Keeping the Blood Sugar Spikes Away

by Grace Rivers, RDN, CDCES

A fast rise in your blood sugar can occur for many reasons. But the spikes that happen after eating can be managed, leaving you in more control of your day.

What causes a blood sugar spike?

A blood sugar spike after eating can result from too much food at once or the type of food you eat. Your sugar level will remain high until enough insulin is available to lower it or your muscle cells contract from working and use it for energy.

Refined carbs such as processed snack foods can lead to a quick blood sugar climb. Chips, cupcakes, sugar-sweetened beverages, low fiber breakfast cereals, and crackers are a few examples. Candy and donuts also fall into the refined category.

You may also be eating refined foods in your meals. They have had some or all the fiber removed, such as white rice, white bread, and pasta.

How to prevent a blood sugar spike

Eating foods with fiber allows for a slower rise in blood sugar. Foods such as fruits, veggies, beans, and whole grains improve digestion leading to a feeling of fullness for a longer time. 

Exercise can help prevent spikes by causing your cells to be more sensitive to insulin. The result is better acceptance of sugar into the cells and out of your blood. Also, as your muscles are working, they can use the sugar from your blood without insulin being available.

What you can do in the future

Be well hydrated so your body can remove excess sugar. When you are dehydrated, the sugar in your blood is more concentrated. Think about strong tea that doesn’t have enough water in it.

Don’t skip meals. Skipping meals may lead to overeating which in turn leads to a higher than wanted blood sugar level.

Include fiber from beans, fruit, or whole grains. These foods help keep you full longer and aid in keeping your blood sugar better managed.

Keep an eye on your portions. Too much food at once can make your sugar level rise too high. If this happens to you, think back about what you ate and how much.

Include a source of protein and healthy fats in your meals. These macronutrients help to slow the absorption time and keep you full for longer.

Protein is supplied by beans, peas, lentils, whole grains, and different kinds of milk such as dairy, soy, or pea milk.

You can find healthy fats in avocadoes, fatty fish (salmon, sardines), nuts, seeds, and oils like olive and canola.

Choosing your snacks

Sugar-filled snack items like cakes, pies, and cookies are processed, resulting in high blood sugar, especially if you drink a sugar-sweetened beverage along with it. Instead, go for smart snacks!

Smart snacks

Six-inch tortilla with two tablespoons of beans

Slice of whole-wheat bread with peanut butter

One orange and almonds

Low carb veggies such as mushrooms or zucchini with hummus or another bean dip

Know your habits

Investigate your eating and exercise habits if you have frequent spikes. Notice when they are happening during a 24-hour timeframe. Did you only have one high climbing sugar level, or is it happening too often?

If it’s too frequent, start by working on one habit. Replacing a low fiber food such as chips with popcorn or fruit is an easy way to change an eating habit.  

If you make reasonable changes and don’t notice an improvement, more help may be necessary from your healthcare team to get your sugar levels into a healthier range.

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