Updated: Mar 8, 2022
The CDC reports that 13% of U.S. adults live with diabetes and that another 34.5% have prediabetes. This means that close to 50% of all U.S. adults have diabetes or prediabetes. The key to preventing and reversing diabetes is blood sugar management.
For most people who have diabetes, this can be done through the use of medication, but for the purpose of this video we will be reviewing lifestyle choices you can make to manage and lower blood sugar. If you are already taking insulin it is important to work with your doctor to manage your blood sugar levels if you plan to make diet changes to prevent hypoglycemia.
One of the best ways to improve your blood sugar levels is through exercise! Exercise is beneficial for weight management but also increases insulin sensitivity. This allows your cells to more effectively use the available sugar in your bloodstream. Exercise also helps your muscles use blood sugar for energy and muscle contraction. If you have trouble dedicating longer periods to exercise throughout the week, you can still gain many benefits by doing shorter sessions. For example, try aiming for 10-minute exercise sessions 3 times a day for 5 days, with the goal of 150 minutes per week.
Your body breaks down the carbohydrates you eat into glucose, which then raises your blood sugar levels. As such, reducing your carb intake can aid blood sugar regulation. Some examples of carbohydrate containing foods include breads, rice, potatoes, pasta, cakes and candies, fruits, some vegetables, juices, pop and other sugar sweetened beverages like Gatorade. It is not necessary to completely eliminate carbs. Try reducing your portion sizes, with carbohydrate containing foods making up ¼ of your plate at meal time.
Fiber slows carb digestion and sugar absorption, thereby promoting a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels. An easy way to do this is making smart swaps for higher fiber foods. Replace regular pasta with bean pasta, replace white rice with brown, eat oatmeal for breakfast rather than cereal and aim to make ½ of your plate vegetables at meal time. The recommended daily intake of fiber is about 25 grams for women and 35 grams for men.
Drink water and stay hydrated.
Staying hydrated can reduce blood sugar levels and diabetes risk. Choose water and zero-calorie drinks and avoid sugar-sweetened beverages.
Manage stress levels.
Stress can affect your blood sugar levels. When stressed, your body secretes hormones called glucagon and cortisol, which cause blood sugar levels to rise. One study showed that exercise, relaxation, and meditation significantly reduced stress and lowered blood sugar levels.
Poor sleeping habits and a lack of rest can affect blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity, increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. They can also increase appetite, cravings and promote weight gain. Additionally, sleep deprivation raises levels of the hormone cortisol, which, as explained, plays an essential role in blood sugar management. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults get at least 7–8 hours of high-quality sleep per night.
Combine carbohydrates with a healthy fat or acid.
Eating carbohydrate containing foods in combination with a healthy fat or acid slows the breakdown of the sugar resulting in less of a spike in blood sugar. Some examples of healthy fats include avocado, nuts, seeds, oils such as olive and salmon. Some examples of acid include vinegar and lemon or lime juice.
For most people, making these simple diet and lifestyle changes is a great way to lower your risk of developing insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes.