Feeling shaky, irritable, or downright hangry? First, for the love, go grab yourself something to eat. Then ask yourself what caused that sudden crash in the first place. Have you eaten enough today? Are you eating enough kinds of food? If your answer to either is no, you might have experienced a blood sugar crash, or a sudden drop in blood glucose levels.
Blood sugar stability is important for several reasons. “The biggest benefit is keeping your mood and energy level stable during the day,” says Willow Jarosh, a New York–based dietitian-nutritionist. During your transition into menopause, when you’re probably already feeling moody and fatigued, having that stability is especially important.
Blood sugar crashes can also cause sugar cravings (your body’s looking for a quick energy source ASAP), perpetuating the cycle. Long term, high blood glucose levels brought on by excess sugar consumption can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes and even cardiovascular disease, both of which, wouldn’t you know, become concerns during menopause.
How to Support Your Blood Sugar Levels During Menopause
Keeping your blood sugar stable can majorly benefit your well-being, but it will require a couple shifts in your routine. Ahead, tried-and-true methods for preventing the crash.
Eat enough throughout the day
Whether you’re trying to fight off that menopause bloat or you’re just too busy to stay on top of meals, restricting how much and when you eat can quickly mess with your blood sugar. “If you’re not eating enough throughout the day, you’ll crave sugar because your body needs quick energy, and you’ll crash,” says Jarosh.
To prevent the notorious blood sugar descent, make a practice of eating when you’re hungry. Your body needs plenty of energy and nourishment to get through the day, not to mention this big hormonal transition. Learning to tune in to those hunger cues is a beautiful way to honor that while also staving off energy and mood dips.
Combine carbs with protein and fat
What you eat plays just as important a role as how much you eat. In meals and snacks, do your best to combine protein, carbohydrates, and fat. “Protein slows the rate at which carbs enter the bloodstream, and fat slows down the rate at which food leaves the stomach,” says Jarosh. “That combination tends to be the most physically satisfying and provides the most longevity for stable blood sugar levels.”
Choose complex carbohydrates
Your body needs carbohydrates for energy, but not all carbs are created equal. Refined carbs, found in white bread, white pasta, ice cream, sodas, chips, and baked goods quickly get absorbed into your blood and incite blood sugar spikes (and crashes). Complex carbs, on the other hand, are actually good for your body because they contain other nutrients. Plus, foods like whole grain pasta and bread, legumes, and sweet potatoes are absorbed more slowly and keep you feeling full longer because they’re full of fiber. A win-win! (If you must indulge in candy or dessert, which we know a thing or two about, then do your best to pair it with a protein source.)
Have a bedtime snack
Magazines may tell you not to eat anything past 7 p.m., but if you wake up in the middle of the night feeling shaky or anxious, that could be low blood sugar. That’s why Jarosh often tells her clients to try a pre-bedtime snack containing protein and carbohydrates: an apple with peanut butter, or berries and nuts. “A lot of people are surprised how much it helps their blood sugar stay stable overnight,” she says.
Don’t make sugar off-limits
Here’s the deal: In excess, sugar can be damaging to your body, just like anything else. But resist the urge to declare it or any other food category off-limits. Jarosh says anything you forbid yourself from eating will automatically be placed on a pedestal in your mind, which means you’ll want it more and become more susceptible to bingeing — and the blood sugar instability that follows.
Instead of villainizing sugar, have it from time to time. Be selective. Choose things that are special and worth savoring. Say yes to a homemade cookie made by a dear friend. Take a pass on that bag of Skittles calling to you from the supermarket register.
Make peace with sugar
The idea is to retrain your brain that sugar isn’t the enemy any more than it’s the hero. “It’s not about doing this to never want something sweet again,” says Jarosh. “It’s about keeping blood sugar stable and keeping yourself fed so you can hear what your body wants.”
We all deserve something sweet from time to time. Just make sure it's feeding your adventures and not your sad feelings.
By Ashley Abramson
Ashley Abramson is a freelance writer primarily covering health, psychology, and relationships. In addition to contributing to Adulted, she's been published in The New York Times, Washington Post, and The Guardian. She lives in the Milwaukee area with her husband and two young sons.
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