High blood sugar occurs when your body can’t effectively transport sugar from blood into cells. When left unchecked, this can lead to diabetes.
One study from 2013 reported that over 3.2 million UK adults have type 2 diabetes, while 1 in 3 adults is classified pre-diabetic
This means that a large number of UK adults have diabetes or pre-diabetes.
Here are 15 easy ways to lower blood sugar levels naturally:
1. Exercise regularly
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.
Good forms of exercise include weight lifting, brisk walking, running, biking, dancing, hiking, swimming to name but a few !
2. Control your carb intake
Your body breaks carbohydrates 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.
3. Increase your fibre intake
Fibre slows carb digestion and sugar absorption. For these reasons, it can help your blood sugar rise in a steadier, more controlled way. Furthermore, the type of fibre you eat may play a role. There are two kinds of fibre: insoluble and soluble. While both are important, soluble fibre specifically has been shown to lower blood sugar levels.
Additionally, a high-fibre diet can help manage type 1 diabetes by improving blood sugar control and reducing blood sugar lows. Foods that are high in fibre include vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains.
The recommended daily intake of fiber is about 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. That’s about 14 grams for every 1,000 calories.
4. Drink water and stay hydrated
Hydration is a key factor for lowering blood sugar levels. During dehydration, the hormone vasopressin causes your liver to produce blood sugar, elevating its levels. Your kidneys then try to get rid of excess blood sugar through urine, making you lose water in the process. 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.
5. Implement portion control
Portion control helps regulate calorie intake and can lead to weight loss. Consequentially, controlling your weight promotes healthy blood sugar levels and has been shown to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Monitoring your serving sizes also helps reduce calorie intake and subsequent blood sugar spikes.
Here are some helpful tips for controlling portions:
6. Choose foods with a low glycemic index
The glycemic index was developed to assess the body’s blood sugar response to foods that contain carbs. Both the amount and type of carbs determine how a food affects blood sugar levels. Eating low-glycemic-index foods has been shown to reduce long-term blood sugar levels in type 1 and type 2 diabetics. Although the glycemic index of foods is important, the amount of carbs consumed also matters. Foods with a low glycemic index include seafood, meat, eggs, oats, barley, beans, lentils, legumes, sweet potatoes, corn, yams, most fruits and non-starchy vegetables.
7. Control stress levels
Stress can affect your blood sugar levels. Hormones such as glucagon and cortisol are secreted during stress. These hormones cause blood sugar levels to go up. One study showed that exercise, relaxation and meditation significantly reduced stress and lowered blood sugar levels for students. Exercises and relaxation methods like yoga and mindfulness-based stress reduction can also correct insulin secretion problems in chronic diabetes.
8. 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.
9. Eat foods rich in chromium and magnesium
High blood sugar levels and diabetes have also been linked to micronutrient deficiencies. Examples include deficiencies in the minerals chromium and magnesium.
Chromium is involved in carb and fat metabolism. It also helps control blood sugar levels, and a lack of chromium may predispose you to carb intolerance.
However, the mechanisms behind this are not completely known. Studies also report mixed findings. Chromium-rich foods include egg yolks, whole-grain products, high-bran cereals, coffee, nuts, green beans, broccoli and meat.
Magnesium has also been shown to affect blood sugar levels, and magnesium deficiency has been linked to a higher risk of developing diabetes. However, if you already eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods, then you probably will not benefit from supplements.
Magnesium-rich foods include dark leafy greens, whole grains, fish, dark chocolate, bananas, avocados and beans.
10. Try apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has many benefits for your health. It increases blood sugar use by cells and decreases its production by the liver. It also reduces fasting blood sugar levels. What’s more, studies show that vinegar significantly influences your body’s response to sugars and improves insulin sensitivity.
To incorporate apple cider vinegar into your diet, you can add it to salad dressings or mix 2 teaspoons in 250ml of water.
However, it’s important to check with your doctor before taking apple cider vinegar if you are already taking medications that lower blood sugar.
11. Eat more Cinnamon
Cinnamon is known to have many health benefits. It has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity by decreasing insulin resistance at the cellular level. Some studies show cinnamon can also lower blood sugar levels by up to 29%. It slows the breakdown of carbs in the digestive tract, which decreases the amount of blood sugar entering cells after a meal. Cinnamon also acts in a similar way as insulin, although at a much slower rate.
12. Try berberine
Berberine is the active component of a Chinese herb that’s been used to treat diabetes for thousands of years. It has been shown to help lower blood sugar and enhance the breakdown of carbs for energy. What’s more, berberine may be as effective as some blood sugar lowering drugs. This makes it one of the most effective supplements for those with diabetes or pre-diabetes . However, many of the mechanisms behind its effects are still unknown. Additionally, it may have some side effects. Diarrhoea, constipation, flatulence and abdominal pain have been reported.
13. Eat fenugreek seeds
Fenugreek seeds are a great source of soluble fibre, which can help control blood sugar levels. Many studies have shown that fenugreek can effectively lower blood sugar in diabetics. It also helps reduce fasting glucose and improve glucose tolerance.
Although not that popular, fenugreek can easily be added to baked goods to help treat diabetes. You can also make fenugreek flour or brew it into tea. Fenugreek seeds are also considered one of the safest herbs for diabetes.
Take Home Message
Make sure to check with your doctor before making lifestyle changes or trying new supplements. This is particularly important if you have problems with blood sugar control or if you are taking medications to lower your sugar levels. That being said, if you are diabetic or have problems with blood sugar control, then you should start doing something about it as soon as possible.
Your guide to living whole and well. Emma Olliff is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, wellness expert, food lover, and advocate for healthy living!