How to maintain a healthy blood sugar level

How to maintain a healthy blood sugar level

There are a number of lifestyle factors that must be taken into account, and changes to these made where necessary, in order to regulate and maintain a healthy blood sugar level. It is advised that you adopt a habit of making healthy food choices in order to maintain a healthy weight (as per the range recommended to you by your doctor or dietician), on top of this, you will also need to get regular exercise.

If you are diabetic or suffer from hyperglycaemia or hypoglycaemia, then you will need to regularly consult with your healthcare professional in order for the correct form of treatment to prescribed and monitored. He/she will also be able to advise on the most appropriate levels of exercise required based on your current condition and overall health.

Other lifestyle tips that aid in controlling blood glucose may include:

  • Eating regularly and not skipping any meals
  • Eating a piece of fruit instead of candy or chocolate when snacking
  • Drinking water instead of fizzy drinks
  • Controlling your portions in order to ensure you have enough protein, fats and carbohydrates according to your daily allowances (this can be tailored for you by a dietician or healthcare professional).

The glycaemic index (GI)

When it comes to controlling blood sugar levels, you will often be told to consume low GI foods.  The glycaemic (also spelt glycemic) index (GI) is a value that is assigned to specific foods, based on how quickly or slowly these foods cause an increase in your blood glucose levels as they are digested. Simply put, GI determines how rapidly a certain food will break down into sugar in your bloodstream.

A low GI food is anything with a score below 55, medium GI foods have a score between 56 and 69 and high GI foods have a value of  70 or more.

Foods such as candy are very high on the glycaemic index and will cause your glucose levels to increase dramatically in a short space of time. Chickpeas, on the other hand, have a low glucose impact, with a value of just 10.

Glycaemic (glycemic) load (GL)

The information obtained from a GI value is limited as a GI score is partly determined by the carbohydrate content of one food serving and is therefore unable to tell you how high blood sugar may rise when eating the particular food. In order for you understand a certain food’s full effect on your blood sugar, you will need to know both its GI (the rate at which the food will make glucose to enter the bloodstream) and GL (how much glucose will actually be delivered) values.

GL, the abbreviation of glycaemic (glycemic) load, is based on GI and gives you an idea of how a specific food will impact your energy levels. Therefore, glycaemic load estimates how much a food will raise your blood glucose levels after eating it, taking into account both the amount of sugar estimated to enter the bloodstream and the carbohydrate content of an individual serving of food. GL is calculated by multiplying the quality of the carbohydrate in a certain food (GI) by the actual amount of carbohydrate in that food. 

Foods with a GL under 10 are regarded as low-GL and will have minimal impact on blood sugar levels, foods between 10 and 20 are moderate-GL foods, having some effect on blood sugar and anything above 20 are considered high GL and will increase blood sugar significantly.

How is GL related to GI?

To explain the difference between the two value systems, GL is a ranking system for foods that are carbohydrate-rich and measures the specific amount of carbohydrates in each serving of food whereas GI estimates how quickly a carbohydrate will be digested and released as sugar (glucose) into your bloodstream. GI does not take the amount of carbohydrates in food into account.

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