Millions of people are now suffering from prediabetes, diabetes, or metabolic syndromes with blood sugar levels that can wildly fluctuate throughout the day. Over the last few decades, these disorders have become prevalent in the U.S. and many other developed nations. These disorders can ultimately cause serious side effects such as nerve damage, fatigue, loss of vision, arterial damage, and weight gain. No wonder it’s so important to take a look at your blood sugar.
The goal is to keep your blood sugar levels fairly stable (within a range of 80 – 180 mg/dL between meals). Many practitioners believe the top range should be no higher than 140 mg/dL for best health. Blood sugar levels are raised by glucose, which is the sugar created when carbohydrates are broken down by digestion. While many factors can impact blood sugar, at the top of the list is the quantity and types of carbohydrates that are eaten as well as how much refined sugar is consumed, and other factors such as stress (which can elevate cortisol levels and influence insulin sensitivity), and even the timing of your meals.
Are you concerned about keeping your blood sugar levels stable? Here are some tips and tricks:
1. Skip those processed foods
A healthy diet can be the secret to maintaining normal blood sugar. Whole-food carbohydrates and natural sugars should be balanced with protein and fat, and the bulk of your diet should be made up of whole foods such as organic vegetables, legumes, such as lentils, beans, and peas, and whole grains (excluding wheat), small amounts of raw nuts and seeds, and wild-caught fish and seafood twice/week. Limited amounts of natural sugars such as fruits and raw honey are okay. Starchy vegetables, such as peas and butternut squash, help slow down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream, help satisfy your appetite, and are good sources of vitamin C, B vitamins, and potassium. Include healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, and avocado in your diet as well as high-fiber foods such as carrots, beets, and broccoli.
2. To carb or not to carb?
Let’s be honest – any type of added sugar can raise your blood sugar levels. However, some sources can spike your blood glucose levels much higher than others. When you do want to sweeten a dish or drink, use natural and unrefined sugar sources such as blueberries or a teaspoon of raw honey. Think of refined sugar as never an option. The body breaks down refined sugar rapidly, causing insulin and blood sugar levels to skyrocket. Some research even shows an indirect link between sugar intake and cancer. This bad guy has several nicknames used on product labeling, so be on the watch for terms like: high fructose corn syrup, fructose, and dextrose. Avoid foods with these entirely. Be sure to use natural sugars sparingly, but always avoid refined white cane sugar and other refined products made with white, bleached flour.
3. Get the Lead Out
Pounding the pavement or lifting weights might take some extra effort, but there are dozens of benefits to regular exercise. Getting your heart rate up influences your blood sugar in multiple ways. Short-term exercise can help your muscles use more glucose for energy and tissue repair, which lowers blood sugar. In the long-term, exercise makes your cells more responsive to insulin and helps prevent insulin resistance. Just 30-60 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week, is a simple, beneficial way to lower inflammation, manage stress, improve immunity, and balance hormones. Wow! And it’s free!
4. De-stressing to Lower Cortisol
Prolonged stress can assault your body in multiple ways, including raising your blood sugar to higher levels due to an increased release of cortisol, the “stress hormone.” In addition to releasing more cortisol, stress tends to cause us to crave “comfort foods,” which can be filled with refined sugar, inflammatory “fried” ingredients, and refined or processed ingredients (think donuts and cookies). Stress can even interfere with getting good sleep, which can imbalance your blood sugar levels.
The Bottom Line
Constantly high blood sugar levels can cause a myriad of problems to your health, but you can take advantage of some easy, natural ways to combat these unwanted changes to blood sugar levels. Take a look at your daily routine – what steps can you take to improve your blood sugar levels?