The question: I have been diagnosed with low blood sugar. Is there a special diet I should follow?
The answer: There isn't a specific diet for low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, but there are dietary modifications that can help prevent reactions altogether. I have developed meal plans for many clients with hypoglycemia who now experience no symptoms at all.
Hypoglycemia can be a concern for people with diabetes taking certain blood sugar-lowering medications, but it can also affect people who don't have diabetes. Symptoms can include headache, shakiness, weakness, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, confusion and blurred vision.
Diet isn't the underlying cause of hypoglycemia, but altering what you eat – and when you eat – can prevent your blood sugar from dropping too low if you're susceptible to the condition.
My goal with clients is to prevent hypoglycemia from happening in the first place. And to do that, it's important to ensure glucose enters your bloodstream at a steady, even pace throughout the day.
It's critical to eat every two to three hours to prevent your blood glucose from falling too low. Don't skip meals and include a snack midmorning and midafternoon. Be sure to carry snacks with you to prevent a hypoglycemic episode when you are away from home.
Meals and snacks should also include carbohydrate-rich foods with a low glycemic index (GI), which means they're digested slowly and, as a result, converted to blood glucose gradually.
Low GI foods include bran cereals, large flake and steel cut oatmeal, stone ground whole wheat, pasta, milk, yogurt, soy beverages, apples, pears, oranges, dried apricots, nuts and seeds, and legumes.
Your meals and snacks should also include a source of protein to moderate swings in blood glucose. Lean meat, poultry, fish, low fat cheese, eggs, tofu, nuts and yogurt are digested more slowly than carbohydrate and help sustain your blood glucose level longer after eating.
Adding soluble fibre to meals and snacks can also help prevent hypoglycemia by slowing the rate that food is emptied from the stomach. That means glucose will be absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream.
Good sources of soluble fibre include oatmeal, oat bran, psyllium-enriched breakfast cereals, flaxseed, barley, legumes, sweet potatoes, citrus fruit and strawberries.
Finally, limit caffeine and alcohol, which can worsen symptoms of hypoglycemia in some people.
Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. He will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.
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