When we digest food our body turns it into glucose (sugar).

Blood sugar is glucose that is circulated in the bloodstream to be used as a source of energy by our cells and brain.

How Does Blood Sugar Relate to Daily Health?
If we eat meals very high or dominant in refined and processed carbohydrates or sugar, as well as stimulants (such as caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes), our blood sugar levels are likely to ‘spike’ i.e. get too high and then drop too low in a short space of time. This is sometimes known as being on the blood sugar rollercoaster!

The result of this imbalance often produces symptoms such as anxiety, difficulty in concentrating, headaches, tiredness/energy slumps, food cravings, feeling jittery/hyper, irritability, depression and weight gain.

Another potential trigger is stress.


What Does Blood Sugar Do In The Body?
After eating, blood sugar rises naturally and triggers the pancreas to make a hormone called insulin.

Glucose is converted into a source of energy by insulin to try and keep blood sugar levels at the optimum level. Unfortunately, only a small amount of glucose can be stored (by the liver) at any one time, which leads to the majority of excess glucose being stored as fat.

The body often can’t deal with a sudden excess of insulin, leading to blood glucose levels dropping too low and too quickly.

Cortisol is a hormone produced by the body in response to stress. When blood sugar levels are low, stress signals are sent to the brain and this triggers the release of cortisol in order to raise blood sugar levels back up.

However, if levels have dropped too low too quickly, the blood sugar level is likely to go too high in a short space of time, as the body is likely to overcompensate in it’s production of cortisol in this situation.

If the pancreas is regularly having to make large amounts of insulin our cells may start to lose their sensitivity to it. This can lead to nutrients from food not being absorbed properly, as well as high levels of insulin and glucose remaining in the blood, and more glucose being stored as additional fat. The cycle can eventually lead to type 2 diabetes and other related health issues.

Possible Symptoms of the Blood Sugar Rollercoaster

Needing coffee or tea to get you going Feeling almost constantly tired
Dizziness Mood swings
Cravings for sweet or sugary foods Frequent urination throughout the day
Headaches Palpitations
Energy dips Regular sweating
Feeling a need for more than 8 hours sleep Feeling thirsty throughout the day
Inability to concentrate properly Irritability


The ‘Blood Sugar Rollercoaster”

How Can I Avoid The Blood Sugar Rollercoaster?
Eating ‘balanced’ meals and snacks are vital, along with keeping stress under control.

A balanced meal or snack consists of foods containing useful levels of protein and fat, as well as ‘complex carbohydrates’.

This balance helps to keep blood sugar levels normal and give your body the right mix of nutrients to keep going until the next meal or snack. 

Pulses (legumes) are an excellent source of dietary fibre‘Complex carbohydrates’
often contain useful amounts of fibre, which helps to slow down the release of sugars. Aim to eat whole grains i.e. quinoa, brown rice and wholemeal pasta, rye, wholegrain breads, green vegetables, beans, lentils and peas.

Some fruits are lower in sugar than others i.e. raspberries, blackberries, papaya, watermelon and tomatoes are good choices.

Favourable protein options are lean meats such as chicken and turkey; white fish i.e. cod and haddock; oily fish such as salmon, trout, sardines, mackerel; eggs, cottage cheese, nuts, seeds and legumes.

With regards to fats – aim to choose foods that are mostly high in unsaturated fats. Good examples are olive oil, oily fish, nuts, avocados and seeds i.e. sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, linseed.

Limit your intake of foods containing high levels of trans fats like biscuits, cakes, margarine, processed meats, many ready meals and pastries.

Cook in oils such as olive oil or coconut oil. Butter and ghee are also good to cook with, although higher in saturated fats.