Blood sugar balance is an important aspect of your health, especially for people with diabetes, or a weight loss goal. If one of your goals is to maintain balanced blood sugar levels throughout the day, you also want to know which foods you can eat that 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, for increased energy levels, and a feeling of vitality by avoiding blood sugar spikes during the day. When you allow your blood sugar to reach dizzying highs, and lows all day long, what happens (short-term) is that you notice 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 bouts of ultra-high blood sugar, and then low’s 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 over time, even harden which can increase your risk of a cardiovascular event.
Here are 6 foods that can help to lower blood sugar, and cut 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 those with 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 lower inflammation, blood vessel protection, and a healthy 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 consumed at mealtime.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 nutrients shown to reduce blood sugar spikes. You see, fiber works to slow down the digestive process, so when you consume a good source of fiber during a meal, it can help to lower 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 that works well with all types of foods including hot cereals like oatmeal, yogurt, and even in smoothies, or on top of salads. When you consume them, fenugreek seeds are known to be one of the most effective ways to reduce 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 probably have 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, as sweetened drinks are a fast way to elevate blood sugar levels.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, GI’s of 56-69 are considered medium, and GI’s 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.
Today, an estimated 29 million Americans are suffering with diabetes, and 1 in every 4 doesn’t even realize it.14 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).15
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.
1. Zhang J, Wang C. Dietary inclusion of salmon, herring and pompano as oily fish reduces CVD risk markers in dyslipidaemic middle-aged and elderly Chinese women. Br J Nutr. 2012 Oct 28;108(8):1455-65.
2. Stirban A, Nandrean S. Effects of n-3 fatty acids on macro- and microvascular function in subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Mar;91(3):808-13.
3. Mary C Gannon, Frank Q Nuttall. An increase in dietary protein improves the blood glucose response in persons with type 2 diabetes. Am J Clin Nutr October 2003. vol. 78 no. 4 734-741.
4. Qureshi AA, Sami SA. Effects of stabilized rice bran, its soluble and fiber fractions on blood glucose levels and serum lipid parameters in humans with diabetes mellitus Types I and II. J Nutr Biochem. 2002 Mar;13(3):175-187.
5. Derek A Timm, BS, Joanne L. Slavin PhD, RD. Dietary Fiber and the Relationship to Chronic Diseases. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.
6. Sharma RD, Raghuram TC. Effect of fenugreek seeds on blood glucose and serum lipids in type I diabetes. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1990 Apr;44(4):301-6.
7. Roussel R, Fezeu L. Low water intake and risk for new-onset hyperglycemia. Diabetes Care. 2011 Dec;34(12):2551-4.
8. Imamura F, O’Connor L. Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and fruit juice and incidence of type 2 diabetes: systematic review, meta-analysis, and estimation of population attributable fraction. Br J Sports Med. 2016 Apr;50(8):496-504.
9. Kirkham S, Akilen R. The potential of cinnamon to reduce blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2009 Dec;11(12):1100-13.
10. Adisakwattana S, Lerdsuwankij O. Inhibitory activity of cinnamon bark species and their combination effect with acarbose against intestinal α-glucosidase and pancreatic α-amylase. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2011 Jun;66(2):143-8.
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. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Diabetes Latest.
15. World Health Organization. WHO calls on countries to reduce sugars intake among adults and children.
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