Blood sugars – Should I be paying more attention?

Would most of us benefit by eating to manage blood sugars?


You may have heard me mention before how elevated blood sugar adds to the inflammation and irritation of our arteries.


So speaking directly to heart health – we want to decrease that inflammatory response to keep our arteries healthy and reduce the risk of plaque formation and potential problems down the road.


We know that diabetes impacts our bodies ability to manage the sugar sitting in our bloodstream …. But what if we don’t have diabetes? Is this something that might be helpful to think about?


The short answer is YES!!


What we are learning is that most of us could benefit from eating in a way that limits blood sugar spikes.


Let’s break this down.


When we eat something, our body goes to work to break what we’ve eaten down to use all the various components it needs.


One of those fundamental components is called glucose. It’s a form of sugar that our cells need for fuel. Without it they will die.. Taking us with them.


Imagine your body like a factory.


Your digestive system is the conveyor belt of your body. After food has been processed in your digestive system – you now have all these glucose molecules being dropped into your bloodstream at the end of this conveyor belt.


The factory workers are then responsible for taking those glucose molecules from your bloodstream and transporting them to your cells to be used as fuel.


What we eat can either speed up or slow down that conveyor belt.


If we eat something that is digested quickly – the conveyor belt speeds up.


If we eat something that is digested slowly – the conveyor belt slows down.


No matter what – every time we eat something – we impact the level of blood sugar in our bloodstream.


Our goal is to try and keep that level of blood sugar around the same. Just calm and cool.


The reason we want to keep that level fairly even – is it’s those blood sugar spikes that cause the inflammatory response.


Our body doesn’t like that inflammatory response so it does what it can to protect us by taking any excess glucose accumulating in our bloodstream and stores it away – in our liver, our muscles, and our fat cells.


So if we eat in a way that keeps the conveyor belt slow – we are lessening the blood sugar spikes, lessening the inflammatory response, and lessening the amount of glucose that has to be stored away.


Plus!! – if we reduce those glucose spikes we reduce our cravings and the associated guilt – motivation cycle that tends to follow suit.


Secondly we balance our hunger hormones helping us to choose healthier options more often.


Thirdly, it helps to balance our insulin levels.


Insulin is the “factory worker” hormone produced by our pancreas. It is responsible for transporting the glucose from your bloodstream into the cells.


You can think of insulin like a factory worker with a key that unlocks the door to the cell so glucose can be placed inside.


The more glucose waiting around in the bloodstream the more insulin is needed to clear it out. (Factory workers putting in overtime)


We can eventually tire out our pancreas with the task of producing more and more insulin to keep up with the glucose demand.


Plus – our cells themselves can become less responsive to insulin… putting more locks on their doors. Where one insulin used to be able to open the door to the cell before – it has now become a two insulin job.


So let’s help these poor factory workers out!


How do we do this? 


Fiber! Fiber is a superhero. It protects our digestive system and reduces those glucose spikes. Fiber takes time to digest – slowing the conveyor belt.

  • All Vegetables – all colors and varieties – these should be priority #1.


Protein – this is an important aspect to consider. This also slows our digestion and specifically if you are going to eat a carbohydrate, having a protein with it will slow that glucose absorption.

  • For heart health specifically choose white meats more commonly than red. Chicken, fish & turkey more often than beef or pork.
  • Look to include plant based proteins as well – nuts and seeds, beans, chickpeas, & lentils for example.


Healthy Fat – These again slow glucose absorption without causing insulin problems like other forms of fat (saturated fat) may. This also helps to reduce cravings and help our body in many other ways!

  • Almonds, ground flax, fish, olive oil, walnuts, avocados for example.


What do we want to be mindful of? 


Foods that our body can digest quickly should be enjoyed less commonly and paired with fiber, protein, and healthy fat.



Specifically the white versions: Pasta, rice, bread.

Choose brown & whole grains instead – will still have more of a sugar spike – but will be digested slightly slower. – Choose in moderation vs a staple food.



Granola bars, cookies, cakes, pastry, chocolate – you know.. all the fun stuff.



Fruit is a healthy part of a balanced diet. It has fiber and a whole host of beneficial nutrients. It also however has a high amount of natural sugar so we shouldn’t be eating them in abundance.

When you have a fruit as a snack – have some nuts with it. For breakfast use fruits as the sweetener in a smoothie along with spinach and avocado for additional fiber and a good fat, or as a topping on a salad. – all of these choices pair that fruit with a food that will help to keep that conveyor belt slow.



Juice strips all the fiber out – leaving you again with fast absorption and a blood sugar spike.


Take a look at your meals and what you reach for… how do you think that impacts your blood sugar? Maybe look to make some simple changes!



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Shawna Cook

Shawna is a Certified Clinical Exercise Physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine, who has been working in Cardiac Rehabilitation for over 10 years. Her years in the health and fitness field however have spanned over the past 2+ decades. As an elite level athlete she fell in love with understanding the human body, and how the choices she made, affected how it performed. This led to a degree from the University of Winnipeg in the stream of Athletic Therapy, and the passion towards helping others recover from injury and "be their best selves" grew.