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Managing levels of blood sugar—the energy for everyday living—is a key to mood, health and weight control. Preventing blood sugar spikes, and the sugar crashes that follow them, is important to everyone, not just those with diabetes.
Health care professionals know how important blood sugar management is, and for two big reasons. First, poor blood sugar management has major consequences, from mood swings and weight gain to diabetes, heart disease and even some types of cancer. Second is the magnitude of the problem. 25 million people have diabetes and another 79 million people in the U.S. have pre-diabetes1. This means that 1 in 3 people in the U.S. have trouble managing blood sugar levels. 75% of the population is overweight. Most of it traces to poor blood sugar control, and most of that traces to diet.
Blood sugar spikes get started by eating "fast" carbohydrates. Candy and soft drinks are obvious sources of "fast" carbs. But not so obvious are flour products like white bread, bagels, waffles, pancakes, muffins, donuts, cookies, cakes, crackers, many breakfast cereals and snack chips.
|We call them "fast" carbs because they have no fiber, protein or fat to slow down digestion. They break down rapidly into sugar, causing a spike. It's the familiar "sugar rush," and it comes from white bread almost as fast as from candy.||The spike is perceived as a metabolic emergency and our body reacts by clearing the excess sugar as fast as it can. This inevitably drives blood sugar too low. It's the "sugar crash," and causes cravings from having too little blood sugar.|
The cravings lead to more "fast carb" eating, and the spike and crash cycle happens again and again, on what nutritionists call the blood sugar "roller coaster."
The constant spike and crash drains the useful energy out of the blood stream which leads to:
Many people struggle with fatigue and mood swings, even if it's only the afternoon energy crash. Why weight gain? When the body is clearing out the excess sugar, it's converting the sugar to body fat, as we explain here. Body fat doesn't come from fatty foods; it mostly comes from "fast" carbs. Starting your day with a low-fat bagel or low-fat strawberry yogurt actually promotes weight gain because they contain so many "fast" carbs.
It may be hard to believe all these problems trace to blood sugar swings. But they do. What may be surprising, though, is that a few simple changes in diet can put a stop to it. And within days.
It boils down to two simple ideas about food: what and when.
It's not surprising that the types of food matter. What may be surprising is what those type are:
These types of foods—what nutritionists call macronutrients—should all be present, in the proper balance, in every meal or snack.
Nutritionists call it meal pattern, and instead of "3 squares a day," we always recommend small, frequent meals. Three medium-sized main meals with one or two healthy snacks in between provide the right amount of energy without spiking blood sugar. And they should all—main meals and snacks—have the right combination of slow carbs, fiber, protein and healthy fats. What we call complete nutrition; what your body is designed to use.
So it's important to understand that snacks aren't just for fun, they're important. Fueling up—properly—between main meals gives sustained energy all day, fewer cravings and smaller portion sizes in total. More energy; less fat gain; better health. It's the role that Zing Bars are designed for, when speed, convenience and neatness are important. But the same can be done other ways, with hummus and carrots, celery and peanut butter, and a host of other tasty—and properly balanced—snack options.
Managing blood sugar is worth the effort, and it doesn't take sacrifice. In fact, it's the opposite of sacrifice: it means new levels of energy without cravings.
When the blood sugar roller coaster is the problem, the effects of getting off it can be dramatic and immediate: steady energy, better moods and weight loss without trying. You can notice these within days, but the real benefit is preventing long-term health problems before they begin.