How to get off the glucose rollercoaster and find sweet balance

Feeling tired and craving sweet things all day long? Glucose spikes may be to blame – here’s how to maintain healthy sugar levels.

If you started today with a bowl of cereal such as corn flakes, you were probably hungry again by mid-morning – that’s because corn flakes, while low in fat they’re high in sugar and have a high glycaemic index.

Foods with a high glycaemic index are digested quickly, causing glucose levels to rise rapidly.

But what goes up must come down, so, after an initial burst of glucose-based energy, you quickly feel sluggish and crave another sugar hit, explains biochemist Jessie Inchauspe, author of Glucose Revolution.

Jessie says this glucose rollercoaster can lead to tiredness, irritability and snacking on carbohydrate-rich foods throughout the day.

“Glucose spikes start a few processes in our body,” Jessie says.

“They increase inflammation, lead to weight gain, increase feelings of hunger, deplete our energy and contribute to chronic conditions like diabetes – so we should avoid them as much as possible.

“About 90 per cent of us have glucose spikes every day, but there are things we can do to flatten them.”

How to stabilise blood glucose levels

Sonia Middleton, the head of education services at Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, says knowing the glycaemic index of the foods we eat can help.

She recommends choosing carbohydrate foods that are digested slowly and avoid raising glucose levels too high.

“Higher GI foods are usually refined and processed foods that often don’t carry much nutritional value,” Sonia says.

“Slower digested carbohydrates are usually high in other nutrients like dietary fibre, so they fill you up for longer and you don’t feel as hungry.

“Carbohydrate foods are an energy source for the body so they are important but you want that energy to be released slowly.”

Easy tips to avoid glucose spikes

1. Have a savoury breakfast

“Switch from a sweet to savoury breakfast,” Jessie says.

“Instead of corn flakes or pancakes, eat porridge, untoasted muesli and, if you like toast choose grainy bread.

“If your day begins with a smoothie, swap apple, banana and strawberry for a smoothie with protein powder, avocado and blueberries.

“If you have fruit with your breakfast, have the whole fruit rather than juicing it.”

2. Eat your vegetables first and carbs last

It’s not just what you eat, but the order in which you eat different foods that can affect glucose spikes, Jessie says.

“Eat your vegetables first and then eat protein and fats, and have sugars and starches last,” she suggests.

Sonia says adding protein to a meal lessens a sharp rise in glucose.

“Add fish, chicken, eggs or tofu.”

3. Drink vinegar before meals

“Add lemon or vinegar to a meal to lower the GI and reduce the glucose spike after your meal,” Sonia says.

Or add a tablespoon of vinegar to a glass of water and drink it before you eat.

The acetic acid helps sugars and starch break down more slowly so you don’t get a glucose rush.

4. Use your muscles for 10 minutes after eating

“When you finish eating, use your muscles for 10 minutes – go for a walk around the block, do some housework or do some squats,” Jessie says.

Exercise burns energy and so stops glucose from building up in your body.

Written by Sarah Marinos.