- What causes blood sugar spikes?
- 6 things you can do to help manage and reduce blood sugar spikes after a meal
When it comes to controlling blood sugar, it is not just what you eat. It is also related to your activities, especially what you do as soon as you eat.
To reduce blood sugar spikes, you are obviously aware that refined carbohydrates, sweets, white flour products, sugary condiments, etc. can cause blood sugar spikes soon after you eat them.
But when you include low-sugar foods, high-fiber greens, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates, your blood sugar is less likely to spike after the meal.
As I mentioned earlier, reducing blood sugar spikes is not just about what you eat and don’t eat; your lifestyle habits play an important role. In particular, what you do immediately after you finish your meal. This affects your blood sugar goals.
Let’s look at what causes blood sugar spikes, what makes it worse, and how you can reduce blood sugar spikes.
What causes blood sugar spikes?
To begin with, food plays a vital role. Simple carbs are usually the main culprits. These include sugary drinks, candy, and white refined flour-based baked goods that are quickly digested and absorbed, and cause blood sugar spikes, unlike a balanced meal that is composed of fiber, protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Protein, healthy fat, and fiber delay digestion, avoiding spikes in blood sugar.
For example, if you were to have a glazed donut, which is almost only simple carbs, your blood sugar would spike immediately after you eat it. Instead, if you opted for a whole grain sandwich with fruit, that would not happen even though the calorie count is the same.
This is because all carbohydrates are not the same. Foods such as beans and oats which are carbs, contain soluble fiber help reduce blood sugar spikes and help with insulin resistance.
However, this is a guideline and it is necessary to monitor your blood sugar after meals periodically to check how your body responds to certain foods.
Talk to your physician and dietician to make a meal plan that suits your needs, that will help reduce blood sugar spikes after you eat. This need not necessarily mean that you must give up everything you enjoy—you just need to be conscious about how these foods impact your blood sugar.
How can you do that?
6 things you can do to help manage and reduce blood sugar spikes after a meal
Blood sugar rises after a meal, but you can control how quickly or how steadily it rises by doing a few things. This will not only help manage your blood sugar levels but also keep them in check.
1. Avoid sitting or lying down after a meal
It may feel great to relax and binge-watch something after you’ve enjoyed a good meal, especially after a long day at work. But now is the time to resist giving in. Also, lying down as soon as you eat can trigger acid reflux. Sitting down or lying down immediately after a meal prevents your muscles from burning off the extra glucose in your bloodstream, raising your blood sugar.
If you tend to have indigestion after you eat, especially after foods such as pasta, or pizza that trigger it, give it a few minutes before you lie down or sit down. A slow walk for around 10 minutes is recommended.
2. Make sure you eat breakfast
The thing about blood sugar is, that every meal and snack raises it. If you are the sort who skips breakfast, remember that this has a big impact on your blood glucose levels. Starting the day without breakfast results in blood sugar fluctuations later in the day in the form of higher blood sugar after you eat lunch and dinner.
So ensure that you start your day with a well-balanced breakfast that contains at least 20 grams of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. For example, eggs, avocado, veggies, and spinach with wholegrain toast.
3. Get adequate sleep
In general, good sleep is essential for overall well-being but especially so for those with diabetes. While an occasional late night may not make a difference, making it a habit to stay up late and cutting down on your sleep hours is not a good idea as it can imbalance blood sugar levels.
Get at least 7-9 hours of good, restful sleep. Not doing so can trigger your stress hormones and thereby cause blood sugar spikes. Increased stress is also not good as it can trigger binge eating, mood disorders, digestive discomfort, and a higher risk of disease.
4. Walk after you eat
As mentioned in point 1, walk after you eat to reduce blood sugar spikes. Ignore that bed or chair. Walk for at least ten minutes before you settle down again. If you can, you might actually want to wear those walking shoes and go for a walk. This will help balance your blood sugar and reduce blood sugar spikes and as an added bonus, let you burn some calories.
Walking after a meal minimizes blood sugar spikes as your muscles use up the glucose for fuel. A quick 10-20 minute walk, especially outdoors, can take your stress away and put you in a good mood.
5. Consume most of your calories in the first half of the day
When you do this, you can reduce blood sugar spikes after a meal and improve blood sugar levels. Our bodies are tuned to process food better during the day. So don’t plan for that big dinner especially if you have high blood sugar.
Go for a large breakfast and lunch with a light dinner rather than consuming those calories late in the day. This will work better in managing your blood sugar.
Moreover, a big dinner that is close to bedtime makes you feel full and interferes with your sleep. And you know restful sleep is an important influence on blood sugar.
6. Include fiber with every meal or snack
While pizza, pasta, and crackers made from refined white flour might seem delicious, they overload you with simple carbohydrates and sugar, resulting in blood sugar spikes. The reason for this is there is nothing to stabilize your blood sugar and slow down the digestion.
Including fiber-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains will not only reduce blood sugar spikes but improve your gut health. It keeps your digestion regular by encouraging gut-healthy bacteria and balanced blood sugar.