Wondering What to Eat When Blood Sugar is Low? Here’s a Quick Guide

Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)
Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)

General Physician | 6+ years

what-to-eat-when-blood-sugar-is-low
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Feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or hungry very often? These could be signs of hypoglycaemia or low blood glucose (sugar) levels. Hypoglycaemia is when your blood sugar levels drop below the normal range for a healthy individual. Curious about what you can do and what to eat when blood sugar is low? Let’s find out. 

We will also take a deeper look at hypoglycemia, its causes, symptoms, and management

Contents:
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    What is Low Blood Sugar or Hypoglycemia?
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    What are the Causes and Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar Levels?
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    List of Foods That Raise Blood Sugar Levels
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    Know Your Count of High-Sugar Foods And Drinks
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    How to Prevent Low Blood Sugar?
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    Don’t Have Time To Read?
  • blog_single_bullet_icon
    FAQs
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What is Low Blood Sugar or Hypoglycemia?

Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia is a condition where your blood sugar levels drop below the normal range. A fasting blood sugar level between 70 to 100 mg/dL is considered normal and a reading below 70 mg/dL is considered hypoglycemia. 

Paradoxically, people with diabetes are more prone to develop hypoglycemia. Hypoglycemia is most often caused as a side effect of medications used to treat diabetes

What are the Causes and Symptoms of Low Blood Sugar Levels?

The most common cause of low blood sugar levels is the use of insulin or other diabetic medications. As diabetic medications focus on lowering your blood sugar levels, they may drop too low in some cases, leading to hypoglycemia. 

In diabetes, low blood sugar may also occur as the result of insufficient food intake after taking your regular dose of diabetes medication or due to increased physical activity.

In cases where diabetes is not present, low blood sugar levels can occur due to excess alcohol consumption, long-term starvation, overproduction of insulin in the body, hormone deficiencies, or critical conditions such as severe kidney, liver, or heart diseases. 

Common symptoms of low blood sugar levels include: 

  • Irregular or fast heartbeat
  • Headache
  • Colour draining from the skin 
  • Shakiness
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating 
  • Irritability 
  • Hunger 
  • Nausea 
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Tingling or numbness in the lips, tongue, or cheeks

Worsening hypoglycemia can cause confusion, unusual behaviour, loss of coordination, slurred speech, blurred vision, and nightmares in sleep. Severe cases of hypoglycemia can lead to seizures and loss of consciousness. 

It is important that you learn how to tackle low blood sugar levels and bring them back to the normal range. Here are a few foods that can help you manage hypoglycemia.

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List of Foods That Raise Blood Sugar Levels

What is the best thing to eat when your blood sugar is low? Let’s look at this list below. 

Carbohydrate-Rich Foods

Carbohydrates are the main food group that causes a rise in your blood sugar levels. Your digestive system breaks down carbohydrates into glucose (sugar) and therefore it would be the best choice if you want to raise your blood sugar levels. Foods that are high in carbohydrates include rice, oats, beans, bread, pasta, noodles, milk, and yoghurt. 

You can follow the 15-15 rule. Have 15 grams of carbohydrates to raise your blood sugar levels and check after 15 minutes. If your sugar levels are still below 70 mg/dL, you can have another serving. 

Sugary Foods And Sweetened Beverages

Sugary foods and beverages such as cookies, cakes, pastries, candies, sweetened fruit juices, or aerated drinks can cause a sudden spike in your blood sugar levels. For sudden episodes of hypoglycemia, you can have 5 to 6 hard candies or half a glass of sweetened fruit juice to quickly elevate your blood glucose levels. 

Starchy Vegetables

Starches are complex carbohydrates that are broken down into sugars to produce energy. Starchy vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, corn, peas, and sweet potatoes can boost your sugar levels instantly. You can consume half a cup of starchy vegetables at a time.

Caffeinated Beverages

Consuming caffeinated beverages such as coffee or tea can cause a temporary increase in your blood sugar levels. They contain caffeine which alters the way your body reacts to insulin. Caffeine can reduce insulin sensitivity, and thus increases your blood glucose levels. In situations where you notice symptoms of hypoglycemia such as fatigue or lightheadedness, having a cup of coffee or tea will help you normalise your blood sugar levels. 

Fruits

Fruits such as bananas, grapes, cherries, and mangoes are high in carbohydrates and sugar. These fruits can raise your blood sugar levels quickly. They have a high glycemic index (GI), a score that measures the rise in your blood glucose after eating a particular food. Foods with a high GI create a more quick and dramatic change in your blood sugar levels. 

Know Your Count of High-Sugar Foods And Drinks

Here are some examples of foods that can provide you with 15 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates to manage low blood sugar levels:

  • ½ cup or 4 ounces of orange juice
  • ½ cup or 4 ounces of regular soda (not diet)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar dissolved in water
  • 1 tablespoon of honey or maple syrup
  • 5 to 6 hard candies, gumdrops, or jelly beans
  • 1 tube of instant glucose gel
  • 1 cup of skim milk

How to Prevent Low Blood Sugar?

Low blood sugar or hypoglycemia is a serious condition that requires prompt treatment. If you have diabetes, taking certain simple measures can help you prevent low blood sugar levels:

  • Track your blood glucose levels regularly using a blood glucose meter. If you have hypoglycemia unawareness or have low blood glucose often, use a CGM (continuous glucose monitoring) device to constantly track your blood sugar levels and alert you when your sugar levels drop.
  • Make a meal plan where you have 3 evenly spaced meals with healthy snacks in between. This will ensure that you have enough carbohydrates in your diet to keep your blood glucose level in your target range.
  • Carry a source of fast-acting carbohydrates, such as glucose tablets or a juice box, with you at all times. 
  • Track your carbohydrate intake and your blood sugar levels before and after meals, after exercise, and before going to bed. 
  • Along with keeping a track of your diet and lifestyle, make sure that you take your insulin and/or diabetic medications accordingly.

Don’t Have Time To Read?

  • Hypoglycemia is a condition where your blood sugar levels drop below the normal range. A blood sugar reading that is below 70 mg/dL is considered low. 
  • In diabetes, the most common causes of low blood sugar levels are the use of insulin or other diabetic medications, insufficient food intake after taking diabetes medication, or increased physical activity. Apart from diabetes, low blood sugar levels can occur due to factors such as excess alcohol consumption, long-term starvation, overproduction of insulin in the body, hormone deficiencies, etc. 
  • Common symptoms of low blood sugar levels include irregular or fast heartbeat, shakiness, anxiety, sweating, irritability, hunger, nausea, fatigue, and lightheadedness. 
  • Consuming certain foods can help in managing episodes of hypoglycemia. These foods include carbohydrate rich-foods such as bread and pasta, sugary foods such as pastries and candies, starchy vegetables such as corn and peas, fruits such as bananas, and caffeinated beverages such as tea and coffee. 
  • Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading diabetologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate blood sugar monitoring and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Diabetes Management Program which provides ‎360º care. Let’s treat diabetes together.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, bananas can raise your blood sugar levels. Fruits such as bananas are high in carbohydrates and sugar. Such foods can create a more quick and dramatic change in your blood sugar levels.

Low blood sugar can lead to symptoms such as irregular or fast heartbeat, shakiness, anxiety, sweating, irritability, hunger, nausea, fatigue, and lightheadedness. Severe cases of hypoglycemia can lead to seizures and loss of consciousness. 

Yes, low blood sugar levels can disrupt your sleep and may wake you up in the middle of the night with nightmares. This occurs because your body releases stress hormones in response to the low blood glucose levels. Low blood sugar levels also cause the release of hormones that regulate glucose levels. These hormones signal the brain that it is time to eat, and your brain directs your body to wake up and eat, causing a disruption in sleep.

Yes, 69mg/dL is considered a low fasting blood sugar level. A fasting blood sugar level between 70 to 100 mg/dL is considered normal and a reading below 70 mg/dL is considered hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). 

Yes, orange juice is good for managing low blood sugar. Fruit juices usually have a high glycemic index (GI) and therefore can cause an immediate spike in your blood sugar levels after consumption. 

Unsweetened or pure peanut butter is made up of only peanuts and has no added sugar. It has a low glycemic index (GI) and therefore does not cause a noticeable rise in your blood sugar levels after consumption. If your goal is to raise low blood sugar levels with immediate effect, you can opt for peanut butter with added sugar.

Wondering what to eat when your blood sugar is low? Chocolate is not recommended when you need a quick increase in your blood sugar levels as the fat content in chocolate slows down the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream. To manage hypoglycemia, you can choose candies over chocolates.

Dr. Pakhi Sharma
Dr. Pakhi Sharma, MBBS
(General physician, 6+ years)
An expert in obstetrics and medical emergencies, Dr. Pakhi Sharma, an alumni of Sri Devaraj Urs University of Higher Education and Research Centre, is a general physician working at Phablecare. She has 6+ years of work experience spread across gynaecology and obstetrics, family medicine, and medical emergencies at renowned hospitals and clinics.

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