What to Eat for Hypoglycemia
What to Eat for Hypoglycemia: PMS & PMDD Balance Diet
If you found this article after exploring elsewhere on our site, you may already have seen references to balancing blood sugar with diet in articles specifically about migraines, irritability, and controlling PMS food cravings. There's a very good reason for this—the PMS Balance Diet with an emphasis on balancing your blood sugar can balance your mood and energy level, decrease your stress level, and help control the cause of many migraines and headaches.
We use several terms in this article that all basically mean the same thing: unstable blood sugar, hypoglycemia, and reactive hypoglycemia are often referred to elsewhere as "low blood sugar." Blood sugar problems are one of the most common causes of many PMS symptoms, including physical, emotional, and thinking symptoms. Hypoglycemia is also a very common problem in people without PMS, causing fatigue, depression, and many other symptoms.
Important note: We are not referring to diabetes. In diabetes, blood sugar is too high, and only falls too low as a result of medication. People with reactive hypoglycemia experience both steep peaks and deep valleys of blood sugar, but without the diabetic disease condition.
Who Needs Blood Sugar Balance
Who needs a special diet for blood sugar balance? Not everyone, but you can determine whether you have the tendency for blood sugar troughs and spikes by answering these five questions.
- Do you feel tired, irritable, or shaky if you don't eat on time?
- Does your energy often plummet or do you feel sleepy after meals, especially lunch?
- Do you crave sweets like cookies, candy, and ice cream?
- Do you crave starchy foods like rice, pasta, and bread?
- Are you fair-haired or red-haired with light skin and freckles? Do you have seasonal allergies?
The more you answered yes, and the more strongly you feel these characteristics apply to you, the more likely it is that you have a hypoglycemic tendency and need a blood sugar balancing diet.
What to Eat for Hypoglycemia to Relieve PMS Symptoms
Different Reactions to the Same Breakfast. A story illustrates this quite well. Two friends go out for breakfast, and both order the house special, a fresh waffle with fruit and home-made whipped cream dusted with chopped nuts. Enjoying their splurge, they decide to get the fresh-squeezed orange juice and coffee as well.
These two friends are different in some important ways. The first, whom we'll call Anna, is a slender woman and a long-time vegan, meaning she never eats animal products, not even milk or fish. After a meal such as this one she feels fine; in fact, she only finishes half of what is on her plate, having scraped aside the whipped cream, saying she feels too full to have more. As soon as the check is paid and they get up to go, she is looking forward to their plan to attend a local charity event, making a mental note that she can probably skip lunch that day.
Her breakfast companion, Bethany, is quite different. She follows no particular diet, but constantly struggles with her weight. She enjoys the meal, but finds it doesn't fill her up, and after finishing every morsel on her plate and every last drop of juice, she secretly wishes she could finish what's left on Anna's plate. By the time they get up to go, she feels lethargic and sleepy, and makes an excuse for not keeping their plans, so she can go home and nap, even though she'd been looking forward to the event and felt fine when they arrived at the café.
Perhaps you've guessed already that Anna is not hypoglycemic, and has no problem maintaining stable blood sugar. She feels fine after a meal of starch and fruit and sugar. It can sustain her for hours. Missing a meal or a snack is not usually a problem for her—she's one of those people who can easily skip a meal or a snack and is often just plain not hungry. Bethany, on the other hand, finds her energy and mood often dip precipitously for no apparent reason, and her appetite and cravings are difficult if not impossible to regulate.
Most of the Bethanies we've met don't know they are hypoglycemic. When they finally discover the correct way to eat to suit their body and their metabolism, it is a real revelation—they feel so much better. Conversely, when someone tells an Anna that she needs to eat more protein—in spite of experience to the contrary—she usually figures out pretty quickly that she prefers the diet she had already adopted for herself. On balance, though, there are more Bethanies who try to eat like Anna, and suffer for it, than vice versa.
How to Eat if You Are Hypoglycemic
You may have heard that people with blood sugar problems should eat small frequent meals, or keep crackers or candy with them, or fill up on carbohydrate-rich foods like pasta, rice and bread.
If you have hypoglycemia, that is not helpful advice. Here are the basic principles of how to eat to keep your blood sugar, energy level, and mood stable.
Always eat breakfast.
- Breakfast should include some protein. This could be eggs, yogurt, cheese, fish, nuts, nut butter, soy protein, or even protein powder in a smoothie.
Never have sweets or refined sugars before 1 PM, or until after lunch.
- This includes muffins, pastry, fruit juice, and dried fruit like dates or apricots, fruit leathers.
- The best solution is to have them as little as possible, no matter the hour. Whole fruit is good for you, and doesn't count as sugar.
All your meals and snacks should mix protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates. When you look at your plate or bowl, 1/4 to 1/3 of it by volume should be protein.
- Like breakfast, every meal should include protein, and it's best if the protein contains some fat too, as is the case with nuts, soy, low-fat dairy, and most meats. If you have a non-fat protein source like non-fat yogurt or skinless chicken breast, add ground flaxseed or extra-virgin olive oil to balance it.
Don't eat protein exclusively. Every meal and every snack should combine protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates.
- Complex carbohydrates are essential for many people in order to maintain stable blood sugar. Whole grains, starchy vegetables, beans and legumes, and fruit all provide healthy, high-fiber sources of carbohydrate.
Have up to three meals and two snacks per day.
- When you follow this hypoglycemia-balancing diet, you will find you're less hungry and have fewer ups and downs through the day. You do, however, need to eat preventively so that the symptoms don't arise, and this may mean eating several mixed meals and snacks per day to keep your blood sugar stable.
Be aware that caffeine and alcohol can make hypoglycemic reactions worse.
Blood Sugar Balance Meals for a Day
This is an example of one day's diet. The variations are limitless, so feel free to experiment and go beyond the details described here.
- 2-3 ounces unsweetened oatmeal or Irish/Scottish/steel-cut oats, topped with 1-2 handfuls of dry-roasted almonds, cinnamon, and 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed; plus a pear or an orange.
- 8 ounces of plain, nonfat yogurt mixed with 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed and 3/4-cup thawed frozen berries, sweetened with 2 packets stevia powder if desired; plus 1 piece whole-grain toast, gluten-free if desired, with 1 pat butter or 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil.
- 6-8 ounces grilled chicken with 6-8 ounces steamed carrots (a starchy vegetable); plus an orange for dessert.
- Tuna or salmon salad on a bed of mixed greens, with several whole-grain crackers. For a vegetarian option, substitute tempeh or tofu.
- Steamed brown rice with vegetable stir-fry (zucchini, onions, bok choy, and ginger), topped with toasted cashews and minced pork; plus a baked apple for dessert.
- Barley, vegetable, and beef stew made with the bean of your choice. Stewed cinnamon pears for dessert.
- Try brown rice cakes with peanut or almond butter; or a handful of dry-roasted almonds and an apple; or carrot and celery sticks with hummus; or marinated baked tofu.
It's as simple as it sounds. Balance your protein, carbs, and fat throughout your day, and discover how great balanced blood sugar, energy, and mood feels.
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Principal Author: Daniel J. Heller, N.D.
Last Modified: September 24, 2013