Glucose in the bloodstream is sourced from the metabolization of dietary carbohydrates. What isn’t used for energy is stored as glycogen in cells throughout the body. But the amount of glucose that is broken down varies depending on dietary choices.
Foods high in refined sugar and/or simple carbohydrates are metabolized quickly, which causes glucose levels to spike and build up in the bloodstream.1–3 Sustaining elevated glucose levels can harm the vessels that transport oxygen-rich blood to the organs, significantly raising one’s risk for developing Type 2 diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, nerve and organ damage, eye problems, digestive issues, vaginal and skin infections, and kidney diseases. Conversely, not eating enough food during the day can lower blood sugar levels, resulting in fatigue, weakness, blurred vision, fainting, anxiety, and panic attacks.1–3
The Glycemic index (GI) ranks carbohydrates according to how they affect blood glucose levels. Foods with a high GI will raise glucose levels more than those with medium and low GIs. Foods with a GI of 55 or less are low, 56 to 69 are medium, and foods with a GI of 70 or greater are considered high. In most cases, how much a food has been processed, cooking methods, and ripeness of a fruit can increase its GI.4,5
Fiber tends to lower the GI of foods and plays an important role in blood glucose regulation. Soluble fiber improves insulin sensitivity, allowing the body to effectively stabilize blood glucose levels and distribute it to the cells for energy.3 Insoluble fiber takes longer for the body to break down and gather glucose, which will keep the bloodstream from becoming overwhelmed with glucose and keep serum levels stable.
These beans have a glycemic index (GI) of 30 (“low”) and are loaded with soluble fiber. Beans can also slow down the metabolism of glucose in other foods with which they’re eaten, making them the perfect side dish.6,7
This whole grain has a GI of 28 and contains 32g of soluble fiber per cup. It’s the perfect foundation for stir-fries and is great in soups. 6,8
Most nuts, including walnuts, have a GI between 0 and 20, but walnuts contain the highest amounts of soluble fiber and mono- unsaturated fat. They can be paired with berries for a filling, blood-glucose-regulating snack.10
Fruit in general is a bit tricky, as many fruits, such as pineapple (GI: 62) and watermelon (GI: 72), tend to have high GIs. However, berries are the exception; they have a low GI and are great sources of insoluble fiber. Moreover, blueberries and blackberries can prevent blood glucose levels from spiking after a meal. They can be added to oats and satisfy any sweet cravings.6,9
This fruit is low in carbohydrates and high in fiber, giving them a low GI. Avocados also contain healthy mono-unsaturated fats.2,11
1. Schwarz PEH, Timpel P, Harst L, et al. Blood sugar regulation for cardiovascular health promotion and disease prevention: JACC Health Promotion Series. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2018;72(15):1829–1844. 2. American Diabetes Association site. Blood sugar and insulin at work. https://www.diabetes.org/ diabetes-risk/prevention/high-blood-sugar. Accessed 20 Apr 2020.
3. Harvard Health Publishing site. Healthy eating for blood sugar control. https://www.health. harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/healthy-eating-for-blood-sugar-control?fbclid=IwAR1pPZnNr8 JXxyKUbVV4al5JRZ93im_rtVYgsRZ99uTU1bZuakOGqMheEjQ. Accessed 20 Apr 2020.
4. Glycemic Index Foundation site. About glycemic index. https://www.gisymbol.com/about-glycemic- index/. Accessed 20 Apr 2020.
5. American Diabetes Association site. Glycemic index and diabetes. https://www.diabetes.org/ glycemic-index-and-diabetes?fbclid=IwAR1okmyCVJN9gKoxtGfEnCDP3Hy7ew9eUeN3dsN3hiSh84eg HFMJn0clXwI. Accessed 20 Apr 2020.
6. Foster-Powell K, Holt S H.A, and Brand-Miller JC. International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values. American Journal of ClinicalNutrition. 2002;(62): 5–56.
7. Winham DM, Hutchins AM, Thompson SV. Glycemic response to black beans and chickpeas as part of a rice meal: a randomized cross-over trial. Nutrients. 2017;9(10):1095.
8. Harvard Health Publishing site. The wholesome goodness of grains. Apr 2018. https://www.health. harvard.edu/heart-health/the-wholesome-goodness-of-grains. Accessed 20 Apr 2020.
9. Stull AJ, Cash KC, Johnson WD, Champagne CM, Cefalu WT. Bioactives in blueberries improve insulin sensitivity in obese, insulin-resistant men and women. J Nutr. 2010;140(10):1764–1768.
10. Zibaeenezhad M, Aghasadeghi K, Hakimi H, et al. The Effect of Walnut Oil Consumption on Blood Sugar in Patients With Diabetes Mellitus Type 2. Int J Endocrinol Metab. 2016;14(3):e34889.
11. Wien, M, Haddad, E, Oda, K. et al. A randomized 3×3 crossover study to evaluate the effect of Hass avocado intake on post-ingestive satiety, glucose and insulin levels, and subsequent energy intake in overweight adults. Nutr J. 2013;(12):155. NHR