Blood Sugar and the Goldilocks Zone

How do you feel after you eat a meal? I have started asking my clients that question. It might seem like I am being polite, but I am looking for clues about their blood sugar and insulin levels. This is something you can do at home after every meal and snack. It is not diagnostic like testing, but it will give you great insights into how the food you just ate affects your body, and tracking this information over time will help you optimize your diet to improve energy, sleep, mood, hormone imbalances, weight, and cognition.

How Do You Feel After A Meal?
If you feel better after eating, you have more energy, you can focus better, you feel less anxious or moody your blood sugar may be too low, or you may be hypoglycemic. Eating food raises your blood sugar and you feel better.

If you feel tired most of the day, noticing weight creep, pain, or mood swings, crave sweets, and start looking for a place to nap or caffeine (or both) after eating, you may be suffering from hyperglycemia or even insulin resistance, where your blood sugar is too high. The sweet spot, the Goldilocks zone, is right in the middle when you don’t feel any different after eating, just not hungry.  

Some people can fluctuate during the day between periods of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia. Have a banana and coffee for breakfast and then go for a hike or hop on the Peleton, and you may notice you feel shakey. Your blood sugar has gone too low so you have a piece of toast (second breakfast). For lunch, you are starving and sit down with your kids to have a bowl of pasta (the healthy gluten-free kind) with some meat and vegetable sauce and a piece of fruit for “dessert”. Then you find that you are taking a “coffee nap” (drink a cup of coffee, lie down on the couch, and nap for 20 minutes until the caffeine takes effect). And later that afternoon you are drawn toward a sweet snack. Notice how this person’s blood sugar went from low to high during the day. This may or may not be something I have seen within my family.

Fiber: It’s Not Sexy, But it Works
What is the number one thing you can do to help balance your blood sugar and keep it in that Goldilocks zone? When you eat, eat a meal high in fiber or take a fiber supplement with your meal. Fiber is found in plant foods and most of us don’t get enough fiber in our diets. Think you might have some blood sugar dysregulation? It’s time to level up on your vegetables and make them at least half, if not more of your plate. Nuts and seeds (especially chia and flax), whole grains (if you tolerate them), and fruit (most of us with blood sugar imbalances need to eat fruit as part of a meal with protein and/or fat to balance natural sugar in them, but berries and avocados are low glycemic and great choices). Once you have added fiber, take a look at the rest of your plate or bowl, does it include protein (animal or vegetable), and healthy fats to help keep you in that Goldilocks zone?

Much of this is trial and error and everyone is different. If your doctor has diagnosed you as prediabetic or insulin resistant, you might need to dig down and work a little harder to manage your blood sugar. Testing can help. Blood glucose meters are available over the counter in every drugstore. You can also talk with your doctor about getting a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). I have been wearing one for over a year and it has given me huge insights into my blood sugar. I will share more in another newsletter.

Next Steps
Tracking how you feel after you eat can’t solve all of your blood sugar issues, but it can help give you some good information to get started. Optimal blood sugar, and insulin, the hormone that is responsible for transferring blood sugar into the cells, is affected by a whole host of inputs including what we eat, when we eat, the health of our microbiome and gut health, how well we handle stress, our sleep, and how we move our bodies. Please note, that autoimmune conditions such as Type 1 or 1.5 diabetes require medical supervision, but can improve when we look at these diet and lifestyle inputs as well.

If you would like to dig a little deeper into what strategies might help you support your blood sugar, or you know someone else who would, I am here to help.