Blood sugar is a necessary component to our bloodstream so that our bodies can produce energy and receive nutrients to vital organs, the nervous system, and muscles. However, having significantly elevated blood sugar levels can do more harm than good.
In this article, we will explore the importance of blood sugar, how to successfully manage it, and how to cook while keeping glycemic levels in mind. To learn more about blood sugar, keep on reading!
1. What is Blood Sugar and What Makes it Rise?
Blood sugar, also referred to as glucose, is an essential component of our blood. Glucose gives us the fuel we need to perform our everyday tasks and delivers nutrients to our bodily systems. When we take in carbohydrates, glucose enters the bloodstream. The endocrine system then works to keep these rising blood sugar levels in check by using the pancreas to produce insulin. The produced insulin keeps levels at bay by sending excess glucose to the liver in the form of glycogen. If our bodies are in need of more sugar in the blood, glucagon comes into play. Glucagon is a hormone produced by the pancreas and is essentially the opposite of insulin. When our blood sugar is low, glucagon signals the liver to release its store of glycogen in the form of glucose.
So what happens when our blood sugar levels get out of whack?
Sometimes, due to lifestyle or genetic risk factors, we can develop insulin resistance, prediabetes, or type 2 diabetes. Insulin resistance happens when your liver, muscles, and fat cells do not respond to insulin, and have a difficult time taking glucose from the bloodstream. This causes the pancreas to make extra insulin which can cause negatively affect your blood sugar levels. When the pancreas fails to keep up with the need for insulin, excess glucose can build up in the bloodstream and lead to prediabetes or diabetes. Excess weight, lack of exercise, and a genetic predisposition are the leading factors of insulin resistance.
It is also normal for blood sugar levels to temporarily spike due to the consumption of certain foods and beverages as well as environmental factors. Artificial sweeteners, sugary carbonated beverages, foods high in saturated fat, overeating, lack of exercise, stress, and lack of sleep can all contribute to elevated blood sugar levels, even if only temporarily.
2. How a Plant-Based Diet Can Lower Blood Sugar
Consuming a vegan diet, or a primarily plant-based diet may work wonders on reducing insulin resistance, preventing prediabetes, and lowering blood sugar levels. This is because a standard Western diet, one rich in animal based foods high in saturated fat, fried fast food, and sugar-filled drinks is the primary cause of elevated blood sugar levels. In order to reverse these negative symptoms, diet is the best step to take.
A plant-based diet have been associated with lower rates of obesity and hypertension because they emphasize nutrient-rich foods like legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and fruits and vegetables that can reduce the risk of diabetes, while excluding animal products high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Plant-based foods have also been shown to lower insulin resistance, promote a healthy body weight, up your daily intake of fiber and phytonutrients, while decreasing your saturated fat intake. Plant protein also has been shown to protect against diabetes when compared against animal based protein!
3. The Best Low Glycemic Foods
Breakfast Bowl With Oats, Pistachios, and Grapefruit/One Green Planet
To prevent your blood sugar levels from rising, it’s important to consume foods and beverages that will not cause your glucose levels to spike. These foods are optimal for not only preventing a rise in blood sugar, but that will help lower your levels as well.
- Avocados are a healthy source of both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats which help to improve insulin sensitivity and keep you feeling satiated.
- Garlic has the potential of lowering fasting blood glucose which will help you manage your blood sugar!
- Sour Cherries are a low glycemic fruit and also contain anthocyanins that have been seen to protect against diabetes.
- Leafy Greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens are loaded with fiber and other nutrients that have been associated with the lowering of blood sugar.
- Chia Seeds have a low glycemic rating and are packed with fiber.
- Whole Grains can benefit insulin sensitivity due to its content of fiber and phytochemicals.
- Nuts, especially almonds, are great to consume after meals because they can reduce and regulate the rise of your blood sugar.
- Cacao, despite its rich flavor, can stabilize blood sugar and is additionally loaded with antioxidants!
4. Refined Sugar-Free Recipes!
No-Bake Strawberry Cream Pie/One Green Planet
Stabilize your blood sugar with fiber-filled, refined sugar-free recipes. Recipes like this Creamy Chilled Avocado Soup with Wheatgrass, Roasted Garlic and Fresh Herb Cream Cheez, Chocolate Sour Cherry Slice, Mesquite Avocado Kale Salad, Chia Pudding with Blueberries, Oat and Seed Bread, Upcycled Dehydrated Almond Bread, or this Decadent Dark Chocolate Ganache from our Food Monster App!
For more like 5 Ways to Improve Blood Sugar Control Naturally and Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes, we recommend downloading our Food Monster App, which is available for both Android and iPhone and can also be found on Instagram and Facebook. The app has more than 10,000 plant-based, allergy-friendly recipes, and subscribers gain access to new recipes every day. Check it out!
Lead Image Source: Alan Levine/Flickr