Stabilize Blood Sugar to Prevent Fatigue

The typical American diet is full of white carbs and sugar, and it is notorious for messing with your blood glucose levels. By understanding and following the glycemic index, you can keep your blood sugars more stable and avoid energy crashes.

Glycemic index of apple on a piece of paper.

The glycemic index (GI) is a numerical system that measures how much of a rise in circulating blood sugar a carbohydrate triggers—the higher the number, the greater the blood sugar response.

Photo: © designer491 | iStock/Getty Images

One of the most important diet-related steps you can take to counteract fatigue is to stabilize your blood sugar, meaning keeping your blood glucose level from quickly skyrocketing and then crashing.

The typical modern Western or standard American diet, which is full of white carbs and sugar, is notorious for messing with your blood sugar metabolism and causing hypoglycemic crashes because of its high glycemic load.

As you might know, the glycemic index (GI) is a numerical system that measures how much of a rise in circulating blood sugar a carbohydrate triggers—the higher the number, the greater the blood sugar response. The glycemic load (GL) is a relatively newer and better way to assess the impact of carbohydrate consumption on your blood sugar. The glycemic load gives a fuller picture than does glycemic index alone; it takes into account how much carbohydrate is in a serving of a particular food. You need to know both GI and GL to understand a food’s effect on blood sugar.

Take watermelon as an example. If you use the glycemic index to decide what’s best to eat, you might avoid watermelon be-cause it has a high glycemic index of 80. (A glycemic index of 70 or more is high, 55 or less is low.) But there aren’t a lot of carbo-hydrates in a serving of watermelon (it’s mostly water), so the glycemic load is relatively low, at 5. (A glycemic load of 20 or more is high, 10 or less is low.)

Another example is beans. Lentils or pinto beans have a glycemic load that is approximately three times lower than instant mashed potatoes, for example, and therefore will not cause large spikes in blood sugar levels.

Stabilizing your blood sugar is accomplished by lowering the overall glycemic load of your diet. Actually studying the glycemic loads of various foods is an interesting exercise, but it isn’t necessary as long as you follow these three simple measures:

  • Eat regularly.
  • Avoid foods made with white flour and sugars.
  • Choose carbohydrates that are less likely to cause rapid spikes in blood sugar, such as legumes (kidney beans, soy beans, pinto beans, lentils, and others), fruits and most vegetables.

Including healthy sources of proteins and/or fats with your meals is another tip for lowering the glycemic load. The most important point, however, and the one that makes the most difference in your overall energy, is to avoid high glycemic load carbohydrates that quickly raise blood sugar, such as highly processed foods that are full of white sugar and white flour as well as sugar-sweetened beverages and breakfast cereals.

For more information about the link between stress and fatigue, purchase Fatigue: Causes & Relief at www.UniversityHealthNews.com.

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Jami Cooley, RN, CNWC

Jami Cooley is a Certified Nutrition and Wellness Consultant as well as a Registered Nurse, but her interest in integrative medicine grew out of her experience in conventional medicine. Cooley … Read More

View all posts by Jami Cooley, RN, CNWC

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