Preventing After Meal Blood Sugar Spikes
You’ve heard people talk about the importance of eating balanced meals to ensure you’re getting the most out of your macronutrients each time, but there is a more medically sound reason for doing so. Eating balanced meals throughout the day helps to regulate your blood sugar and avoid insulin spikes after meals.
What happens to blood sugar after a meal?
When you add anything to the body, you increase the level of nutrients in your blood system. To compensate for this in-rush of nutrients, your heart receives a message to beat faster. This places a greater demand on your arteries and causes a rise in blood pressure. Over time, this creates great wear and tear on your cardiovascular system and can lead to related diseases like diabetes, heart attack and stroke.
If after-meal blood sugar remains high for two hours or more, it puts your cardiovascular system at great risk.1
In addition, glucose has a negative impact on the tissue lining of your blood vessels, which can interfere with the healthy functioning of your circulatory system and lead to arterial oxidation and atherosclerosis.2
Lifestyle changes can help prevent after-meal glucose spikes
Eating balanced meals divided into a healthy proportion of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats and fiber can slow down your digestion and help to regulate after-meal blood glucose spikes.
Let’s break down these nutritional needs so you get a clear understanding of how you can avoid blood sugar spikes with healthy dietary choices.
The key here is to avoid refined carbohydrates like pasta, white bread, and pastries.3 Opt for healthy, whole grain carbohydrates. If you get into the habit of combining carbohydrates with either a protein or healthy fat each mealtime, you’ll greatly reduce your after-meal blood sugar. For example, combine carrots with almonds for a healthy snack, or non-hydrogenated nut butter on whole grain toast.
Eating a high protein diet means you’ll be eating fewer carbs, which is a good way to avoid bouts of elevated blood glucose.4 Lean protein and plant-based sources require longer to digest, which helps control blood sugar levels by slowing down digestion and the release of nutrients into your bloodstream.
Similarly, healthy fats like olive oil help to regulate insulin spikes by slowing your digestion. As a key ingredient in the Mediterranean Diet, olive oil also carries heart-healthy antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits. It’s a smart alternative to saturated fats.
Olive oil is just one source of antioxidants that can help reduce the oxidizing effects of glucose on your arterial system. Many fruits and vegetables are rich sources of antioxidants, as are spices like cinnamon and turmeric, also known for its anti-inflammatory properties.
There are two kinds of fiber, soluble and insoluble. For after-meal blood sugar spikes, you want to eat more soluble fiber like fresh fruits and vegetables, oatmeal, nuts, and legumes.
As a bulking agent that swells in liquid, soluble fiber slows down the absorption of glucose from carbohydrates into the bloodstream. Instead of a spike in sugar, you get an even, steady flow that won’t tax your circulatory system.
These after-meal sugar rushes are usually followed by an energy crash, prompting you to consume more carbohydrates or sugary beverages as a pick-me-up. However, this will only lead to weight gain and a repeated cycle of post-meal glucose spikes.
That is why portion control is so important. Overeating is a surefire way to increase your blood sugar levels and enter into that two-hour postprandial or after-meal phase of elevated blood glucose. Balanced proportions at every meal will ensure digestion is at a regulated pace and absorption of carbohydrates is controlled.
A good place to start is to get to know your ideal daily calorie requirements. Divide this number into smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. For example, instead of three large meals, make five smaller servings, including a healthy snack in between a lighter breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Not only does this help to regulate your blood sugar, it cuts down on cravings and the temptation to snack or overeat between meals.
All in all, eating healthy, wholesome, balanced meals will help you avoid the health risks associated with after-meal blood sugar spikes.
- Diabetes Care. 2009 Sep;32(9):1721-6. DOI: 10.2337/dc08-2337.
- Endothelium. 2004 Mar-Apr;11(2):123-32. DOI: 10.1080/10623320490482664.
- Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Aug;80(2):348-56. DOI: 10.1093/ajcn/80.2.348.
- Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Mar;97(3):505-16. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.112.042457.
- Blog Contributor