Whether you’re young or old, fit or unfit, diabetic or not, you need to think about what you can do to maintain stable blood sugar levels. The more stable your blood sugar is, the better you’ll feel, the healthier you’ll stay, and the less risk you’ll face of dealing with weight gain.
Currently, diabetes prevalence rates are on the rise in the country and sadly, much of this could be prevented. People need to start focusing more on the lifestyle they are leading on a day to day basis.
How well you control your blood glucose level throughout the day has a huge impact on whether or not you suffer from diabetes. The fact of the matter is that many people who are pre-diabetic get pushed into having full-blown diabetes simply because they were unable to keep control over their blood glucose.
So how can they better control this? What steps should you be taking so you can avoid those unwanted fluctuations? Let’s take a closer look.
Avoid Processed Foods
The very first step you must start doing is cutting out all the refined foods, especially carbohydrates from your diet plan.
When you eat refined carbohydrates, they’re quickly converted into sugar in the bloodstream and this then immediately spikes your blood glucose levels up. As you can probably imagine, dumping a pile of sugar into your body is going to have disastrous effects. Yet this is what many people continue to do day after day with their intake of processed foods.
Foods such as white bread, cookies, cakes, bagels, candy, and so on are all foods that will exert this effect.
Likewise, you’ll also want to avoid processed fats as well. While these won’t spike blood glucose levels as carbs will, the effect they do have is decreasing your insulin sensitivity. This then means that your body becomes less sensitive to insulin so when it is released to try and control blood glucose levels, you don’t get the control that you really need.
By approaching it from both sides of the equation – decreasing the amount of sugar you put into the bloodstream while also increasing how well your body responds to sugar that is there, you really need to manage the situation.
Cutting out processed foods can be a real challenge for many people but if you want to see truly great results, it really is the best way1.
Get Regular Exercise
It’s also vital that you start focusing on your exercise habits a bit more as well. How often and how intense you exercise impacts both your current blood sugar levels as well as your future blood sugar levels.
Like eating the wrong fats, inactivity is also going to increase your risk factor for insulin resistance. Making it harder than ever for your body to control the sugar that is in the bloodstream.
While any form of exercise – even a brisk walk – will do you a world of good. The best thing to do is intense strength training2. The reason for this is that this form of exercise earns top marks for boosting insulin sensitivity. So doing it will help you out in the long term.
This is also why it’s such an important form of exercise that all diabetics should consider doing. Strength training can help build more lean muscle mass tissue and more muscle mass than you have. The faster your metabolism is the better you tend to respond to glucose.
Your muscles are a very large storage house for glucose (in the form of muscle glycogen). So having more muscle tissue will always work in your favor.
Just one note: exercise itself does impact blood sugar levels. If you’re doing intense exercise, any sugar that is currently in the bloodstream is going to be used as a fuel source. This could result in you having lower than normal blood sugar levels if you aren’t careful.
For this reason, tread lightly. Start slow and build up. You want to learn how to control your blood glucose during exercise so that you stay within a safe range. If you have diabetes, this might mean you need to bring some portable glucose with you just in case you do start to suffer from low levels. Honey tends to work quite well for many people.
Focus On Sleep Quality
Did you know that how well you sleep at night can also influence your blood glucose levels? Most people don’t realize it but getting enough shut-eye at night is imperative to maintaining your blood glucose levels throughout the day.
Those who aren’t sleeping as much as they should are not only at risk for an increased chance of diabetes but also weight gain as well3. Proper sleep at night allows your body to repair and revitalize itself so that when your awake, all systems are a go, so to speak.
If you don’t give your body that time it needs, certain systems will not be repairing themselves. Then slowly they’ll just continue to get worse and worse.
To best help improve your insulin sensitivity and promote stable blood sugar levels, you’ll want to aim to get at least 7 hours of sleep, if not 8 or 9.
Be Mindful Of Meal Timing
It’s also important that you’re more mindful of meal timing when attempting to control your blood glucose levels. For instance, if you go for seven hours without food after breakfast, there’s a very good chance that at some point, your body is going to suffer from low blood glucose levels. This may cause you to feel hungry, irritable, and even anxious at times. Should this occur, you might find yourself reaching for the nearest sugar fix. This then sets your blood glucose levels soaring only to have it crash a short while later.
Sadly, this is the roller coaster ride so many people are on a day to day basis and it must be stopped. The best way to stop that is to focus on regular meal times. This means eating at the same time each day (as much as you can) as well as eating food every 3-4 hours.
When you keep all your days relatively the same, your body becomes to expect food at certain times and it too can help keep your entire system more regular.
Don’t stress out if one day you happen to eat lunch an hour later – this isn’t going to make that big of a difference. But as much as you can, do try to keep a routine schedule.
Monitor Your Fiber Intake
While counting carbohydrates is definitely one way to monitor your blood glucose levels and attempt to keep it consistent, you’ll also want to monitor your fiber intake as well.
Dietary fiber helps slow down the release of sugar into the bloodstream so it’s released on a more even keel than if you were to just eat sugar alone. This helps to control blood glucose levels better, which is why fiber-rich foods are so important for those who are diabetic.
Counting fiber can be just as important as counting the carbohydrates that you eat in your diet plan. You’ll want to be sure to get in both forms of dietary fiber – soluble and insoluble. As both are critical for health and will have positive impacts on blood glucose levels.
Aim to have at least 2-3 grams of fiber per meal, with some meals containing as much as 5-6.
At the same time though, do remember that you can get too much of a good thing with dietary fiber. Eat too much and it can hinder the absorption of certain minerals in the diet, so you don’t want to go overboard. Taking in too much will also lead to GI issues that could end up being rather unpleasant as well.
Moderation is key when it comes to dietary fiber intake.
Check Your Intake Of Sweeteners
Also, be sure that you’re watching your intake of artificial sweeteners. While there are no calories and are often said to be a replacement for sugar, keep in mind that some of them can have a minor influence on blood glucose levels also.
It could in fact be enough to cause a slight spike that could make it hard to maintain blood sugar in an optimal range. For the diabetic, every little bit counts.
If you are going to have sweetener, try and choose stevia whenever possible. It is the most natural and least likely to have an influence over blood glucose levels.
It can be rather challenging coming off artificial sweeteners at first and you’ll find your cravings for sweet foods are extremely high. But as your body adjusts and adapts, you should find it gets used to foods in their natural state and you stop craving it as much.
Remember fruit is an acceptable choice if you’re attempting to control your blood glucose levels. You still should serve it with some lean protein and/or healthy fat as this helps slow down the release of sugar. Fruit does already come packaged with dietary fiber, which does help, but the addition of other macronutrients gives you some extra protection.
Keep Stress Under Control
Stress is a major factor that gets overlooked entirely too often in terms of its influence over blood glucose levels. We all know what it feels like to be stressed. Stress is an inescapable part of our existence in today’s world. It’s how we manage stress and our viewpoint of stress in general that determines how our bodies will respond.
Consider your response to stress. When you feel stress coming on, be it an intense situation, worry about your finances, or a fight with your significant other, what does your mind think?
Do you often feel resistance? Like you know that you’re getting stressed and are trying to fight it? This can lead to even further stress and can really wear you down.
It’s better if you can acknowledge the stress and feel the feelings pass while also coming up with appropriate coping techniques for handling the stress.
You won’t ever prevent all stress. Some people try and just avoid stress entirely but this will backfire on you because you can’t avoid it forever. Stress is a part of life so it’s better to just accept that and work on how you deal.
Every individual is different so what works for one person may not necessarily be what works for the next. What’s important is figuring out what works best for you and then implementing those techniques.
This might be deep breathing, writing in a stress journal, calling a friend, doing yoga, performing intense exercise, cooking up a delicious meal, or reading a good book. This list is not exhaustive by any means so think about what helps you release stress and relax.
Now start putting that into place often. When you are highly stressed out, your body will be secreting more of the hormone cortisol, which then causes more sugar to enter the bloodstream. Cortisol is the fight or flight hormone and when it’s surging through your veins, it’s preparing the body to have more energy to fend off danger.
We rarely are experiencing dangerous situations today. However, this excess sugar just gets reabsorbed by the body and stored up as body fat.
Too much cortisol in itself is very detrimental to your health and when you combine that with the blood glucose effects it has, you have a real problem on your hands.
Keeping stress down prevents that.
If you’re not yet getting probiotics into your daily diet plan, now might just be the time to start doing so. These healthy bacteria serve many roles in the body including helping with the breakdown and utilization of the foods you eat as well as ensuring that your immune system stays strong.
Indirectly, they can also influence insulin sensitivity, which then impacts how well your body responds or doesn’t respond to glucose.
Probiotics can be found in foods such as miso soup, sauerkraut, yogurt, as well as kombucha tea. Or to make life a lot easier, consider supplementation. Simply take your recommended dosage each day of the probiotic.
Finally, one last thing you might try if you’re hoping to control your blood glucose levels is sprinkling cinnamon on the foods you’re eating. Cinnamon is a great spice that actually can slow down the release of carbohydrates into the bloodstream when it’s consumed. Therefore it functions very similar to say dietary fiber.
Cinnamon also tastes great on so many different foods. There’s no reason why you can’t add it to most of your meals. Plus it’s calorie-free, which his a real win-win.
Cinnamon also gives off a hint of sweetness as well, so you might find that when using it, you actually require less sugar in your recipe. This can further help to keep your blood glucose levels stable and in a healthy zone.
So there you have some of the best ways to help control your blood sugar levels better. Controlling blood sugar can be a challenge for many people, especially if they’re already eating a diet high in sugar. The higher in sugar their regular meal plan is, the greater the changes they have to make.
But if you stick with it, it will get easier. Cutting out something that you’re eating is always hardest for the first few days and after that, it does get better. Especially as far as sugar is concerned because those first few days will be a time of relentless food cravings. By the time next week rolls around however, chances are good you’ll be back to focusing on other things.
Do take the time to control your blood sugar levels. It’s more essential to your overall health than you might think.
- Kinmonth, A. L., et al. “Wholefoods and increased dietary fiber improve blood glucose control in diabetic children.” Archives of disease in childhood 57.3 (1982): 187-194
- Klimcakova, E., et al. “Dynamic strength training improves insulin sensitivity without altering plasma levels and gene expression of adipokines in subcutaneous adipose tissue in obese men.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 91.12 (2006): 5107-5112.
- Sinclair, David, and Maria Alexander-Bridges. “Compositions for treating or preventing obesity and insulin resistance disorders.” U.S. Patent Application No. 11/027,77
- Rajkumar, Hemalatha, et al. “Effect of probiotic (VSL# 3) and omega-3 on lipid profile, insulin sensitivity, inflammatory markers, and gut colonization in overweight adults: a randomized, controlled trial.” Mediators of inflammation 2014 (2014).