There’s nothing worse than the blood sugar blues. When we eat foods, especially food rich in carbohydrates, glucose is released into the blood stream, this is known as “blood sugar”. Spikes and crashes in your blood sugar can affect your mood, energy and ability to concentrate. You then reach for another blood sugar hit – be it sugar, refined carbohydrates, coffee or other stimulants – and get caught in a vicious cycle of highs and lows. Imagine a world with fewer mood swings, more sustained energy, and a steady, calm focus throughout the day.
Breakfast and the blood sugar blues
This cycle of blood sugar hits and crashes often starts with breakfast. You may have noticed yourself that some breakfasts keep you going for longer, while others leave you hungry by mid-morning.
Studies suggest that adding a decent portion of protein to your breakfast may help keep blood sugar more stable. This might be having a muesli or granola that’s rich in nuts and seeds but low in sugar and dried fruit. Or eggs with wholegrain or rye toast, or pancakes with berries, seeds and yoghurt. People who include a protein source at breakfast have been shown to eat less throughout the day.
Classic breakfasts like toast and jam or cereal from a box are more likely to set you up for a day of blood sugar spikes and crashes however, where you keep reaching for more sugar, more refined carbohydrates and more stimulants.
Whole grains versus refined carbohydrates
If porridge seems to sustain you longer than cornflakes, it’s probably because porridge oats are whole grains. They are made of complex carbohydrates that take a long time to break down into sugar, as well as fibre that then slows down how quickly that sugar enters your bloodstream. Whole grains also contain nutrients that help the insulin pathways that control what happens to the sugar in your blood.
Refined carbohydrates in white bread, breakfast cereals, pastries, muffins, croissants, crisps and so on lack the fibre and nutrients that help you avoid blood sugar spikes and crashes.
Snacks and stimulants
If you feel you need a blood sugar boost at some point in the day, a typical go-to might be crisps, biscuits, chocolate or toast. Instead try something like some nuts or seeds, or some oat cakes, carrots or cucumber dipped in houmous. If you really want that slice of toast, go for wholemeal and spread with nut butter. You’ll hopefully find that does the trick, and you won’t need more snacks later.
If you’re using copious amounts of tea or coffee to get you through the day, then all the above tips apply – plus a very simple swap. When you reach for your next hot beverage, try a mug of warm water instead. Sometimes we feel tired when we’re dehydrated, and some water picks us up as well as, or even better than caffeine.