Blood sugar management is especially important for people with diabetes, as chronically high blood sugar levels can lead to limb and life threatening complications.
Your body usually manages your blood sugar levels by producing insulin, a hormone that allows your cells to use the circulating sugar in your blood. As such, insulin is the most important regulator of blood sugar levels.
High blood sugar, also known as hyperglycemia, is associated with diabetes and prediabetes. Prediabetes is when your blood sugar is high, but not high enough to be classified as diabetes.
However, multiple factors can impair blood sugar management and lead to hyperglycemia.
Internal causes for high blood sugar include when your liver produces too much glucose, your body makes too little insulin, or your body can’t effectively use insulin. The latter is known as insulin resistance.
External factors include dietary choices, certain medications, a sedentary lifestyle, and stress.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that 13% of U.S. adults live with diabetes and that another 34.5% have prediabetes. This means that close to 50% of all U.S. adults have diabetes or prediabetes.
Ways to lower your blood Sugar
Get enough quality sleep
Good sleep helps maintain your blood sugar levels and promotes a healthy weight. On the other hand, poor sleep can disrupt critical metabolic hormones.
Getting enough sleep feels excellent and is necessary for good health.
In fact, poor sleeping habits and a lack of rest can affect blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity, increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. They can also increase appetite and promote weight gain.
Additionally, sleep deprivation raises levels of the hormone cortisol, which, as explained, plays an essential role in blood sugar management.
Adequate sleep is about both quantity and quality. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get at least 7–8 hours of high quality sleep per night.
To improve the quality of your sleep, try to:
- follow a sleep schedule
- avoid caffeine and alcohol late in the day
- get regular exercise
- cut down on screen time before bed
- keep your bedroom cool
- limit your naps
- create a bedtime routine
- use soothing and calming scents such as lavender
- avoid working in your bedroom
- take a warm bath or shower before bed
- try meditation or guided imagery
Monitor your blood sugar levels
Monitoring blood glucose levels can help you better manage them.
You can do so at home using a portable blood glucose meter, which is known as a glucometer. You can discuss this option with your doctor.
Keeping track allows you to determine whether you need to adjust your meals or medications. It also helps you learn how your body reacts to certain foods.
Try measuring your levels regularly every day and keeping track of the numbers in a log. Also, it may be more helpful to track your blood sugar in pairs — for example, before and after exercise or before and 2 hours after a meal.
This can show you whether you need to make small changes to a meal if it spikes your blood sugar, rather than avoiding your favorite meals altogether. Some adjustments include swapping a starchy side for non-starchy veggies or limiting them to a handful.
Checking your blood glucose and maintaining a daily log enables you to adjust foods and medications when necessary to better manage your blood sugar levels.
Try to manage your stress levels
Managing your stress levels through exercise or relaxation methods like yoga may help you regulate blood sugar levels.
Stress can affect your blood sugar levels.
When stressed, your body secretes hormones called glucagon and cortisol, which cause blood sugar levels to rise.
One study including a group of students showed that exercise, relaxation, and meditation significantly reduced stress and lowered blood sugar levels.
Exercises and relaxation methods like yoga and mindfulness-based stress reduction may also help correct insulin secretion problems among people with chronic diabetes.
Choose foods with a low glycemic index
The glycemic index (GI) measures how quickly carbs break down during digestion and how rapidly your body absorbs them. This affects how quickly your blood sugar levels rise.
The GI divides foods into low, medium, and high GI and ranks them on a scale of 0–100. Low GI foods have a ranking of 55 or less.
Both the amount and type of carbs you eat determine how a food affects your blood sugar levels. Specifically, eating low GI foods has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.
Some examples of foods with a low to moderate GI include:
- unsweetened Greek yogurt
- whole wheat pasta
- non-starchy vegetables
Furthermore, adding protein or healthy fats helps minimize blood sugar spikes after a meal
Implement portion control
Focusing on your portion sizes can help you manage your blood sugar levels.
Portion control can help you regulate your calorie intake and maintain a moderate weight.
Consequently, weight management promotes healthy blood sugar levels and has been shown to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Monitoring your serving sizes also helps prevent blood sugar spikes.
Here are some helpful tips for managing portion sizes:
- measure and weigh your portions
- use smaller plates
- avoid all-you-can-eat restaurants
- read food labels and check the serving sizes
- keep a food journal
- eat slowly
Drink water and stay hydrated
Staying hydrated can reduce blood sugar levels and diabetes risk. Choose water and zero-calorie drinks and avoid sugar-sweetened beverages.
Drinking enough water could help you keep your blood sugar levels within healthy ranges.
In addition to preventing dehydration, it helps your kidneys flush out any excess sugar through urine.
One review of observational studies showed that those who drank more water had a lower risk of developing high blood sugar levels.
Drinking water regularly may rehydrate the blood, lower blood sugar levels, and reduce diabetes risk.
Keep in mind that water and other zero-calorie drinks are best. Avoid sugar-sweetened options, as these can raise blood glucose, drive weight gain, and increase diabetes risk.
Eat more fiber
Eating plenty of fiber can aid blood sugar management. Soluble dietary fiber appears to be more effective than insoluble fiber for this purpose.
Fiber slows carb digestion and sugar absorption, thereby promoting a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels.
There are two types of fiber — insoluble and soluble.
While both are important, soluble fiber has explicitly been shown to improve blood sugar management, while insoluble fiber hasn’t been shown to have this effect.
A high fiber diet can improve your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar and minimize blood sugar lows. This could help you better manage type 1 diabetes.
Foods that are high in fiber include:
- whole grains
The recommended daily intake of fiber is about 25 grams for women and 35 grams for men. That’s about 14 grams for every 1,000 calories.
Manage your carb intake
Your body breaks down the carbs you eat into glucose, which then raises your blood sugar levels. As such, reducing your carb intake can aid blood sugar regulation.
Your carb intake strongly influences your blood sugar levels.
Your body breaks carbs down into sugars, mainly glucose. Then, insulin helps your body use and store it for energy.
When you eat too many carbs or have insulin-function problems, this process fails, and blood glucose levels can rise.
That’s why the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that people with diabetes manage their carb intake by counting carbs and being aware of how many they need.
Some studies find that this can help you plan your meals appropriately, further improving blood sugar management.
Many studies also show that eating a low carb diet helps reduce blood sugar levels and prevent blood sugar spikes.
It’s important to note that low carb diets and no carb diets are not the same.
You can still eat some carbs when monitoring your blood sugar. However, prioritizing whole grains over processed ones and refined carbs provides greater nutritional value while helping decrease your blood sugar levels.
Exercise increases insulin sensitivity and helps your muscles use blood sugar for movement. This can lead to reduced blood sugar levels.
Regular exercise can help you reach and maintain a moderate weight and increase insulin sensitivity.
Increased insulin sensitivity means your cells can more effectively use the available sugar in your bloodstream.
Exercise also helps your muscles use blood sugar for energy and muscle contraction.
If you have problems with blood sugar management, consider routinely checking your levels before and after exercising. This will help you learn how you respond to different activities and keep your blood sugar levels from getting too high or low.
What’s more, researchers recommend doing so-called “exercise snacks” to lower blood sugar and prevent the damage that sitting all day can do.
Exercise snacks simply mean that you break up your sitting time every 30 minutes for just a few minutes throughout the day. Some of the recommended exercises include light walking or simple resistance exercises like squats or leg raises.
Other useful forms of exercise include weightlifting, brisk walking, running, biking, dancing, hiking, swimming, and more. In fact, any activity that regularly gets you up and moving — regardless of the intensity — beats a sedentary lifestyle.
Plus, know that if you have trouble dedicating longer periods to exercise throughout the week, you can still gain many benefits by doing shorter sessions. For example, try aiming for 10-minute exercise sessions 3 times a day for 5 days, with the goal of 150 minutes per week.
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Eat foods rich in chromium and magnesium
Eating foods rich in chromium and magnesium can help prevent deficiencies and reduce the risk of blood sugar problems.
High blood sugar levels and diabetes have been linked to micronutrient deficiencies. Some examples include deficiencies in the minerals chromium and magnesium.
Chromium is involved in carb and fat metabolism. It may potentiate the action of insulin, thus aiding blood sugar regulation.
Chromium-rich foods include:
- whole grain products
However, the mechanisms behind this proposed connection are not entirely known, and studies report mixed findings. As such, more research is needed.
Magnesium has also been shown to benefit blood sugar levels. In fact, diets rich in magnesium are associated with a significantly reduced risk of diabetes.
In contrast, low magnesium levels may lead to insulin resistance and decreased glucose tolerance in people with diabetes.
That said, if you already eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods and have adequate blood magnesium levels, you likely won’t benefit from taking magnesium supplements.
Magnesium-rich foods include:
- dark leafy greens
- squash and pumpkin seeds
- whole grains
- dark chocolate
Consider adding specific foods to your diet
Multiple foods and plants are known to have medicinal properties.
However, the overall quality of evidence on these ingredients is low due to insufficient human studies or small sample sizes. Therefore, no conclusive recommendations can be made regarding their use.
Some of the foods touted to have anti-diabetes effects include.
- Apple cider vinegar. According to older research, this ingredient may reduce blood sugar levels by delaying the emptying of your stomach after a meal.
- Cinnamon. This spice may improve blood sugar levels by enhancing insulin sensitivity and slowing the breakdown of carbs in your digestive tract. This moderates the rise in blood sugar after a meal. Nevertheless, more research is needed.
- Berberine. Research suggests that this compound lowers blood sugar by stimulating enzymes’ breakdown of glucose, promoting your tissue’s use of sugar and increasing insulin production.
- Fenugreek seeds. While more high quality studies in humans are needed, there is some evidence that fenugreek may help support blood sugar management.
It’s essential to talk with your doctor before adding any of these foods to your diet if you’re already taking blood-sugar-lowering medications, as some herbal supplements may negatively interact with them.
Finally, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate supplements in the same way that it regulates prescription medications. As such, it’s important to purchase supplements that have been tested by an independent lab for purity and ingredient content.
Maintain a moderate weight
Maintaining a moderate weight will support blood sugar management and decrease your risk of developing diabetes.
Maintaining a moderate weight promotes healthy blood sugar levels and reduces your risk of developing diabetes.
Research shows that even a 5% reduction in body weight can improve your blood sugar regulation and reduce the need for diabetes medication.
For example, if a person weighs 200 pounds (91 kg) and loses just 10–14 pounds (4.5–6 kg), they may see significant improvements in their blood sugar levels.
What’s more, losing more than 5% of your initial weight may benefit your glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) readings. These are used as indicators of your blood sugar levels over the past 3 months.
Eat healthy snacks more frequently
Spreading your meals and snacks throughout the day may help you avoid both high and low blood sugar levels.
Snacking between meals could keep your blood sugar levels from spiking or plummeting throughout the day.
Snacking between meals may also reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes.
In fact, several studies suggest that having smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day could improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels.
In addition, eating smaller meals and healthy snacks throughout the day may lower glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) readings, indicating improvements in blood sugar levels over the previous 3 months.
Eat probiotic-rich foods
A probiotic-rich diet may help you manage your blood sugar levels.
Probiotics are friendly bacteria that offer numerous health benefits, including improved blood sugar regulation.
Research shows that probiotic intake may lower fasting blood sugar, glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), and insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes.
Interestingly, studies have found that improvements in blood sugar levels are more significant in people who consume multiple species of probiotics and for at least 8 weeks.
Probiotic-rich foods include fermented foods, such as:
- yogurt, as long as the label states that it contains live active cultures
There are multiple ways to naturally manage your blood sugar levels.
Many of them include making lifestyle changes, like managing your weight, stress levels, and sleep quality, exercising, and staying hydrated. That said, some of the biggest improvements have to do with your dietary choices.
Be sure to talk with your healthcare professional before making lifestyle changes or trying new supplements— especially if you have problems with blood sugar management or are taking medications.