A Dozen Tips for Lowering Blood Sugar Levels

Whether you have diabetes or you are at risk for developing it, here are 12 tips for keeping your blood sugar low.

Tips by the Dozen

  1. Take small steps, one at a time, when making necessary lifestyle changes. Start with the easiest change first and work your way to the more difficult.
  2. Enjoy blueberries often. They are lower in naturally occurring sugars than many other fruits, and there is evidence the bioactive compounds in blueberries increase our sensitivity to insulin. They may also help high-risk individuals prevent the onset of diabetes.
  3. If you need help but do not have access to a diabetes educator or a registered dietician, see if there are programs to join at your local community center, at the YMCA or through your workplace. You might also join Weight Watchers or start an eat-healthy support group with neighbors and friends.
  4. Fill half your dinner plate with non-starchy vegetables to get excellent nutritional value with few calories or carb grams. Examples of non-starchy veggies are lettuce, spinach, kale, green beans, wax beans, cucumbers, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, garlic, onions and leeks.
  5. Just as you dose your medications, “dose” your carbohydrate consumption by eating the same amount of carbs at close to the same times every day. Also spread your food intake evenly across the day; avoid eating a small breakfast and lunch to save up for a big dinner.
  6. Beans (legumes) digest slowly, and slow digestion prevents spikes in blood sugar. A Canadian research study revealed that those with type 2 diabetes who ate at least a cup of legumes (e.g., chickpeas, beans, lentils) each day for 90 days lowered their blood sugar levels. Beans also help reduce cholesterol and are a great source of folate.
  7. Learn to estimate proper portion sizes using your hand or by thinking of common objects. For instance, the palm of your hand, or a deck of cards, is approximately the size of 3 to 4 ounces of cooked fish, meat, poultry or a half cup of starch (e.g., cut fruit, rice). An open hand represents about one cup, and a closed fist a half cup. The length of a thumb is roughly one tablespoon, while the thumb tip to the first knuckle is about one teaspoon.
  8. Consider adding fried, boiled, grilled, mashed or raw nopal cactus to your dinner menu. Also known as “prickly pear,” the nopal’s fruit and stem may slow down carbohydrate absorption, reducing post-meal glucose readings. This finding comes from a preliminary study at NYU Langone Medical Center.
  9. Make stress reduction or relaxation a daily priority since stress can elevate blood sugar and blood pressure. Any activity that soothes you will do, such as walking, yoga, reading, controlled breathing, listening to relaxing music, or enjoying your personal interests or hobbies. If your stress is tough to tame, consider talking to a counselor, spiritual advisor or diabetes educator.
  10. For one or two weeks, and with your physician’s permission, monitor your blood sugar at different times on different days. This will give you a snapshot of how your glucose fluctuates over the course of a day or several days. Discuss the tracking results with your doctor or dietician to see if any medication or lifestyle adjustments are in order.
  11. Become an avocado aficionado. The healthy, monounsaturated fat in avocados slows the release of glucose into the bloodstream, reducing the body’s need for insulin. Olive oil is another health-friendly monounsaturated fat.
  12. If your doctor OK's it, add some weight or resistance training to your weekly exercise routine. The body burns glucose more efficiently as its muscle mass increases.

Sources: Diabetic Living Online; Lifescript; Rodale News; Best Health
Photo credit: Don DeBold / flickr

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