You only have to watch kids for a short time, to see blood sugar swings in full action.
Look at how cranky they get when they’re hungry, how they bounce off the walls after eating sugary snacks, and then how they nose-dive an hour after scoffing the sweets. Yup, that’s the blood sugar rollercoaster.
We’re no different. But we usually just blame our exhaustion or foul mood on stress. Well, guess what—often it’s down to plummeting blood sugar. Let’s face it, we deal with stress better sometimes than others. And we’re definitely not at our best when our blood sugar has tanked.
When I was a teenager in the States, my doctor diagnosed me as hypoglycemic (or having “low blood sugar”). I didn’t take any notice of it—AT ALL. Fast-forward 10 years of badly behaved vegetarianism (basically ignoring protein), to me living in England getting brain scans. I felt wretched. I was dizzy and exhausted all the time. Great news– I didn’t have a brain tumour, bad news– I still didn’t know why I felt like utter crap.
At a friend’s dinner party, I met a lovely Italian woman who told me about Gudrun Jonsson, her life-changing biopath (yup, I didn’t know what that was either). She told me that my blood sugar might be to blame and I should check her out. Gudrun, gut guru and author of the bestseller, Gut Reaction, is a bit of a blood sugar-whisperer (Take Gudrun’s blood sugar quiz). And seeing her was the best move I ever made. It WAS all about my blood sugar!
It turns out, keeping blood sugar levels balanced is key to maximising energy levels, concentration, mood and satiety. It makes sense really— our brain, muscles, and organs use sugar (glucose) for fuel. So if at times you don’t have enough glucose, you’re going to feel rubbish.
So surely the answer is eating more sugar—right? Ah, no. . .Otherwise, you’ll end up lower than you started (back to this in a bit).
ONE OF THE BEST WAYS OF KEEPING BLOOD SUGAR BALANCED IS TO EAT LOW GI. BUT WHAT IS GI?
The Glycemic Index (GI) measures how quickly carbs raise your blood sugar levels. It rates foods from 0 to 100 (pure glucose). The lower the number, the longer it takes for your body to break down and absorb the food, providing more sustained energy.
HIGH GI FOODS (GI 70+) This includes the usual suspects— things made with white flour (like bread), sugar (sweets, cakes, sugary soft drinks), white rice. But this also includes some seemingly healthy foods like most fruit juice, rice cakes (they’re so puffed up your body needs zero effort to break them down), and potatoes (fluffy baked potatoes being the worst).
LOW GI FOODS (GI less than 55) These include wholegrains, most vegetables, beans, seeds, and nuts. Low GI foods are slow to digest, creating a steady release of energy that keeps you fuller longer.
THE PROBLEM WITH HIGH GI FOODS
When you eat high GI foods, you get sugar rush, which triggers a quick release of insulin as your body tries to deal with the sugar overload. This ends up dropping your blood sugar levels lower than where you started. Cue the exhaustion, moodiness, brain fog and hunger!
REALLY good reasons to avoid high GI:
- Our brain and nervous system use 80% of the glucose in our bodies. So guess what’s going down first, if your blood sugar crashes. . .This affects your mood (grumpiness/anxiety) and mental clarity (major brain fog). This also can cause weakness, lightheadedness, shakiness, and dizziness.
- Eating high GI keeps you endlessly hungry because your body is craving sugar to top up the deficit post-crash.
- Not only is excess sugar turned into fat, but insulin also inhibits glycogen breakdown, so your body can’t use fat for fuel. Bad result all the way around.
REALLY good reasons to eat LOW GI:
- Gives you sustained energy
- Improves your mood
- Increases concentration
- Keeps you fuller longer
- Helps facilitate fat burning
A lot of healthy-sounding ingredients are high GI. Brown rice syrup is the first ingredient in many snack bars and balls and it has a higher GI than table sugar. That’s fine if you’re climbing a mountain/ doing high intensity exercise (and need a fast glucose-hit to keep you going), but not ideal when sitting in the office.
We sweetened Nibble with low GI antioxidant-powerhouse dried plum puree and coconut nectar so you are good to go anytime.
Adding fat to high GI foods, will slow down the body’s absorption to some degree. Large amounts of fat in foods will slow down the rate the stomach empties, so these foods take longer to digest. So crisps have a lower GI than baked potato, but clearly that doesn’t make them healthier!
When in doubt, always read ingredients. The best scenario is to go for a nutrient-packed option that is also low GI.
by Erin Moroney