Blood sugar balance is an important aspect of your health, especially for people with diabetes, or if you’re working towards a weight loss goal. If one of your goals is to maintain balanced blood sugar levels throughout the day, you’ll need to know which foods increase and lower blood sugar so that you can help prevent insulin and blood sugar spikes.
Even if you don’t have a weight loss goal or a health complication like diabetes, you can still improve the overall function of all your body systems. By avoiding blood sugar spikes and drops during the day, you’ll feel increased energy levels and vitality.
When your blood sugar levels jump up and down all day long, the short term effects that you may notice are more food cravings, inability to control your appetite, and usually lethargy or a loss of both mental and physical energy. The long-term effects of allowing yourself to experience unbalanced blood sugar levels is that you may develop lasting health problems like insulin sensitivity, leptin resistance, and even diabetes.
Further, when you have a blood sugar spike, the elevated glucose content of your blood can cause your blood vessels to narrow, and if this happens over a long period of time, even harden. Narrow, hardened arteries can increase your risk of a cardiovascular event.
Here are 6 foods that can help to lower blood sugar and reduce your risk of health problems:
1. Fatty Fish
This is one of the leanest meats you can find, so it is ideal as a menu item for folks who have weight loss goals. Additionally, fatty fish like salmon, sardines, herring, anchovies, and mackerel also contain omega-3 long-chain essential fatty acids, including EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). These essential fatty acids have been shown to have numerous benefits to the body including reduced inflammation, blood vessel protection, and a healthier heart in people with diabetes.1,2
Fish is also a great source of protein, which not only helps you to feel fuller for longer in between meals, but also aids in reducing blood sugar spikes when it’s eaten as part of a meal.3
This is a group of foods that includes beans, nuts, peas, and lentils. No matter what you prefer, all legumes contain high amounts of protein and fiber, both of which are nutrients shown to lower blood sugar spikes. You see, fiber works to slow down the digestive process, so when you have a healthy amount of fiber during a meal, it can help to more slowly distribute the amount of sugar that enters your bloodstream, thus reducing the spikes that often occur at mealtime.4 The daily recommended intake of fiber is approximately 25 grams for adult women, and 38 grams for men. That’s about 14 grams per 1,000 calories.5
Other legumes (high fiber foods) include: adzuki beans, black beans, soy beans, anasazi beans, fava beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), kidney beans, almonds, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, peas, including green peas, snow peas, snap peas, split peas, black-eyed peas, reed, green, and brown lentils.
3. Fenugreek Seeds
These crunchy little seeds have a slightly bitter flavor when cracked open, which pairs well with all types of foods, including hot cereals like oatmeal, yogurt, and even in smoothies or on top of salads. No matter how you eat them, fenugreek seeds are known to be one of the most effective ways to lower blood sugar levels after eating. So, talk to your doctor before adding fenugreek seeds to your diet. They may lower fasting blood sugar levels in just a few months of use.
In one study, participants who consumed 100 grams of fenugreek seed powder noticed a significant reduction in fasting blood sugar (about 54%), and improvements in glucose tolerance tests.6
Ok, ok… you have probably heard a thousand times to drink more water, but it is NOT as easy as it sounds. So, aim to find a high-quality water bottle that you not only love to look at, but that you actually like using, too! It can really help you to get the recommended 8, 8-ounce glasses of water into your diet every day. And that’s exactly what your body needs, in the morning, at mealtime, and in between meals to reduce blood sugar spikes.
Re-hydrating your body also helps to reduce diabetes risk,7 so always keep water in mind when you grab for a beverage. Soda and sugary drinks are a fast way to elevate your blood sugar and lead to that inevitable crash, so always choose water.8
5. Low-Glycemic Index Foods
The glycemic index is basically just a rating system that ranks foods based on their impact on your blood sugar (glycemic response). Glycemic index ratings of 55 or below are considered low, ratings of 56-69 are considered medium, and ratings of 70 or above are considered high.
There are many foods that rank very low on the glycemic index, to reduce blood sugar levels. These foods include: asparagus, avocados, bok choy, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, olives, olive oil, eggplant, sea vegetables (kelp), romaine lettuce, spinach, summer squash, tomatoes, flax seeds, cod, salmon, tuna, grass-fed beef, pasture-raised turkey, and pasture raised chicken. And that’s just the beginning!
6. Fresh Herbs & Spices
There are so many herbs and spices that you can use to flavor your meals without any added sugar, or calories that commonly come along with dressing, and sauces. Some of the most effective herbs, and spices for reducing blood sugar levels include: cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, garlic, cloves, oregano, and sage.
Studies have shown that cinnamon may be able to lower blood sugar levels – up to 29%!9 Researchers suggest that this warming spice is able to slow the digestion process of carbohydrates inside the GI tract (gastrointestinal) after meals.10 Between 1-6 grams of cinnamon per day, or about 0.5-2 teaspoons was shown to be an effective dose.11
In one clinical trial on ginger, and fasting blood sugar, participants reported significantly lower FBS levels.12
Other Ways to Lower Blood Sugar Levels
- Eat low-carb foods as carbohydrates convert into sugar in the bloodstream, making these types of foods a no-no for those aiming to reduce insulin spikes.13
- Skip junk foods like packaged chips, and crackers. They usually contain loads of refined carbohydrates and added sugars.
- Swap out sodas for sparkling water with a piece of your favorite fruit.
- Eat at least 3-5 servings of fresh, whole fruits, and vegetables every day.
- Exercise 15 minutes every day, even if it is just a brisk walk.
- Get restful sleep every night, even on the weekends.
- Limit your alcohol consumption.
- Practice some type of stress-reduction technique like breathing exercises, or yoga stretches.
How To Lower Blood Sugar Naturally – One More Tip
You already know that certain foods help lower blood sugar. And you also know which foods to avoid and how to incorporate lifestyle changes to keep blood sugar stable. But do you want one more tip on how to lower blood sugar naturally?
The answer lies in the order in which you eat your food.
Food order is a new and interesting development in the study of blood sugar management and scientific trials are demonstrating that it may play a key role.
In 2015, scientists performed a study with 11 adult subjects. In the first experiment, subjects were a fed a meal in the following order: carbohydrates (ciabatta bread and orange juice), followed by protein 15 minutes later (grilled chicken breast) and vegetables (lettuce and tomato salad with low-fat Italian vinaigrette and steamed broccoli with butter).
A week later, the experiment was repeated with the exact same foods, but in reverse order: protein and vegetables first, followed by carbohydrates. Blood samples were taken after each experiment. Results showed a 28.6% reduction in blood glucose levels when protein and vegetables were consumed first, followed by carbohydrates.14
So to maximize healthy blood sugar levels, consider taking a protein and vegetable-first approach to your meals.
Managing Blood Sugar
Today, an estimated 29 million Americans are suffering from diabetes, and 1 in every 4 doesn’t even realize it.15
That’s why maintaining blood sugar balance is such a vital aspect of your good health. In fact, with so many foods on grocery shelves containing one or more types of added sugar, it can be almost impossible to stay under the recommended daily limit for sugar (about 25 grams).16
If you want to stay in good health, you must aim to stay under the daily limit. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t eat delicious foods, that you love! Just start by adding these 6 foods that lower your blood sugar, and keep working on making healthy dietary choices every day. It’s worth the effort for optimal health to keep blood sugar spikes down.
Article updated: June 21, 2018
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11. Alam Khan, MS, PhD, Mahpara Safdar, MS. Cinnamon Improves Glucose and Lipids of People With Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care 2003 Dec; 26(12): 3215-3218.
12. Nafiseh Khandouzi, Farzad Shidfar. The Effects of Ginger on Fasting Blood Sugar, Hemoglobin A1c, Apolipoprotein B, Apolipoprotein A-I and Malondialdehyde in Type 2 Diabetic Patients. Iran J Pharm Res. 2015 Winter; 14(1): 131–140.
13. Ajala O, English P. Systematic review and meta-analysis of different dietary approaches to the management of type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Mar;97(3):505-16.
14.Shukla, A. P., Iliescu, R. G., Thomas, C. E., & Aronne, L. J. (2015, July). Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4876745/
15.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes Latest.
16.World Health Organization. WHO calls on countries to reduce sugars intake among adults and children.
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