Susan B. Sloane, BS, RPh, CDE, has been a registered pharmacist for more than 20 years and a Certified Diabetes Educator for more than 15 years. Her two sons were diagnosed with diabetes, and since then, she has been dedicated to promoting wellness and optimal outcomes as a patient advocate, information expert, educator, and corporate partner.
Post-prandial blood sugars, or the measure of blood sugars after you've eaten, are largely determined by the food we eat, especially the quantity and quality. And post-prandial blood sugars are important to your A1c ratings, making them especially important.
So how do we get these post-meal sugars under control?
1. Food quality
We know ways to measure the quantity of the food we eat: we have food scales; we count carbs; we even use portion control dinner plates. But does the quality of the food we eat matter? And how can we gauge it?
It turns out that quality foods have distinct characteristics that make them healthy. First, we know we need a certain number of carbs, but we don’t want to waste calories on carbohydrate-dense foods that cause blood sugars to rise quickly or “spike.” These foods include white bread, most bagels, rice, white flour items such as cakes and cookies, and white pasta.
Most people look at me like they just lost their best friend when I go over this list. I don’t mean NEVER eat these foods; but don‘t eat them consistently.
Let's focus instead on the type of foods we should be eating, noting that the proper nutrients keep blood sugars in check, but also keep us healthy in general.
2. Up your fiber intake
Unless you have certain health conditions that restrict fiber, you should add fiber to each meal. The amount of fiber per meal can vary, but for most people 10 grams of fiber per meal is reasonable. Fiber can help prevent certain cancers as well as help lower cholesterol. Adding fiber to a meal slows the absorption of sugars, causing less post meal glucose “spikes.”
There are two types of fiber: insoluble fiber, such as fiber found in bran cereal or wheat bread, and soluble fiber, which is found in apples, oatmeal, lentils, and carrots just to name a few. Soluble fiber is the type of fiber that affects cholesterol levels.
It is also important to note that this is why it is always a better bet to eat the fruit than to drink the fruit juice. The whole fruit contains fiber and does not cause a rapid rise in blood sugars like the fruit juice will.
If you love potatoes, try sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes; they have more fiber. And if you still yearn for that baked potato, try scooping out the center and filling the potato with veggies or salsa. Be creative.
3. Utilize lean meats
Lean meats are an important part of a balanced diet plan. Try using turkey for burgers, and make your sandwiches open faced with one slice of bread instead of two.
4. Watch your preparation techniques
How you prepare foods is also important. Overcooked pasta, for example, raises blood glucose faster than firm al dente pasta. It is also a good idea to steam vegetables rather than boil them, as too much water in cooking vegetables removes nutrient value.
Most of how we eat is a matter of habit, and if we change some of those old habits, we can start down the path to better health. Stay well!