The Science of Blood Sugar Balancing

Holiday treats can lead to blood sugar spikes. Here’s how to find balance.
Choose a protein-rich snack such as yogurt.  Photo: Brenda Godinez

By Sarah Wragge

There’s a lot of talk in the wellness space about blood sugar balancing, but what exactly does it mean, and how can you go about it? Glucose (blood sugar) is the most abundant form of simple sugars. Most carbohydrates break down into glucose. Insulin is a peptide hormone that shuttles glucose into cells for energy or storage. This is how metabolism is regulated. Insulin resistance occurs when we can’t use glucose from blood for energy. The pancreas make more insulin to initiate a response, which over time causes blood sugar levels to rise, leading to weight gain and potentially Type 2 diabetes.

Foods for Balancing Blood Sugar

When we need a quick boost, we often want to grab a sugary carbohydrate. Our bodies are smart, and know these foods give us immediate energy, but it’s not a good choice in the long term. When you’re craving sugar and carbs, you actually need protein and fat.

Protein slows digestion and prevents blood sugar spikes. Carbohydrate consumption kept on the lower end generates little or no insulin response to protein. The general rule is to aim for 20 to 30 grams of protein at a meal, and 10 to 15 grams for a snack. Women should aim for 80 to 100 grams, and men between 100 to 150 grams daily, depending on goals.

Pair your protein with healthy fat. Dietary fat [eaten in moderate amounts] has virtually no effect on insulin and, like protein, it keeps you full and fueled throughout the day. It’s also essential for absorbing certain nutrients, building hormones and keeping your skin supple.

Sources of quality protein and healthy fats include organic chicken, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised eggs, avocado, olive oil, wild salmon, nuts and seeds, and coconut oil.

Five Ways to Balance Your Blood Sugar Over the Holidays

1. Commit to moving your body after meals. It can be a 10 to 15 minute walk around your neighborhood.

2. Drink 1 tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar in 4 ounces of water before a carb-rich holiday feast.

3. Have a 4PM mini-meal. If you are planning on dining out or attending a holiday party, drink a protein-filled smoothie without fruit to act as your insurance policy to prevent overeating.

4. Give yourself the gift of wellness this season with a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to stay on track. We recommend NutriSense to all of our clients. Placed on the back of your arm, it monitors your glucose values 24/7. NutriSense became my arm accessory staple when I realized how much my blood sugar spikes from even lower-sugar foods and when drinking alcohol.

5. Don’t snack on holiday cookies throughout the day! Enjoy one indulgence within 20 to 30 minutes of eating your meal.

For other valuable resources to balance your blood sugar, visit Sarah Wragge is the founder of the SWW Method, a six-week program of group and private coaching to transform your health to a new level through personal guidance. It covers a full module on blood sugar balancing and provides guidance on what foods balance and triggers blood sugar spikes.