By Jessica Flaherty, RD
Jessica is one of the dietitians here at Not Your Average Nutritionist. She helps people heal their relationship with food so that they can live their life to the fullest.
Overview of where blood sugar comes from
As you probably know, the three macronutrients are: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Carbohydrates are what directly translate to blood sugar (aka: blood glucose), and are usually associated with grains, starches and sweets, but they can actually be found in almost every food group. Some foods that contain carbohydrates are pasta, rice, beans, fruit, vegetables, and milk.
Types of Carbohydrates
There are two types of carbohydrates. A complex carbohydrate also contains fiber, while simple carbohydrates do not. Simple carbohydrates are absorbed faster and cause a faster rise in blood sugar than complex carbohydrates do. The fiber in the complex carbohydrates helps them absorb slower which slows the rise in blood sugar. This doesn’t mean we can’t ever have simple carbohydrates (all foods fit in a healthy diet), but it is something to pay attention to overall.
What is blood sugar, and why do we care?
Have you ever felt sluggish or had brain fog when you didn’t eat enough? This is because glucose is our brain’s preferred energy source – your brain literally needs glucose to work properly!
High blood sugar is called “hyperglycemia” and low blood sugar is referred to as “hypoglycemia”. When the levels in our body are high or low, our body knows what to do to balance things out using the appropriate hormones (insulin and glucagon respectively). The way blood sugar works is when we eat blood sugar naturally goes up, and then hormones help even it out to create homeostasis in our bloodstream.
Why blood sugar control is important
Quick spikes and falls in blood sugar can cause symptoms like dizziness, headache, blurred vision, and fatigue among others. Changes in blood sugar aren’t a problem, but drastic changes in blood sugar frequently over long periods of time do put stress on the body. This can lead to insulin resistance and eventually Type 2 Diabetes (T2DM) if it goes uncontrolled.
What else affects blood sugar?
Other factors that can affect blood sugar include: other foods consumed with carbohydrates (protein, fat, and fiber all help regulate blood sugar levels), stress, injury, acute or chronic illness, surgery, exercise, medications, menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, and genetics.
How is blood sugar measured?
Blood sugar can be measured in several ways. It can be done via a finger prick to check exactly what it is at the moment (this can be done fasting or after a meal). More accurate long-term blood sugar control includes a blood test in a lab for Hemoglobin A1C,” often referred to as just “A1C”. This is just a long name for an approximately three month average of your blood sugars, and it is measured in percentage. The values are listed below:
Normal blood sugar (for someone without diabetes) is: below 5.7%
Prediabetes is: 5.7%-6.4%
Diabetes diagnosis is: 6.5% and above
If your A1C comes back in the pre-diabetes range, it is actually possible to reverse it and lower your blood sugar before you develop diabetes and need insulin. Meet with a diabetes dietitian to figure out how!
You don’t have to do this alone, find a therapist and dietitian you trust to work on your goals with you. If you want to see if one of our NYAN dietitians is a good fit for you, reach out to us. We would love to work with you!