A Nutritionist’s Opinion on Blood Sugar

A Nutritionist’s Opinion on Blood Sugar


As a nutritionist, one thing I pay close attention to is keeping my blood sugar levels in check. Why? Because it makes me add more nutrients to my plate.

In this article, I’ll share some of the quick and practical tips I incorporate into my routine that have worked wonders for me!

What is blood sugar?

Blood sugar refers to levels of glucose that circulate in our blood. When we consume carbohydrates, these are broken down into glucose - our body’s main source of energy. This is where our pancreas steps in, releasing insulin, the hormone that's all about keeping our blood sugar in check. Insulin tells our muscle cells, "Hey, grab some of this glucose for energy," and any leftovers get stored as fat.

When we eat a balanced meal with proteins, fats, complex carbs, and fiber, our blood sugar gets a gentle nudge up. Insulin does its job, and everything goes back to normal, leaving us with a steady stream of energy. But, have some plain simple carbs—like white bread or soda—and that is where our blood sugar typically spikes. Suddenly, you're in a slump, craving more carbs or maybe a coffee to perk back up, and the cycle starts all over again.

If you want to delve deeper into blood sugar levels and their relation to the menstrual cycle, I’ve linked an article below!

Menstrual Cycle and Blood Sugar Levels: Does the Menstrual Cycle Affect Glucose Levels?
Understanding the Relationship Between Menstrual Cycle and Blood Sugar

Are Blood Sugar Spikes Bad for Your Health?

Excessive (keyword being excessive) glucose fluctuations can negatively impact both your body and mind. We're talking about more than just feeling a bit peckish or experiencing a mid-afternoon slump. Blood sugar spikes can significantly affect your mood, trigger cravings, and leave you feeling hungry again sooner than you'd like. Moreover, these fluctuations can contribute to longer-term issues such as hormonal imbalances, acne, and restless nights. But that's not all; excessive blood sugar spikes are also linked to problems like type 2 diabetes, chronic diseases, and inflammation.

Carbohydrates should not be feared - remember, glucose levels will naturally fluctuate throughout the day (this is totally normal and to be expected). These issues are associated with exaggerated blood sugar spikes or chronically high blood sugar levels.

Who Should Care About Blood Sugar Spikes?

Blood sugar management is not a one-size-fits-all approach. While individuals with diabetes (or advised by their health practitioner) need to monitor their glucose levels closely to prevent complications, the buzz generated around blood sugar spikes is now extended to everyone, unnecessarily.

Are Blood Sugar Spikes Bad for Non-Diabetics?

For non-diabetics, occasional blood sugar spikes are a natural part of the metabolic process, especially after eating. The body's ability to return blood glucose levels to normal after these spikes is a testament to a healthy metabolic system. While significant and frequent spikes can be a cause for concern, leading to potential insulin resistance and increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the occasional rise in blood sugar levels is generally not harmful to healthy and active individuals.

Evidence from scientific studies supports this nuanced view. A study published in the "Journal of the American Medical Association" found that while prolonged high glucose levels could contribute to insulin resistance, the body's efficiency in managing occasional spikes plays a crucial role in overall metabolic health. Furthermore, research in "Diabetes Care" highlights that the dietary context of glucose intake—such as consuming high-fiber, complex carbohydrates versus simple sugars—significantly impacts blood sugar management and long-term health outcomes for non-diabetics

It's essential, therefore, to focus on a balanced diet rich in whole foods, fibers, and nutrients that support steady blood sugar levels rather than obsessing over temporary spikes. Incorporating regular physical activity into your routine also helps maintain insulin sensitivity and supports healthy blood sugar management. Remember, balance is key.

The war against glucose - a note of warning.

You might have come across sentences like “Glucose is the new gluten” on social media. The same way that gluten being demonized led people (who did not need to cut out gluten) to make choices like an overly processed gluten-free bread as opposed to a freshly baked loaf because they thought this would be healthier. The same thing is happening with glucose - keeping your blood sugar curve steady is now the main health priority for some people, which can lead to worse food choices. A lower GI does not mean it is healthier for you, and because it has a higher GI it does not mean it’s bad for you.

Why and when do I apply glucose hacks?

Normally, I aim for a complete, nutritious breakfast (rich in complex carbs, protein, fiber, and healthy fats), though that's not always the case. My absolute favorite breakfast is simply high-quality bread with butter. However, I'm aware that there are more nutrient-dense breakfasts. So, instead of avoiding these foods, I consider how to make my body react better to them to avoid a potential crash and fuel my body with more nutrient-rich foods by, for example, beginning with some eggs and avocado, and then enjoying the bread.  Similarly, there are times I crave a big bowl of pasta with little to no protein or veggies. In these moments, to make my meal more nutritious the key is to add to it, not restrict from it! So, I'll start with some salad or leftover veggies while cooking it.

The key here is not just avoiding blood sugar spikes or fearing beloved foods but enriching my diet with more vitamins, micro, and macronutrients. Personally, these “blood sugar hacks” help me maintain a balanced diet even when I don’t feel like it - and that’s why I love them.

Reminder: View managing blood sugar as a way to add variety to your diet, not as a restriction. Look at trying to manage this as a bonus, and more importantly as a way to add more “life” and variety to your diet as opposed to restricting yourself.

Here are the main practical tips I have been following (and the “why’s” behind them):

Food Sequence and Blood Sugar Spikes

Food sequencing involves eating your meal in a specific order: vegetables first, then proteins and fats, and finally sugars and starches. Starting with vegetables increases fiber intake right at the beginning, slowing glucose absorption and reducing the overall blood sugar spike. Proteins and fats further delay gastric emptying, helping to moderate glucose levels in the bloodstream. I am not a fan of deconstructing my meals, I love to mix and match all the flavors and textures, so what I do here is start my meals with a veggie-based appetizer, normally I’ll have a salad or some leftover veggies while cooking and then I’ll have my main meal, as per usual.

Vinegar and Blood Sugar Spikes

The apple cider vinegar (ACV) trend made many claims about weight loss, but beyond myths, vinegar holds some truth in managing blood sugar. Acetic acid, found in all kinds of vinegar, not just ACV, may reduce blood sugar spikes when consumed about 30 minutes before a meal. This effect is due to its ability to enhance muscle glucose uptake and slow the conversion of starch into glucose. If you're considering incorporating vinegar into your routine, remember to dilute it well and use a straw to protect your teeth, or better yet, just have a salad with a vinegar dressing to get some veggies in!

Exercise and Blood Sugar Spikes

Physical activity is key to controlling blood sugar levels. Engaging in light exercise, such as a 10-minute walk about an hour after eating, can significantly affect blood glucose management. This timing allows your muscles to use the glucose from your recent meal for energy, effectively lowering blood sugar levels and improving overall metabolic health and insulin sensitivity. The intensity of the activity doesn't have to be high so consider just taking your dog for a walk for example.

Additional Tips for Managing Blood Sugar Spikes

Beyond these strategies, don't overlook the fundamentals of health: quality sleep, stress management, and adequate hydration. Choosing low-glycemic foods, choosing complex carbs, and portion control are also essential for maintaining balanced blood sugar levels.

It's vital to note that a lower GI doesn't necessarily mean healthier. For example, fried chicken has a lower GI than oatmeal or a smoothie, but that doesn't make it a healthier choice. This misconception is why I'm cautious about the trend of using continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) and valuing steady blood sugar as the ultimate health goal. This can be misleading and encourage a fear of foods that are both nutritious and enjoyable.

I've been integrating these tips into my daily routine, appreciating that they focus on adding value to meals rather than imposing restrictions. By incorporating at least one of these strategies with each meal, I've enjoyed a more balanced diet and improved well-being without sacrificing the foods I love.


Health and wellness trends will come and go but don't become so obsessed that you sacrifice the foods you love out of online fear. Remember, maintaining balance and prioritizing a rich, diverse diet is key! Managing blood sugar may make you feel better, but do so but adding more to your plate instead of restricting from nutritious foods just because they might spike your blood sugar a bit more.