Blood Sugar Levels after Eating Sweets and Other High Carb Foods

Blood Sugar Levels after Eating

Diabetes is a condition in which levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood are too high. In many cases, the condition requires treatment with medications and regular monitoring, both by a healthcare provider and at home. Although high blood sugar is associated with the condition, spikes in blood sugar levels after eating certain types of foods can still occur. Understanding what types of foods is more likely to cause this and what to do if high blood sugar levels occur after eating will make it easier to understand how additional sugar affects the condition.

All people experience increases in blood sugar after eating large meals or certain types of food, whether or not they have diabetes. Even people with regularly normal blood sugar levels can experience a rise in blood glucose levels after eating, with them gradually returning to normal over time (typically within a couple of hours after eating). In fact, this phenomenon is so predictable, that variants of the process are used for diagnostics purposes and monitoring efforts as well.

What is considered the blood sugar levels normal range may vary from health care provider to health care provider, but generally speaking, values between 70 mg/dL and 120 (but no more than 140) mg/dL are considered appropriate blood sugar levels after eating for persons that do not have diabetes when measured about two hours following a meal. In testing situations where the “meal” is replaced with a glucose beverage, readings of up to 200 mg / dL are not uncommon and still considered normal blood sugar levels when taken one hour following the diagnostic beverage.

In people who have diabetes, the blood sugar levels high value of 120-140 mg / dL is replaced with 180 mg/dL at just one hour after eating. On the whole, people with diabetes will experience elevated levels of blood sugar after eating that take a longer time to return to normal. While a person without the condition may have perfectly balanced blood glucose two hours post meal, someone with diabetes will take twice that long to get closer to their baseline.

Of course, just what is being consumed can have a pretty huge impact on blood sugar levels after eating. It is no surprise that carbohydrates can contribute to the biggest spike in blood sugar levels, especially when consumed in large quantities. But, the type of carbohydrates can have almost as much if not a bigger impact. Simple sugars, such as those found in heavily refined foods, candies, cakes and sodas are responsible for the biggest upward bounces in blood sugar levels after eating. This is mostly because the body can use these types of sugar very quickly, leading to an instant increase in blood glucose. Conversely, complex carbohydrates can also contribute to an increase in blood sugar levels after eating, however their impact is less severe and much slower. It takes the body much longer to work with these types of carbohydrates, and they must be broken down before they are usable by the body and able to be absorbed. This process can actually help stabilize blood sugar levels after eating or lend to a very slow but steady rise. This difference in type of carbohydrate is related to the term “glycemic index,” which is now found on many foods. Edibles with a lower glycemic index are less likely to cause a rapid spike in sugar levels.

Candies and cakes are not the only foods to avoid with diabetes, however. There are other culprits that can be underlying causes of elevations in blood sugar levels after eating that are worth considering. For instance, orange juice, a breakfast staple, is not a good choice for people that are trying to avoid consumables known to cause increases in blood sugar levels. This can be especially true because after a carb heavy meal, some diabetics may encounter high blood sugar levels after eating for as long as six to nine hours. This can be long enough to extend into one or two more mealtimes. If those meals are heavy in sugary carbohydrates, the situation can be further exacerbated.

Lowering blood sugar levels, then, can be somewhat challenging depending on the length of time that they remain elevated. One of the best methods recommended by healthcare professionals is walking or other light exercise. Physical activity has been associated with reducing blood sugar, (in fact, it can be a cause of low blood sugar) so it is a sensible solution if overeating, overindulgence or an abundance of carbs have led to post meal high blood sugar. However, if symptoms are present such as fainting, vomiting or mental confusion, it is important that medical attention be sought immediately.

Sugary foods and drinks are terrible choices in people with diabetes. They can lead to rapid, long lasting and unsafe jumps in blood pressure. When these happen early in the day, subsequent meals can further the potential for health related issues. Avoiding refined foods and sweets is very important for people with diabetes. But, other sugary sources should also be considered as well because not all foods that can raise blood pressure are considered candies or cookies. Some dairy products, breads (like refined white) and processed foods can contain just as much sugar as a candy bar. Evaluating nutrition labels and diligent home monitoring following meals can prevent unsafe rises in blood glucose.