Carbohydrates are sugars, starches and fibers that are in foods such as beans, milk products, cookies and rice. Carbohydrates break down into glucose, a sugar that fuels your body’s day-to-day functions. Some carbohydrates break down into glucose faster than others do. Eating too many of these carbohydrates can lead to blood sugar instability – dips and spikes – which can cause short-term problems such as mood swings and long-term problems such as Type 2 diabetes, according to MayoClinic.com.
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A classification called the glycemic index ranks carbohydrates on a scale of 0 to 100 based on how fast and high they cause your blood sugar to rise in comparison with pure glucose, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Foods on the high end of the scale – 70 and higher – are foods that cause a high and rapid spike in your blood sugar, and foods on the low end are foods that cause your blood sugar to increase less and at a more gradual pace. Examples of foods in the low 55 and under range are raw carrots, raw apples and kidney beans, according to MayoClinic.com. To keep your blood sugar levels stable, increase your intake of foods on the low end of the scale.
Limit your intake of foods that are in the 70 and up range of the glycemic index. Examples of these foods are white rice, plain white bread and watermelon. Foods such as cookies, candy, soft drinks, ice cream and cakes are the highest on the scale as they tend to be made with pure glucose or another fast sugar such as high-fructose corn syrup. Strictly limit your intake of these foods and find foods sweetened with a sugar alternative whenever possible, recommends the Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology website. Foods in the medium 56 to 69 range, such as bananas and sweet corn, are best eaten in moderation.
Considerations About Fiber
Soluble fiber – found in legumes, oats and apples – passes through your body without being digested, and it delays the speed at which your stomach empties, digests and absorbs sugar. As a result, food products that are rich in fiber will cause slower fluctuations in your blood sugar than foods that aren’t. For instance, the sugar in 100 percent apple juice will cause your blood sugar to rise more rapidly than will the sugar in an apple with its peel. Similarly, having a spoonful of sugar will cause a rapid blood sugar spike, but adding that sugar to a bowl of oatmeal will slow it down. Aim for about 14 grams of fiber a day for each 1,000 calories you consume. You would want about 28 grams of fiber if you usually have 2,000 calories per day.
Fat and Protein
Food protein also breaks down into blood sugar, but it enters your bloodstream at a much slower and more consistent pace than carbohydrates do. Including protein with your carbohydrates will help reduce blood sugar spikes and dips. For instance, add peanut butter to your celery and eat a piece of cheese on crackers. Fats also make up an important part of your diet; emphasize healthy fats such as fish, avocados, almonds and olive oil to keep your heart healthy.
Timing your meal frequency and adjusting your meal sizes will also help you regulate your blood sugar. Skipping meals and then binging on food can lead to dramatic blood sugar floods and droughts, so focus on eating about five to six small and nutrient-balanced meals or plan to include snacks in between each of your three main meals. Space them out at an even pace and include a small snack before bedtime to prevent blood sugar dips overnight.