If you’re like the majority of American women today, you might not think of stabilizing your insulin at the first thought of each meal. After all, we’re hungry, busy women and most of the time, we just try to get in a healthy meal, or something to fill our stomachs and move on with our day. I totally understand that! However, even some of the healthiest choices can affect your blood sugar, all due to the way it affects insulin in your body. Insulin is the fat-storing hormone that increases when our blood sugar rises. Our blood sugar is the key to regulating everything from our weight, to our blood pressure, to our energy, to our mood. Think about how jittery, moody and hungry you feel when your blood sugar shoots up, and then how tired you feel once it comes back down. It’s a terrible roller coaster of a cycle to be on! However, there are some simple things you can do to start stabilizing your insulin every time you sit down to eat. Here are my favorite recommendations, and what works for me daily.
1. Eat Enough Lean Protein
One of the best things you can do to start stabilizing your insulin every time you eat is to start eating enough lean protein with your meals. Whether you’re eating vegetables, carbs, fats or fruit, you need to be eating lean protein, and preferably less high glycemic starches with those. This allows for a higher metabolism and longer blood sugar stabilization because it takes more work for the body to digest protein than it does carbs or fat. When you don’t get enough protein, you’re hungrier sooner, and there’s no leverage on your blood sugar. Protein is the balance on the seesaw, if you will, and is what keeps you from tipping too far one way or the other. Choose lean sources like fish, fat free, no sugar added yogurt and kefir, eggs and egg whites, white meat poultry and hemp protein or whey protein (no sugar added). This is the best way to stabilize your insulin, and even plant sources of proteins like beans and quinoa aren’t as effective at stabilizing your insulin due to their excess carbohydrate content. Yes those foods are healthy, but not enough to control your blood sugar properly.
2. Avoid Sugar at All Costs
There are absolutely no benefits to eating sugar at all- none. No matter what benefits natural sweeteners claim to have, they all affect your glycemic index the exact same way. Avoid them, and you’ll notice a more prominent sense of appetite control, along with a lower weight and better blood sugar. Any food that raises your glycemic index affects insulin storage, which in turn promotes excess cortisol, another fat-storing hormone. Excess insulin from sugar in any form also leads to pre-diabetes and improper insulin regulation and production. You should watch how much dried fruit, whole fruit and grains you eat with each meal as well, keeping serving sizes to no more than ¼ cup grains or whole fruit and 1-2 tbsp. dried fruits per serving. This will help control your blood sugar, so long as you stick to eating lean protein with these foods.
3. Eat Enough Veggies
This tip probably comes as no surprise, but has to be stated anyway. Veggies are the key to filling you up faster and they contain vitamins and minerals that are great for your entire body. If you can’t tolerate raw veggies, feel free to cook them. Though some, like broccoli and kale, get the most attention, don’t forget about others like celery, bell peppers, baby carrots and low sugar fruits like tomatoes, cucumbers and avocados. All of these are some of the highest in antioxidant scores. Healthy lettuces like romaine, spinach, spring mixes, arugula and herbs like basil, cilantro, parsley and oregano are also excellent to add to your diet. These all have supportive nutrients to your blood sugar, including chlorophyll, which naturally wards off sugar cravings of all kinds.
4. Take Chromium
While whole foods are best to obtain our nutrients from, sometimes, for those of us with sensitive blood sugar, it might not be enough. I find that taking a chromium supplement with each meal truly helps my blood sugar stay stable much longer. Chromium is a B vitamin found in many foods, but most people find that a supplement has a stronger effect on their blood sugar. Emphasizing lean protein, veggies and a little healthy fat is the best places to start, but also adding a chromium supplement can make a huge difference in your insulin regulation. I like Nature’s Way brand Chromium GTF, which you can find at iHerb.
5. Add Healthy Fats
Don’t try to skimp on fat, whatever you do. Eating healthy fats with each of your meals, in around 1 tbsp. amounts, is the perfect way to slow down digestion, while promoting healthy blood sugar levels and satiety. All of these factors work together to enhance digestion, slow down insulin and healthy fats are great for your heart, as a bonus.
6. Get Enough Fiber
I know that some sources of fiber can be difficult for some of us to tolerate, so I always suggest sticking with fibers that fill you up but don’t cause bloating. These fibers come in forms like pumpkin, sweet potatoes, oats, oat fiber, ground flaxseed, ground chia seed, winter squash, turnips and leafy greens. Eating enough of these foods at each of your meals makes it much easier to tolerate fiber, than from sources that might cause uncomfortable bloating to occur. Fiber increases absorption of cholesterol to remove it from the body, and slows down the rate of your blood sugar, lowering your insulin levels.
7. Watch Your Beverages
The number one thing you can do each day that has one of the biggest effects on your insulin is to watch what you choose as your beverages. Consuming high sugar drinks, including natural juices, dairy milk and sweetened nondairy milks, is one of the worst things to do for your blood sugar and your weight. Your insulin skyrockets, even when you drink pure homemade fruit and veggie juice. Sure it’s great for you, but it leaves you shaky, doesn’t keep you full and won’t help your insulin. Drink a green smoothie instead. The fibers in the smoothie are better for you than straight juice, and as a former juicer, I can tell you my blood sugar is much more stable now than it used to be when I juiced. Always choose herbal teas, water, coffee without sugar, decaf coffee, green tea and decaf green tea, and even add a dash of apple cider vinegar to your meals. It helps to lower insulin and regulate your blood sugar. You can also add it to any beverage suggested here. If you need a sweetener for your beverages, choose a zero calorie, all natural sweetener, known as stevia. It actually improves your blood sugar and comes from an herb. It is not artificial, and I use it with great success. I suggest NuNaturals for the best quality without chemicals, additives, MSG, yeast, sugar, salt, animal substances or anything else.
8. Avoid Processed Foods
Most processed foods contain additives, fats or sugars that are harmful to your blood sugar, which affects your insulin levels. Most of us know that processed foods aren’t great for our weight, but we’re also not paying attention to our insulin regarding processed foods. Additives like maltodextrin, which is derived from corn, and artificial sweeteners, or highly processed grains and fats are extremely harmful to your blood sugar. They increase insulin in the body, and in return, cause fat storage. Buy whole, unprocessed foods, and when buying foods that have been processed like yogurt, be sure it’s as natural as possible and free of excess fats and sugar.
9. Choose Whole Grains, Not Whole Grain Products
That bread, cereal and nutrition bar you have at home that says they're whole grain might not be lying to you, but they're also not telling you the whole truth. Whole grain products are not as healthy for you as whole grains. Keep your grains simple and boring. Choose whole oats, not oat products. Choose whole quinoa, not quinoa cereal or bars. Choose whole grains, not breads or whole grain waffles. Whole food products have additives and the grains have been broken down and processed, which makes them harsher on your glycemic index. They take less time for your body to digest, and the carbs are more quickly digested in the same light. This means they won’t keep you full as long, and usually always leave your hungrier than a bowl or serving of whole grains.
If you’ve ever suffered insulin problems, I can tell you these recommendations will make such a difference for you. I come from a diabetic prone family, and my blood sugar has to be carefully moderated. I also have a previous seizure condition that was affected by higher blood sugar and insulin, and spent years finding what worked and what didn’t. Now, if I eat the way I’ve suggested to you, I no longer have to take a medication, nor do I suffer seizures and have been free from them for 10 years solid. I hope you’ll find these helpful, and if you have any tips of your own, please do share them with me! Have you ever had issues with your insulin levels?