5 surprising ways to control blood sugar, according to nutritionists
Every time you eat any type of carbohydrate – be it blueberries or baked goods – the starch is broken down into sugar as glucose, a type of sugar in your blood. In response, your body produces insulin, the hormone responsible for getting that sugar into your cells, where it’s used for energy.
For the 96 million people in the United States with prediabetes and an additional 37.3 million with type 2 diabetes, this system does not work properly, causing glucose – sugar – to build up in the bloodstream. Ultimately, that excess sugar can damage your blood vessels and nerves and increase your risk of health complications, including heart and kidney disease.
If you already have prediabetes, control your blood sugar is key to preventing or delaying type 2 diabetes. And if you have type 2 diabetes, lowering your blood sugar has the potential to reverse the condition enough to make medication unnecessary.
Certainly, your diet plays a role, but there are other ways to improve insulin sensitivity and promote healthier blood sugar levels. Here are the top five strategies for lowering blood sugar.
Eat breakfast – and eat it early
Skipping breakfast can make it harder to control your blood sugar. IN Research presented at the Endocrine Society 2021, scientists looked at the eating windows of more than 10,500 participants — the period during the day when food was consumed.
Researchers found that insulin resistance — when your body becomes less sensitive to insulin — is higher among people who eat 10 hours or less a day. This is relevant for people practicing intermittent fasting who limit eating windows to less than 10 hours a day. However, even those who restricted their eating period were less likely to be insulin resistant if their first meal was before 8:30 am. And in the study, those who ate early also had lower blood sugar levels.
Other recent research also supports the idea that eating breakfast can help control blood sugar. In a separate study, skipping breakfast worsened the post-lunch insulin response and caused blood sugar levels to rise compared to breakfast and the same lunch. So try eating a balanced breakfast, such as some fruit with plain Greek yogurt and nuts, or scrambled eggs with vegetables served with avocado slices.
Have an early dinner
One small one study among healthy people, it was found that eating dinner earlier — at 6 p.m. — had a positive effect on overnight blood sugar fluctuations compared to eating dinner at 8 p.m. Although the study was small, the results were instructive.
The people who participated in it followed two protocols – they ate early dinners on some days and late dinners on others. The meals eaten on each occasion were in the same ratio of protein, carbohydrate and fat. Since the meal composition was the same, it is likely that the differences in blood sugar were due to the timing of the meal.
Although an early dinner is beneficial, it is not always practical. You can make this more doable by prepping some meals or having basic ingredients on hand — think plain protein and a variety of whole grains. If you still work from home, try to eat dinner earlier on days when you have easier access to the kitchen.
Walk for 2 minutes
According to a review of seven studies, even only two minutes walk after a meal can help lower blood sugar levels. That’s good news if you’ve ever wondered how to fit exercise into your busy life! Even a small amount of activity activates your muscles, allowing them to use some of the sugar in your blood for energy, thus reducing the impact of the meal you just ate on your blood sugar.
To get into the habit of moving after eating, try walking to the end of the driveway and back, or pacing down the hallway of your home or office. You can also try other forms of movement. For example, walk up and down the stairs a few times, wash the dishes, or take a few minutes to stretch after a meal and occasionally throughout the day.
Of course, so it’s still a good idea to aim for CDC recommendation 20 to 25 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity most days because more activity helps improve insulin sensitivity. However, it’s good to know that you don’t always have to sweat or even work out for a long time to reap some of the benefits. Meanwhile, standing also helps, but not as much as moving.
When you experience stress – say, an argument with your partner or a difficult week at work – your body releases cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones can be beneficial because they help redistribute and conserve energy, giving you the boost you need to get through a crisis. Unfortunately, one of the ways this happens is by changing yours insulin sensitivity. At the same time, more sugar is released from your liver—again, to provide energy.
While this hormone balancing act is helpful during short-term crises, typical stressors tend to be more long-lasting. This means that these biological responses can be disrupted for a long time, leading to higher blood sugar levels. This is where yoga and meditation come into play.
And in 2022 review of 28 studies found that mindfulness-based practices led to better blood sugar control and improved blood sugar levels over three months. In fact, the results weren’t far from the blood sugar improvement you’d experience with a typical blood sugar-lowering drug. This doesn’t mean you should give up your medication, but try adding these measures into your routine. You can find free mindfulness-based yoga and meditation practices on YouTube and numerous apps, many of which have free trials. If you’re just starting to exercise, check with your doctor to see if he’s given the green light to start.
Rethink your drinks
If you drink diet juice or rely on carb-free, calorie-free sweetener packets to sweeten your drinks, you might want to think again. While it makes sense in theory that these sweeteners can help control your blood sugar levels, Research suggests the opposite. Evidence suggests that your body can replace these non-carb sweeteners with sugar, releasing insulin without the need to lower your blood sugar. Over time, this pattern can result in faulty insulin receptors and a higher risk of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
If you drink soda or regularly consume other sweetened beverages, replacing them with a sweetened alternative may be a suitable short-term strategy. But a better long-term approach is to limit your consumption of artificial sweeteners and instead choose unsweetened coffee, tea, plain water, or naturally flavored seltzer water.
This article was originally published on DANAS.com