For all those times you want to eat your own hand.
You’ve probably felt that shaky, dizzy, irritable feeling that most of us call “low blood sugar,” right?
It’s the worst — but let’s talk about what’s actually going on in our body when this happens. “Blood sugar levels are influenced by what we eat and insulin, a hormone that removes sugar from our blood and puts it into cells who use it for energy,” Dr. Dorothy Fink, professor of endocrinology at NYU Langone Medical Center, tells BuzzFeed Health.
You can eat yourself to a high blood sugar level by overloading on sugar or carbs (which get broken down into glucose, too), Fink says, which causes your pancreas to pump out a ton of insulin to lower your blood sugar back down quickly. This is what causes the “crashing” sensation. “Your body senses this huge drop in blood sugar and it can make you feel very hungry and shaky, even if your blood sugar isn’t truly low like it gets in diabetics,” Fink says.
True low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia is any level below 70 mg/dl — which can cause symptoms like dizziness, irritability, or fainting. It actually isn’t that common, so the term “low blood sugar” is kind of a misnomer. “This often happens in diabetics from taking too much insulin or in people with metabolic or thyroid disorders,” Fink says. Most of these people use glucose monitoring devices, and without one you can’t really tell if you have low blood sugar or not.
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A great way to keep this feeling at bay is by snacking on things that keep your blood sugar levels stable throughout the day, rather that spiking and crashing it with lots of carbs and sweets.
Plus, snacks high in added sugar or processed carbs can stimulate our brains’ reward centers, making it harder to stop eating them, which perpetuates the blood-glucose-spiking cycle, Brian St. Pierre, director of performance nutrition at Precision Nutrition, tells BuzzFeed Health. So, if you’re interested in evening out your energy and hunger levels, snacks that are high in protein, fats, and fiber and low in sugar and carbs are a great place to start.
“Protein keeps you full and helps decrease insulin production, and healthy fats and fiber slow down digestion so carbs don’t enter the bloodstream and raise blood sugar as quickly,” St. Pierre says. You don’t need to cut carbs entirely, but you should opt for whole grains, veggies, and fruit instead of processed stuff whenever possible.
You also don’t need to ban sugar since it’s found naturally in many whole foods, Fink says, but you want to limit added sugar — think white or brown sugar, corn syrup, honey — or any of these other sweeteners that are, for all intents and purposes, added sugar. The amount of sugar on a nutrition label includes both naturally occurring and added sugar. To determine whether something has added sugar, just look at the ingredient list. If sugar (or one of those sweeteners) is listed, you know there’s added sugar.
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A very simple solution? Stocking you kitchen with some healthy staples that will make your life so much easier when you’re hangry and suffering from a blood sugar low. Here are some things to pick up:
According to the experts, a snack that’s good for blood sugar goals meets most of these guidelines:
• Calories per serving: 200 or less
• Protein: 15 grams
* Fat: 10 grams
* Fiber: 4 grams
• Carbs: 25 grams or less
• Added sugar: 10 grams or less
Here are some quick and easy combinations of the foods above that do a pretty good job of meeting those guidelines. Sure, they’re not the fanciest, but they’re ridiculously easy to prepare, pack, and snack on when you’re trying to be healthy.
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Cottage cheese with blueberries
Protein: 10 grams
Fat: 3 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Carbs: 10 grams
Sugar: 9 grams
Mkucova / Via gettyimages.com