We are often told we should have six meals per day to avoid blood sugar dips, not leaving more than three hours between meals. The most likely reason your blood sugar will drop quickly within three hours of a meal is if your meal was very high in refined carbohydrates and sugar and low in protein, vegetables and fat.
An example would be when you eat cereal with low fat milk and juice, a pasta dish, a salad sandwich/roll and an iced tea, a muffin/banana bread etc, they are most likely to be very high in carbohydrates/sugar and very low in protein. These meals due to their high carbohydrate and sugar content will push your blood glucose levels up quite high, requiring your body to produce lots of insulin to bring your blood glucose levels back down. Now your blood glucose levels are low again, you will be hungry again, irritable and possibly nauseous, craving sugar/carbs. This is now referred to as hangry (a combination of hungry and angry); it actually means (low blood glucose levels).
The short term answer to being hangry is a carbohydrate meal as you will see in chocolate bar advertising. The truth however is that it was the high carb/high sugar meal or snack that caused your problem in the first place. In other words, the chocolate bar is the cause and the solution, if you avoid the cause, you won’t need a solution! So clearly the long term answer is not eating that much much sugar and carbohydrate in the first place.
Some useful tips:
- Ensure you always have fat, fibre (from vegies) and protein with your meals as they will help keep your blood glucose levels stable after a meal. An example would be a chicken and avocado salad with olive oil, an omelette with spinach and onion, oily fish with salad/vegies.
- Reduce sugar; your body has no biological need for it. Eat loads of green and colourful vegies and some fruit.
- Reduce how much high starch carbohydrates you eat, such as bread, pasta, rice and potato.
When you eat a well-balanced meal with a palm sized serving of protein, plenty of fibrous greens and other colourful vegies along with some oil/fat (eg avocado, olive oil, butter, nuts or seeds), you will stay satisfied for many hours, not having a sudden blood glucose drop, you will be more likely to naturally and comfortably have 2-3 meals per day without feeling the need for snacks and craving sugar.
There is now much evidence supporting the health benefits of Intermittent Fasting, the two most popular versions of this is the 5:2 diet where you eat normally five days but two non-consecutive days per week you limit your calories to 500 calories (women), 600 calories (men). The other is 16:8, whereby you eat normally each day but restrict the time that you eat to within and 8 hour period, fasting for the other 16 hours except for water and herbal teas. Intermittent Fasting can have great measurable blood test results, it is known for normalising blood glucose and insulin levels, reducing inflammation and assisting healthy weight management.
Constant eating/grazing is not what our ancestors did, it is a modern invention. Unfortunately our bodies haven’t really changed but our environment has, it encourages us to snack all day. This way of eating, especially if it is highly refined foods will increase inflammation in the body. Inflammation drives weight gain and chronic disease. A high carbohydrate diet due to the higher levels of insulin requirements decreases an enzyme called p450 which is made in the liver. It is a cancer fighting enzyme that allows us to detoxify our body properly. Without p450, more toxins are held in our fat cells and the liver doesn’t work as efficiently. If you lose weight without increasing p450, you will also increase cellulite and decrease your capacity for muscle building.
There is not one right diet; you need to explore what works for you depending on your ancestry, health status, level of exercise and goals. Most people would benefit from cutting back on snacks. Everyone can benefit from reducing sugar.
Fiona Kane, Nutritional Medicine Practitioner, Holistic Counsellor and Life Coach at the Informed Health Nutritional Wellbeing Centre