By Dr. M. Kotb
It’s the Holy Grail for people with diabetes – checking your blood sugar and seeing the numbers right in line. Can lifestyle changes help? Yes, say nutrition experts and top diabetes doctors. Check out these 9 tips to for lowering your blood sugar naturally…
It’s the Holy Grail for people with diabetes – checking your blood sugar and seeing the numbers right in line. Can lifestyle changes help? Yes, says Jill Weisenberger, Lifescript’s nutrition expert, and other top diabetes doctors. Check out these 10 tips to learn how to lower your blood sugar naturally…
If you have diabetes, lowering blood sugar isn’t just a short-term goal: Doctors believe that it consistently helps prevent or delay diabetes complications, including kidney, eye and nerve diseases, such as diabetic peripheral neuropathy.
Most of these diseases require 10 or more years to develop, but “it’s still worth aggressively managing blood sugar levels to slow the onset of complications,” says Edward Geehr, M.D., Lifescript Chief Medical Officer.
Here are 10 tips to keep your readings on target:
1.Never eat huge meals.
“I always tell my patients to spread their food out over the day, keeping carbohydrates consistent,” says Jill Weisenberger, MS, RD, a Virginia certified diabetic educator and Lifescript’s nutrition expert.
“Don’t eat small meals to save up for a big dinner,” she advises.
To help your body regulate blood sugar levels:
- Avoid fasting
- Don’t skip meals
- Know your carb counts
How many carbs per meal are ideal?
“It’s tailored to each individual,” says Weisenberger, who factors in medication, hormones and other key information for each patient.
A typical starting point is 45 grams per meal for women and 60 grams for men, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). But some experts now recommend a greater reduction in carbs from the diet.
From there, make adjustments according to your blood glucose readings.
2. Eat more resistant starch
Resistant starch – found in some potatoes and beans – bypasses the small intestine, gets metabolized by the good bacteria and then behaves as dietary fiber in the large intestine, Weisenberger says.
“Even after your next meal, your blood sugar will be lower,” she says. “It’s called the ‘second-meal effect.’”
You’ll find resistant starch in a potato that has been baked and then cooled, but not in a warm potato. So a half-cup of potato salad will bring on better blood sugar readings than the same amount of warm mashed potatoes.
Resistant starches are also found in:
- Unripe bananas
- Beans and lentils
- Whole grains, including wheat, oats, rice and buckwheat
- Cold pasta
3. Beans are a girl’s best friend.
Can something as simple and inexpensive as beans really help with diabetes control?
Absolutely! says the ADA. That’s because beans are slowly digested, resulting in only a small rise in blood glucose levels.
People with type 2 diabetes who ate at least a cup of legumes (beans, chickpeas and lentils) daily for three months had lower blood glucose (blood sugar) levels, as measured by the A1C test, according to a 2012 Canadian study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine
(An A1C, or glycated hemoglobin test, is a way to measure your average blood glucose levels over a 2- to 3-month period.)
Beans also are an excellent source of folate, which is linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, a common diabetes complication.
Eating 1-3 cups of cooked beans a day will lower total cholesterol 5%-19%.
And if you love the convenience of cooking once and enjoying leftovers for days afterward, it’s easy enough to whip up a batch of homemade lentil stew, 9-bean soup or chili once a week.
Not a big bean eater? Sneak beans into your favorite foods, including:
- Side dishes
But introduce them gradually into your diet, the ADA says. Chew thoroughly, drink plenty of liquids to aid digestion and take enzyme products such as “Beano” to avoid gastrointestinal distress.
For convenience, go for canned beans, which require less preparation time and are as healthy as dried varieties.
4. Shed a few pounds.
Carrying around extra pounds causes insulin resistance, keeping the blood sugar-lowering hormone from working.
Your weight-loss goals don’t have to be enormous either. Some of Weisenberger’s patients have seen improvements in blood glucose readings with only a 5-pound loss, she says.
5. Get more high-quality shut-eye.
Poor or limited sleep affects body chemistry, and getting more slumber helps with blood sugar control, Weisenberger says.
Chronic lack of sleep may contribute to the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a Feb. 2015 University of Chicago study.
Healthy volunteers who didn’t get enough sleep for several nights in a row had higher blood levels of fatty acids, which reduced the ability of insulin to regulate blood sugar, the researchers found.
Lack of sleep is also linked with other health conditions, including heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Aim for at least 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.
Having sleep troubles? Follow these recommendations:
- Sleep in a cool, dark room.
- Exercise early, and not within 3 hours of bedtime.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
- Don’t look at screens for at least an hour before bedtime, including TV, tablets, cell phones and computers.
6. Make friends with some cactus.
The paddle-shaped nopal cactus (also known as “prickly pear”) might reduce blood sugar.
The fruit and stem of the nopal plant may slow carbohydrate absorption and lower post-meal blood glucose readings, according to some preliminary studies. But no large studies have proven if nopal is effective to prevent or treat diabetes, says NYU Langone Medical Center.
Popular in central Mexico, nopal is boiled, grilled, fried or mashed, added to soups and stews, and even eaten raw. It’s a good source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein.
7. Banish stress.
When you’re stressed out, your body creates a lot of stored energy – glucose and fat – so cells can use it when called into action.
In people with diabetes, this extra energy doesn’t make it to the cells, so glucose stays in the blood and results in high readings, according to the ADA.
How can you burn off tension?
Yoga and meditation have helped lower blood sugar levels in her patients, Weisenberger says. For even better results, try these practices as well:
- Tai chi
- Deep breathing
- An attitude of gratitude
- Positive thinking
- Giving yourself pep talks
Not your thing? Then create your own stress-relieving routines, such as:
- Learning a craft
- Starting a hobby
- Exercising or stretching to music
- Taking a warm bath or shower
- Watching a movie
8. Move a little more each day.
Exercise normalizes blood glucose in people with type 2 diabetes (but not type 1).
“In type 2, exercise helps improve insulin resistance,” says James G. Beckerman, MD, a cardiologist in Portland, Ore. “The end result is lower blood sugars.”
But exercise is important for both types of diabetes because it helps prevent heart attack, stroke or diminished blood flow to the legs.
Because exercise can immediately reduce blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetics, work with your health care team to determine the right amount of activity and timing for insulin.
A combination of strength-building resistance and aerobic exercise may be the most beneficial, Dr. Beckerman says.
9. Never skip breakfast.
We’ve all heard that breakfast is the day’s most important meal. This is especially true for those who have diabetes. After fasting 8-12 hours, your body needs food to balance blood sugar levels and injected insulin from the previous night.
A high-protein breakfast may help women maintain better glucose control, according to 2014 University of Missouri research.
In the study, women aged 18-55 years old consumed meals with similar calories, fat, and fiber contents — but differing amounts of protein. Researchers monitored the amount of glucose and insulin in the participants’ blood for four hours after they ate breakfast.
The best breakfasts contained 39 grams of protein and led to lower post-meal glucose spikes than the meals with less protein, the researchers found.
Besides, eating breakfast can help overweight people with type 2 diabetes shed extra pounds. Of the 4,000 participants In the National Weight Control Registry who maintained at least a 30-pound weight loss for about 5.5 years, almost all said they ate breakfast daily.
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