Insulin, which is produced by the pancreas, enables the absorption of blood glucose into body cells to be used as an energy source.
It is normal for blood glucose levels to rise during the 2 to 3 hours following a meal, and then fall as energy is expended, producing a shallow spike in levels.
If we don't produce enough insulin, or our body cells are resistant to insulin, blood glucose levels build up much more quickly than they can be absorbed, and produce much larger spikes in levels.
This can lead to diabetes if blood sugar levels stay at a substantially higher average level than normal.
A condition known as pre-diabetes exists when either insufficient insulin is produced, and/or body cells are becoming resistant to insulin. This condition allows sugar spikes to rise to a higher level than normal.
In the pre-diabetes stage, the average blood glucose levels can be lowered by reducing the level of the spikes, which can be controlled to a large extent by eating the right kind of food, in the right quantities and combinations, at the right times during the day.
In general, eating a small breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a small snack between meals will produce smaller sugar spikes and a correspondingly lower average, while not increasing the overall calorific intake.
Glucose spikes are caused mainly by carbs, but some carbs produce bigger spikes than others. Scientists have assigned a measurement, called the glycemic index, or GI, to a wide range of foods (there are many lists online).
In general, if a food has a high GI, it will produce a higher spike. The worst foods are sugar, potatoes, white rice and food made from white flour (such as white bread and cakes). These carbs should be eliminated or consumed only in very small quantities.
The release of glucose from high GI carbs is slowed when they are eaten with a sufficient quantity of:
Slowing the release of glucose reduces the spike height and average levels. Exercise helps to lower spikes by burning off glucose absorbed by some body cells.
A successful plan for controlling blood glucose levels involves creating a menu of meals that you have personally proven, by measurement, to produce acceptable levels in your own blood.
The standard way to determine the blood glucose level produced by a meal is to measure it. Fortunately, this is a simple and inexpensive process using lancets to produce a tiny droplet of blood from a finger tip, test strips that absorb the droplet, and a meter that displays the result.
Meters, lancets and test strips are all available separately, or in kits like the ones shown below, which also include an adjustable lancing device, control solution (for checking the calibration) and a convenient carrying case.
Once you have your kit, create a meal (breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack) consisting of good carbs (low GI) with a helping of protein and high fiber foods. Then, measure your glucose immediately before eating the meal, and again 2 hours after eating the meal. The difference between the two readings will be the sugar spike.
Make a note of the ingredients and amounts of food in the meal, along with the date and time the meal was eaten, and the before and after blood glucose readings. If a meal produces too high a spike, try reducing or changing ingredients, or mark that particular meal as not suitable.
With sufficient experimenting and measuring, you will soon have a menu of meals to choose from for every part of the day to help lower your average blood glucose levels.