Blood-sugar control starts with a protein-rich breakfast.
Never say you can’t learn something from Twitter. When local health counselor Ali Shapiro tweeted earlier this week about the importance of blood-sugar control in health and weight management, I was immediately interested. I think controlling blood sugar levels is one of those things we probably all know we should be doing and probably know is important, but most of us are fuzzy on the why and how.
So I asked her about it. And you know what? I learned a lot—like that blood sugar levels control everything from cravings to energy to mood.
As Shapiro explains, it’s like a roller coaster ride: When blood sugar spikes, we’re launched way up, super fast—we feel energetic, but it’s only temporary. When levels plunge, we’re suddenly left feeling hungry and cranky, and we’re more apt to grab whatever food we can get our hands on—cookies, bread, candy bars—and eat way more than we should. That sends us into another blood sugar spike, and the cycle continues.
“These kinds of peaks and drops lead to overeating and eating the wrong kinds of foods,” says Shapiro. “Not all calories are created equal.”
Take a recent study in the International Journal of Obesity. Researchers divided volunteers who were dieting into two groups: one group ate two eggs for breakfast, while and the other had a bagel. Volunteers were asked to eat their prescribed breakfasts five days a week for eight weeks.
The two meals had roughly the same calorie content, but what the researchers wanted to test was the effect of the quality of calories on body weight and weight loss—I’m sure you know where this is going. The folks in the egg group ended up losing 65 percent more weight, saw a 34 percent greater reduction in waist circumference (“That’s the really bad fat that surrounds organs,” Shapiro points out), and measured a 16 percent greater body-fat reduction than the bagel group.
“It was the protein,” says Shapiro. “It really satiates you and helps keep your blood sugar at more even levels.”
That’s the goal: to ride a blood sugar roller coaster that has more gradual hills and is, generally speaking, more even from start to finish. No more spikes and drops.
“My clients are so surprised when they learn how to control their blood sugar,” Shapiro says. “A lot of them can’t believe the clarity and evenness they have; they end up being able to get a lot more done.”
But what about weight loss? That’s a byproduct of what Shapiro says is really a larger lifestyle change: Once they escape cycle of wildly fluctuating blood sugar levels, many people start to slim down. It makes sense—you’re eating smarter and feeling more sated, which means you’ll actually eat less over the long haul. And since your blood sugar’s no longer crashing, you can say goodbye to crazy cravings.
Ready to get started? What follows is a plan for structuring your day, meal-wise, to help even out your blood-sugar roller coaster.