No Snacking or Grazing: Three well-balanced and calorie sufficient meals a day is better for blood sugar control than 5-6 smaller meals or snacks. Avoiding snacking or grazing can help regulate blood sugar levels. Insulin is released each time food is ingested so therefore frequent snacking can lead to continuous insulin secretion, which can disrupt blood sugar balance and overtime lay the framework for metabolic conditions like diabetes. Instead, focus on consuming well-balanced meals that provide adequate nutrients and sustained energy which minimises the need for snacking. This tip also applies to drinks and liquids like smoothies, juices, sodas and hot drinks (except water). If possible any sweet beverage should be consumed at the end of a meal and not as a snack in-between meals.
6.Movement after Meals: Engaging in light physical activity, such as taking a short walk, or a quick workout after meals can aid in blood sugar management. Exercise helps improve insulin sensitivity, allowing cells to more efficiently take up glucose from the bloodstream. Exercising after a meal helps to put the glucose from the food that just been consumed into use. This helps reduce post meal fatigue or tiredness as well as improve insulin sensitivity. Women in particular have better outcomes when exercising in a fed state. For women, exercising fasted or on an empty stomach increases the stress level cortisol too high which actually contributes to insulin resistance and can interfere with thyroid conversion. This may actually lead to weight gain instead of weight loss.
7.Vinegar Consumption prior to Meals: Consuming vinegar, before meals has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels. Vinegar has been found to slow down the digestion of carbohydrates and improve insulin sensitivity. Dilute one to two tablespoons of vinegar in water and consume it before meals to potentially enhance blood sugar management. Any vinegar can be used but apple cider vinegar appears to be the healthiest choice due to its additional mild probiotic benefits. Alternatively consume a salad with vinegar dressing prior to a main meal.
8.Vegetable Starter: Starting your meals with a generous portion of non-starchy vegetables, such as leafy greens, broccoli, peppers, and cucumbers, can help control blood sugar levels. These vegetables are low in calories and carbohydrates but high in fibre, vitamins, and minerals. They contribute to a feeling of fullness, preventing overeating and promoting balanced blood sugar levels.
9.Eating Sweets and Desserts after a Meal: If you have a sweet tooth, enjoy sweets and desserts strategically by consuming them after a balanced meal. Eating dessert on its own can cause rapid blood sugar spikes, but when consumed with a meal, the presence of other nutrients can help slow down the absorption of glucose and mitigate blood sugar fluctuations.
10.Don’t eat late at night: Eating late at night can have a significant impact on blood sugar control, as the body becomes increasingly more insulin resistant during this time. In the evening and during sleep, the body’s sensitivity to insulin decreases, making it harder for glucose to enter the cells efficiently. When we consume food late at night, it can lead to elevated blood sugar levels and a greater demand for insulin production than at other times of the day. This can strain the pancreas and potentially contribute to long-term insulin resistance, weight gain, and the development of conditions like type 2 diabetes. From the research, it appears that 8pm seems to be a cut off point for night time eating, however, I would assume that this time may be earlier or later depending on an individuals regular sleep and wake times.
11.Ensure adequate sleep: Disrupted or insufficient sleep can significantly impact metabolic regulation both in the short term and long term. During deep sleep, the body enters a state of lowered sympathetic nervous system activity, promoting insulin sensitivity and glucose homeostasis. Inadequate sleep duration or poor sleep quality disrupts this delicate balance, leading to impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance. Research has demonstrated that sleep deprivation can decrease insulin sensitivity, impair pancreatic function, and contribute to the development of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Additionally, sleep disturbances have been associated with elevated levels of counter-regulatory hormones, such as cortisol and growth hormone, which further disrupt glucose metabolism. Occasional nights of disrupted sleep will have follow on effects on blood sugar the following day but the body regulates as long as sleep disruptions don’t occur for over 2 weeks. Practice good sleep hygiene and work on stress management to help ensure sleep.
12.Establish effective stress management: Stress exerts significant effects on blood sugar control, primarily through the activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the release of stress hormones, such as cortisol and catecholamines. In response to stressors, the body triggers a cascade of physiological changes, including increased glucose production by the liver, enhanced insulin resistance in peripheral tissues, and altered appetite regulation. Acute stress can lead to transient spikes in blood sugar levels, while chronic stress can contribute to persistent hyperglycaemia and the development of insulin resistance. Furthermore, stress-induced changes in eating behaviours, such as emotional eating or reliance on high-calorie comfort foods, can further disrupt blood sugar control. Implementing stress-management techniques and adopting healthy coping strategies, healthy lifestyle practices as well as dealing with past traumas with relevant psychological support are crucial for mitigating the adverse effects of stress on blood sugar control and overall metabolic health.
For a more in depth look at some of the evidence surrounding blood sugar management you can read my article here: https://talidavoinea.au/blood-sugar-balance-for-hormone-health/
Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. If you have any specific health concerns, please consult with a qualified healthcare professional.
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