A doughnut or croissant in the morning tastes delicious, but the white flour and sugar are sending your body an urgent message: “Blood sugar on board; send insulin quickly!” Sugar and flour are simple carbohydrates, ending up in your bloodstream within a few minutes. Your pancreas senses the dangerously high blood sugar and releases insulin to pull the sugar (glucose) out of the blood and send it to other cells of the body to be used or stored as energy. Because high sugars are so dangerous, your body always sends in too much insulin, and this big insulin spike is followed by a deep plunge in blood sugar levels to below normal. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) makes you tired and jittery, craving another sugary snack, like that chocolate muffin during the 3:00 PM office munchie attack.
How to get off this blood sugar roller coaster? Here are some ideas for easy snacks that taste good while maintaining a healthy balance of insulin in your blood. You will be satisfied longer, have more energy, and have the added bonus of losing weight. (Insulin spikes, over time, are associated with obesity and diabetes). The right combinations of protein, complex carbohydrates that are digested more slowly (such as vegetables), and good fats, make all the difference.
Next time you crave a snack, try one of these:
• A hard-boiled egg or two, combined with an apple
• A can of sardines and some celery or radishes
• Turkey or roast beef wrapped in tender lettuce leaves
• Carrots or broccoli/cauliflower florettes dipped in hummus or guacamole (the fat in avocado is healthy!)
• Olives and a mandarin orange
• A handful of nuts (but only if you don’t have a nut allergy).
Olive oil, coconut oil and ghee (clarified butter), and the fats in clean-raised, organic fish, meat, eggs are healthy fats. Once you get the gist of combining healthy fats, good proteins and vegetables or fruit, you can invent your own snacks!
But there still lingers a question: Why do you need a snack in the first place? Because of the low blood sugar problem (hypoglycemia) described earlier. A healthy body needs only three or – gasp! – even only two meals a day. Historians think that most peasants during medieval times only had two meals: They would go out at daybreak and labor in the fields, have their first meal (the biggest of the day) around noon, and enjoy a lighter supper (that word is derived from soup) at around six, after they returned home.
Of course, life in the city is very different, and for most people it is not a good idea to skip breakfast. But how about switching to good ol’ American bacon and eggs? You can find good organic, nitrite-free, and free-range options in a health food store. (What an ironic label: Shouldn’t all food be healthy?) The protein and fat in this breakfast fuels your cells without spiking your blood sugar and are so much better for you than cereals of any kind, white toast or bagels.
Another thing to think about: Do you eat too many fructose-laden fruits compared to healthier vegetables? Are your beverages sweetened – like coffee with sugar, fruit juices (even freshly pressed orange juice is not as healthy as you might think: fructose again), sweet chocolate milk, soda, cola? And let’s not even think about artificial sweeteners – they are not a solution to the problem!
A breakfast filled with simple carbohydrates (sugars and flour) leads, within two or three hours to your next big craving. And so through the day: Each meal burdened with simple carbohydrates will come back to haunt you a few hours later.
Once your meals have become healthier, your cravings will evaporate. You will be free to go without snacks the whole day. But if you choose to snack, you can now do it without setting in motion the dangerous see-sawing of high and low blood sugars. You are now in control of your food intake, not being driven by your cravings. As a result, you are creating a healthy metabolism: Your cells work as they are supposed to work. Your carvings are gone, you will have more energy, and likely lose weight as well.