Remember that time you ate too much birthday cake as a kid (…or maybe that was last week)? For a few minutes you were flying high, happy as can be. Then came the equally intense crash, leaving you exhausted, cranky, and craving another sweet treat.
We’ve all experienced the profound impact our blood sugar levels have on energy and mood, and it’s no fun. But beyond being an energy-draining annoyance, imbalanced blood sugar can seriously impair your ability to meet the demands of daily life, and if chronically elevated wreak havoc on your long-term health.
When you don’t manage your blood sugar levels appropriately, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can occur as levels rise and fall drastically. This comes with number of unpleasant side effects, including:
- Sugar and carb cravings
- Weight gain
- Trouble concentrating
- Mood swings or nervousness
- Dry skin
- Excessive thirst
- Frequent peeing
- Blurred vision
- Nerve damage or tingling sensations
- Slowly healing cuts and bruises
Here are some easy ways to lower blood sugar levels naturally:
Your first dietary step towards more balanced blood sugar: ditching (most of) the packaged foods and focusing on high-quality whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and quality meats and fish. Many processed foods are high in sugar, refined grains and carbs, and artificial ingredients and flavorings, while being low in blood-sugar-stabilizing fiber and protein. Of course, it’s also important to be realistic. You’re probably not going to be able to nix packaged foods completely, so just make a point to select those that are made from mostly whole-food ingredients, like a bar that lists just nuts, seeds, and dried fruit on its label.
Regular exercise can help you lose weight and increase insulin sensitivity.
Increased insulin sensitivity means your cells are better able to 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 control, you should routinely check your levels. This will help you learn how you respond to different activities and keep your blood sugar levels from getting either too high or too low .
Good forms of exercise include weight lifting, brisk walking, running, biking, dancing, hiking, swimming and more.
Your minimally processed diet should be heavy in non-starchy, fiber-rich vegetables and (to a slightly lesser extent) fiber-rich fruit and whole grains. That’s because fiber slows down the digestion of carbohydrates and the absorption of sugar, which means you experience a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels after meals. Fiber has also been associated with a reduced risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Good sources of fiber include leafy greens, brussels sprouts, broccoli, artichokes, raspberries, pears, beans, lentils, peas, avocados, pumpkin seeds, and oatmeal.
Your body breaks carbs down into sugars (mostly glucose), and then insulin moves the sugars into cells.
When you eat too many carbs or have problems with insulin function, this process fails and blood glucose levels rise.
However, there are several things you can do about this.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends controlling carb intake by counting carbs or using a food exchange system .
Some studies find that these methods can also help you plan your meals appropriately, which may further improve blood sugar control .
Many studies also show that a low-carb diet helps reduce blood sugar levels and prevent blood sugar spikes .
What’s more, a low-carb diet can help control blood sugar levels in the long run .
Like fiber and protein, fat buffers blood sugar spikes. In fact, unsaturated fats have been specifically linked to improved insulin resistance. Just be sure to avoid refined fats, including trans fats and processed vegetable oils, like corn, soybean, and safflower oils, which can be pro-inflammatory. Sources of quality fats to consider adding to your diet include: nuts, olive oil, ghee, coconut oil, avocado, and fatty fish like salmon.
Drinking enough water may help you keep your blood sugar levels within healthy limits.
In addition to preventing dehydration, it helps your kidneys flush out the excess blood sugar through urine.
One observational study showed that those who drank more water had a lower risk of developing high blood sugar levels .
Drinking water regularly re-hydrates the blood, lowers blood sugar levels and reduces diabetes risk.
Keep in mind that water and other non-caloric beverages are best. Sugar-sweetened drinks raise blood glucose, drive weight gain and increase diabetes risk.
Lowering your overall intake of carbohydrates is also important for balanced blood sugar, but you don’t need to cut them completely (they’re still a crucial source of fuel for your body). Simply swap out refined carbohydrates like bread, white pasta, and candy for fiber-rich, whole-food sources such as whole grains, sweet potatoes, and fruit, which contain a number of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants essential for health.
Get Enough Quality Sleep.
Getting enough sleep feels great and is necessary for good health.
Poor sleeping habits and a lack of rest also affect blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity. They can increase appetite and promote weight gain.
Sleep deprivation decreases the release of growth hormones and increases cortisol levels. Both of these play an important role in blood sugar control.
Furthermore, good sleep is about both quantity and quality. It is best to get a sufficient amount of high-quality sleep every night.