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Have you ever wondered why your mood, focus, and even physical symptoms change throughout the day? While the focus of many conversations about diabetes focus on blood sugar spikes, it is important to understand that low blood sugar can be just as dangerous.
Symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, shakiness, and irregular heartbeats shouldn't have to be a problem that interferes with your day to day; especially when dietary and lifestyle changes may support better health.
Before I learned the secrets of correcting my low blood sugar issues, I used to snack in between meals, consuming "so-called healthy" foods, such as protein bars and apples with peanut butter. I learned the hard way that my blood sugars became more unstable throughout the day.
To help you learn from my experiences, as well as reduce the possibility of unwanted glucose drops, this article will cover the following:
- What snacking does to blood glucose levels
- Which foods and eating schedule can help you avoid the low blood sugar trap
- Make a smooth transition and prevent a pattern of low blood sugar levels
- The bottom line
How Snacks Affect Blood Sugar
After years of exploring the truth about diet and blood sugar, as well as supporting many people in correcting hypoglycemia, I no longer recommend snacking in between meals. Every time you snack, there is a risk of worsening the cycle of low blood sugar over time, putting you at risk of developing pre-diabetes.
Let's explore this a bit more. A normal blood sugar level is typically a target range between 80 and 100 mg. This means that just over 1 teaspoon of sugar diluted to all of your blood (about a gallon and a half), is all you need to produce a normal glucose level.
When any snack is consumed, blood sugars elevate. No matter what foods are being eaten, especially carbohydrates and protein, you can raise your glucose levels. When you eat often, such as every 1-2 hours, the blood sugar rises and insulin is produced to drive it down. Then, the cycle begins of blood sugar going up and down, up and down, and so on. This cycle actually worsens the low blood sugar problem and many people don't realize they have a problem because their blood test may not indicate any issue.
What and when you eat can impact your glucose levels
Three key lessons that support healthy blood sugar levels are:
- Eating snacks can worsen blood sugar drops
- Meals should include foods that support normal blood sugar levels
- Eating three meals per day with no snacks, can help stabilize your sugar
One of the most important things to help insulin to stabilize would be potassium, which works very well with insulin. While you can take a high-quality supplement, I would rather you get it from foods. The best source of potassium is vegetables and 7-10 cups will help you achieve your daily-recommended value. This can be very hard to do since we are addressing three meals a day with no snacks.
To help with this challenge, I recommend eating vegetables first. I often make a kale shake and a huge salad for a meal, with about 3-6 oz of protein. It is important to eat just enough protein to avoid insulin spikes.
Even if you eat lean protein with vegetables, you may still feel starving. The trick to a smooth transition and preventing hunger after 1-2 hours is to add healthy fats to your meal, such as nuts, avocado, almond butter, olive oil, brie cheese, or butter, to the point where you feel so satisfied that you can make it to the next meal comfortably. Be aware of how much fat you do consume, so that you do not aggravate the gallbladder and cause right shoulder pain and headaches.
Make a smooth transition to steady glucose levels
This transition to mindful eating and stabilizing blood sugar typically takes about 2-3 weeks. Once you do it, you will go from one meal to the next without much hunger. If you need ideas on what meals to eat, check out my video about the ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting.
If you are responsible for children, remember that you have the influence over helping them create healthy eating habits now. You can teach them not to snack between meals, to help set them up for success and stable blood sugar and insulin as they get older.
If you must have a snack, don't get fooled by the protein bars at your typical grocery store, which are full of hidden sugars. People aren't aware of how much actual sugar they are eating. Even those foods that seem healthy, such as an apple or snicker's bar, can make the blood sugar-insulin cycle worse over time.
Protein snacks are the next best decision to not snacking at all. Once you transition and are ready to take on the no-snack challenge, you can cut out protein snacks all together as well.
Finally, both sugar and protein can trigger increased insulin when consumed in excess. When combined, sugar and protein can create an exaggerated spike of insulin, such as a protein bar with added sugar that many people are so used to eating.
The Bottom Line
- Understand that snacks of any kind may raise and lower your blood sugar too often, creating an increase in insulin
- Only 1 teaspoon of glucose for your entire body is all you need; be aware of how hidden sugars play a role in your health
- Eating meals with moderate protein, many potassium-rich vegetables, and fat will help you transition to a 3-meal a day with no snack regimen in a matter of a few weeks
Please share your comments and experiences below.