What are blood sugar regulators? The answer to this first question is pretty straightforward: fat and fiber. Some of the foods you’ll especially want to consider are avocados, almonds, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, sesame seeds, legumes, edamame, cinnamon, peas, and quinoa, along with all of the dark leafy greens. (Dark leafy greens nearly always make an appearance on healthy food lists, don’t they?)
The answer to the second question is both more complex and more, well, dire.
If you have diabetes or a diagnosis of prediabetes, you know the basics about blood sugar regulation. If you feel fine BUT in fact have high or rising blood sugar levels and know little about it, that can be a problem.
High or rising blood sugar levels can be a hidden danger, operating in a stealth manner and causing invisible inflammation. Short term results may include hypoglycemia or hyperglycemia; and in the long run may damage vessels that supply blood to the heart, kidneys, eyes, and nerves, leading potentially to heart attacks, stroke, neuropathy, and kidney damage. People with high blood sugar are more prone to Alzheimer's and dementia, and cancer cells love sugar. You don’t want to go there.
Sadly, the Standard American Diet is a pretty sure pathway to high blood sugar levels, with little or no healthy fat nor fiber to slow down the loads of carbs rapidly converting to glucose. Oh, dear!
As always, the plant world comes to the rescue! And there are some fascinating details. When it comes to flaxseeds, sesame seeds and quinoa, for example, the magic word is lignans, one of four classes of phytochemicals found in plants known as polyphenols. Polyphenols have antioxidant properties with potential protective and healing effects on chronic and life-threatening diseases. Go, polyphenols! To learn more about these fascinating compounds, read this lucid article on the UC Davis Integrative Medicine website, “The Power of Polyphenols?”
Your job: wake up and pay attention!
When you’re on a blood sugar roller coaster, you may think that’s “normal,” but it’s not. It’s affecting how you think and feel in an unnatural way. Witness a 4 year old at a birthday party. Cake, juice, crash! We do that to ourselves all the time during the day with the Standard American Diet, eating a lot of simple carbs and not getting that healthy fat and fiber.
People say they don’t feel anything, that they feel okay. I would argue that people become less sensitive to it… but they probably are feeling not quite right. If you eat sweets and you feel kind of crappy afterwards, experience brain fog, or get jumpy like that 4 year old, your body IS feeling all those refined carbs.
What if you introduce blood sugar regulators into your life and pay attention to how you feel?
The blood sugar regulators calm those 4-year olds down.
It’s not doom and gloom! This is something you actually have control over. And you can notice fairly quickly when you make small shifts in a positive direction — what social psychologist and TED star Amy Cuddy calls “self-nudging,” committing to little moves towards change.
When your blood sugar dips during the day, and you start getting a little grumpy, and you want to tear your coworkers hair out over something, reach into your desk for a couple of almonds and reduce that anxiety. Tomorrow, include an avocado with lunch. Who knew?
And try these power-packed blood sugar regulating recipes!
Quinoa with Edamame, Ginger, and Lime from The Longevity Kitchen checks a lot of boxes. It’s nutrient-dense, gorgeous, and tastes even better if made ahead, so this is a great choice for to-go lunches, picnics, or your Sunday cook-a-thon to get ready for a busy week.
It’s also a great post-exercise salad because quinoa contains all the essential amino acids that allow the body to build protein. It’s full of magnesium, which is great for relaxing muscles and preventing cramps. AND it’s a great blood sugar regulator.
Mediterranean Lentil Salad… What can I say? People love this recipe/ The feedback so often is that this one has become a family favorite, a standard in the cook’s repertoire. It’s one I sometimes taste test on stage with people who “don’t like lentils.” So far, this recipe has sparked a 100% conversion rate! Why is it a winner? The ingredients sing beautifully together, with nice flavor and texture tones. And the French lentils I use in the dish hold their shape nicely, so don’t be thinking mushy. If you haven’t already, give this one a try!
ONE more for your savory spring/summer salad options: Walnut, Date and Herb Salad. Sweet dates, peppery arugula, creamy goat cheese, toasted walnuts, and sprightly mint do a lovely dance together! Blood sugar regulating, of course. A quick and easy pleasure.