Balance Your Blood Sugar and Save Your Brain!

By guest blogger Julie Daniluk, Nutritionist, author and TV host

A study, announced by the American Academy of Neurology on September 3, 2012, has found that "Even in Normal Range, High Blood Sugar Linked to Brain Shrinkage." The study, which was conducted at the Australian National University in Canberra, included 249 non-diabetic men and women. It found that those with high blood sugar levels tended to have shrinking in the brain areas linked to memory and cognitive skills.

How? Blood sugar control can help regulate the body’s inflammatory response, which has been linked to brain shrinkage. Another theory is that high sugar levels make the blood stickier, raising the risk of clots that starve the brain. That is why the recipes in Meals That Heal Inflammation are free from refined sugars and grains.

Here are 10 ways to get your blood sugar and insulin in balance.

1) Don’t skip meals.This throws your blood sugar and insulin into a tailspin. The body does much better eating smaller amounts of food, more often throughout the day. It's easier on the intestines, the pancreas, and the digestive enzymes. Depending on your caloric intake you could eat 4-5 small meals, of 400-500 calories each. Eat at least every 3 hours.

2) Start everyday with a breakfast that includes protein and is low in sugar. Skip the cereal as it is high in sugar. Chia and hemp seeds are high in fiber, protein, omega 3 and magnesium. They are also great for weight loss and thyroid function.

3) Skip the fancy coffee drinks full of sugar, fruit juice, and sugar fortified drinks such as soda and save yourself 400 calories. Americans drink on a daily basis, according to a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which showed that around 37 percent of our total daily liquid calories come from sugar-sweetened drinks. A good replacement? Try herbal tea to increase your water. I like to put a fruit teabag into a Mason jar and step while on the go! Being chronically dehydrated can cause you to eat more.

4) Get 300-400mg of magnesium in your diet for insulin support. Magnesium enhances insulin secretion, facilitating sugar metabolism. Without magnesium insulin is not able to transfer glucose into cells. Glucose and insulin build up in the blood causing various types of tissue damage.

5) Eat chromium foods for blood sugar balance. Chromium is a trace mineral and is essential to the body's production of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that stabilizes the body's blood sugar level. Chromium enhances insulin's effect in the body, improving the uptake of glucose, causing better blood circulation and maintenance of blood sugar level. Foods include onions, tomatoes, nutritional yeast, oysters, mushrooms and whole grains.

6) Eat foods high in healthy oils such as salmon, olive oil and avocado. Consider taking a good quality omega-3 supplement that has been tested for potency. Supplementing with Omega-3 fatty acids such as those found in flax oil and cold- water fatty fish, restores insulin sensitivity. Read more about this here.

7) Eat protein regularly. Eating small protein-rich snacks between your meals will help maintain your blood sugar levels and your energy levels. These snacks can also keep your hunger levels stable so that you don't overeat at your next meal. Eat a handful of almonds or walnuts, a cup of Edamame, a hard-boiled egg.

8) Get 25-30mg of fiber everyday! (I’m not kidding.) This is very important for all aspects of your health! Foods that quickly raise the blood sugar levels are refined foods, primarily white sugar and flour. But any food that converts rapidly into glucose will cause a sudden leap in glucose or blood sugar levels including juice, and refined breakfast cereals. Eat foods high in fiber including apples, quinoa, teff, bulky vegetables, nuts and seeds.

9) Watch your sugar intake. Sometimes it’s hidden in unsuspecting foods such as spaghetti sauce, cereals, yogurt, breads, power bars and more. Check the ingredients!

10) Exercise at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Weight bearing exercise uses up more glucose than cardio. Moderate exercise can increase the body’s sensitivity to insulin therefore increasing the effectiveness of insulin to maintain blood sugar within the normal range.

Relaxation is also crucial, to ensure the body is allowed time to ‘wind down’ amidst all the stressors of modern life. When under continuous stress, the body needs to find energy and this can cause excess sugar cravings. Yoga has been an incredible tool to bust stress and reduce cravings. The book, A Systematic Course in the Ancient Tantric Techniques of Yoga and Kriya, is one of the best ever written on the subject.

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