You recognize the signs of weakness and nausea and know it’s important to increase your blood sugar immediately. An easy way to increase your blood sugar quickly is with candy, but what’s the best candy for low blood sugar?
Knowing what to eat and how to balance your blood sugar can be a tightrope act for those who live with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Although few people consider sugary treats health foods, they come in handy when your glucose levels plunge. Here are the best candies and other foods for low blood sugar that can get you feeling better fast.
Causes and Signs of Low Blood Sugar
Glucose, or sugar, is your body’s main source of energy. Hypoglycemia means low blood sugar, or when the glucose in your blood drops below 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Some people will have a different range of normal (ie. a lower normal range). For people who are not on diabetic medicines like insulin, sustained hypoglycemia is extremely rare.
You might see it while undergoing intense exercise, or as a big dip after a large spike (like after your Oral Glucose Tolerance Test). But your body knows to react and ramp up your glucose production to get back to a safe range.
The two primary categories of hypoglycemia are fasting and reactive. Fasting hypoglycemia occurs when you have gone without eating for eight hours or longer, whereas the reactive type strikes within four hours of your last meal.
Various other factors can impact your blood sugar levels, including:
- The time of day you eat.
- Medications you take.
- Health conditions like diabetes and obesity.
- Excessive exercise.
- High stress levels.
What Are the Signs of Low Blood Sugar?
Fortunately, you’ll probably recognize when you have hypoglycemia. The signs of low blood sugar include the following:
- Sweating, which may feel like a cold sweat
- Nervousness and shakiness
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea and headache
- Blurry vision
- High heart rate
If low blood sugar continues unchecked, you could experience mood changes, such as irritability and confusion. Your speech could become slurred, and your muscles twitch.
Allowing it to continue to the extreme stage — less than 40 ml/dL — can lead to seizures, loss of consciousness, and stroke. Fortunately, you can balance your blood sugar quickly by eating or drinking something high in the sweet stuff.
How Much of These Foods Should You Eat?
What should you do if you suspect mild hypoglycemia? Your best bet is to catch low blood sugar before it falls below 55 ml/dL. A light snack is all you need to balance blood sugar during this stage, but how much should you eat?
The CDC recommends using the 15:15 rule. Eat 15 grams of carbs and check your blood sugar again after 15 minutes. Have another snack if it remains low, and stop when you reach the normal range.
You can use a self-monitor or continuous glucose monitoring to check your blood sugar levels. The latter method has the advantage of no repeated needle sticks — your results display on a smartphone app.
What to Eat for Low Blood Sugar
The below foods are easily absorbed and fast-acting carbs that will raise blood sugar levels quickly. Foods that contain protein and fats, like dark chocolate, candy bars, ice cream, cookies, crackers, and bread, will not raise blood sugar levels fast enough.
Candy delivers an instant dose of sugar to raise your blood sugar levels. Gummy bears, fruit chews, hard candy, and jelly beans are all excellent choices. One that often goes overlooked but that kids love is Pixy Stix; add one to your child’s backpack if they get hypoglycemic during the school day.2
What about chocolate? Although you might normally opt for the dark variety, milk chocolate is best for immediately increasing your blood sugar levels. Otherwise, it might not contain enough sugar to provide immediate relief.
If your blood sugar is less than 70 mg/dL, you need 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates. Below are some portion sizes of popular candies that fit this requirement:
- 5 small gum drops
- 12 gummy bears
- 6 large jelly beans
- 5 Life Savers
- 15 Skittles
- 4 Starburst
If your blood sugar plummets, a tablespoon of sugar mixed in water will get you up to snuff more quickly than nearly anything.
Other alternatives include:
- Honey: Honey provides an antioxidant and nutrient boost, making it superior to white sugar — although either will do so amid a hypoglycemic storm.
- Jelly: Here, as with chocolate, you should read labels. You might normally prefer unsweetened jams, but the sugary grape variety is perfect for balancing your blood sugar quickly.
Aim for 1 tablespoon of honey, jam, or jelly to quickly raise your blood sugar levels.
Fruit is typically high in sugar, especially mangoes, pears, cherries, and grapes.3 However, dried fruit is a more concentrated source of added sugar. It’s wise to keep a box of raisins tucked into a briefcase corner for emergencies.
Below is a guide for the portion sizes you should aim for if your blood sugar levels are under 70 mg/dL:
- ½ banana
- 1 small apple
- 1 small orange
- ½ cup applesauce
- 2 tablespoons of raisins
- 15 grapes
Fruit juice is another excellent source of sugar, and sweetened varieties are even better. Milk is also a source of sugar, although some people struggle to digest it. Fat-free milk has the highest sugar content.
Soda is also excellent for raising your blood sugar. If you’re seeking an excuse for a soda fix, a low blood sugar episode is the perfect time to reach for one.
It is important to be mindful of portion sizes when consuming sugary drinks. Here is a quick guide to help you navigate how much you should be consuming when your blood sugar levels are under 70 mg/dL:
- ½ cup apple juice
- ½ cup orange juice or grapefruit juice
- ½ cup pineapple juice
- ½ cup of regular soda
- ⅓ cup grape juice
- ⅓ cup cranberry juice
- ⅓ cup prune juice
- 1 cup fat free milk
Glucose tablets and gels specially designed for treating the condition are helpful for people who frequently experience hypoglycemia. These may cost a bit more than some other items on this list, but they’re worth having when you need to raise blood sugar levels immediately. Aim to consume 3 to 4 glucose tablets or 1 tube of glucose gel if your blood sugar drops too low.
Learn How to Manage Blood Sugar Levels With Signos’ Expert Advice
Are you interested in learning more about nutrition and how it supports proper health? Check out informative articles about various foods and nutrients, how they impact your functioning, and how you feel each day.
Also, explore our blog for tips on living your best life through health science. Are you interested in taking charge of your low blood sugar through continuous glucose monitoring? Take this short quiz to see if Signos is right for you.
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Topics discussed in this article:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, December 30). How to treat low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/low-blood-sugar-treatment.html#:~:text=For%20low%20blood%20sugar%20between,it's%20in%20your%20target%20range
- Warrell Creations. (2016, October 26). 5 Halloween candies kids want — but rarely get. https://www.warrellcorp.com/blog/5-halloween-candies-kids-want-rarely-get/
- WebMD. (2021, November 2). Which fruits have the most sugar? https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-fruit-sugar