Knowing how to balance blood sugar levels naturally is one of the most beneficial things for your health. This is because it not only improves your metabolism, it also helps keep unhealthy cravings at bay and provides more energy for you to get around. Depending on how well you are able to manage this, it is also possible to lose several pounds over a period of time. Additional benefits of balancing your blood sugars naturally include improved concentration, better memory, and a general positive outlook on life. If you find yourself struggling with fluctuating blood sugar levels and experiencing brain fog, then this is for you.
To understand how these methods work however, it is important to understand blood sugar and how it relates to the food you eat. When you consume sugars and carbohydrates, digestion breaks down the food to release glucose into blood circulation. This in turn causes an increase in the amount of blood sugar. The spike triggers the production of insulin whose purpose is to allow the cells to take up the sugars.
For the most part, it works as an effective system, but over time, as insulin levels spike multiple times during the day (as a result of too much sugar in circulation), the pancreatic cells become resistant to taking in any more sugar. This has severe repercussions for the rest of the body. The presence of excess sugar causes blood sugar levels to remain unusually high.
This sugar is stored as fat, and is often to blame for the visceral fat that forms – this type of fat tends to accumulate around the abdomen. Other effects of increased blood sugar levels include rapid weight gain, high cholesterol levels as well as fatigue. Left unchecked, the condition predisposes you to diabetes. This is why it is important to keep your blood sugar levels in check. Listed below are ten ways to balance blood sugar levels naturally and improve your health.
1. Learn what the Glycemic Index is and what Foods you Need to be Taking:
A simplified definition of the glycemic index is, it is a range used to determine how fast foods release glucose into the blood stream. As a general guide, foods with a low glycemic index release glucose slowly and steadily into the bloodstream. As a result, there are minimal spikes in the levels of insulin produced by the pancreas.
These foods are great for your health because they reduce the risk of pancreas cells developing resistance. Some excellent examples in this category include animal protein, seeds, nuts, whole grain, berries, arrow root, cassava and other tuners.
On the flip side, foods which have a high glycemic index tend to release glucose into the bloodstream quite rapidly. The resultant effect is a sharp increase in the amount of insulin which, over a period of time, may cause resistance. Common culprits in this category include white rice, bread, energy drinks, fruit juices, corn, white potatoes and crackers among others. Processed foods such as potato chips, crisps, biscuits and cookies also have this effect.
One of the ways to reduce the damaging extent of these foods is to consume them in their natural state where possible. For instance, instead of potato crisps opt for boiled potatoes. It also helps to pair the specific food with proteins which help slow down the digestive process. This in turn, slows down the release of sugars into blood circulation, thus helping to balance the blood sugar levels.
2. Aim for a Balanced and Low-Processed Diet:
A healthy balanced diet is integral to managing blood sugar levels and in effect, helping to prevent diabetes. The golden rule in ding this is not to eliminate carbohydrates in entirety, but to strike a balance between the amount of carbohydrates and healthy fats/ proteins in fact, research shows that eating proteins, healthy fats and fiber in all meals goes a long way in stabilizing blood sugar levels. Nowhere is this most important than when consumed with carbohydrates such as potatoes, whole grains or fruits. The purpose of doing so is to regulate sugar absorption into blood circulation.
- Some of the best protein foods to include in your diet are salmon, eggs, raw dairy products such as kefir and meats. Go for grass-fed beef or pasture-raised chicken.- When it comes to healthy fats, you can always go for virgin coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, avocado and seeds. You are spoilt for choice when it comes to seeds as these include flax, hemp, chia and linseeds.
- Foods rich in fiber slow down the passage of food through the digestive system, in turn allowing the steady rise of blood sugar levels. Your go-to sources include fresh vegetables, whole fruit (as opposed to the juices), ancient grains as well as artichokes.
- In recent years, research has also shown that herbal teas can be effective in maintaining a balance in the blood sugar levels. Green tea is a popular option for many.
3. Look Into the Types of Sweeteners you use:
As mentioned above, all types of sugars have the capacity to cause an increase in the blood sugar levels. It is important however, to state that some sources of sugar have a more drastic effect than others. With sweeteners in your meals, go for natural, unrefined and organic sources of the sugar.
Good examples in this category include raw honey, pure maple syrup, black strap molasses and stevia as this are less likely to cause an imbalance in the levels of blood sugar. Steer away from refined sugars such as those made from white cane sugar or products made using white wheat flour. It helps if you are aware of product labels which do not out rightly mention refined sugar. Some of the different names used include cane sugar, fructose, dextrose as well as high fructose corn syrup.
NOTE: While it does not regularly rank among drinks which raise blood glucose levels, alcohol also has the capacity to spike the amount of glucose in circulation. This is especially so when one consumes sweetened alcoholic drinks or fortified wines. Natural sweeteners instead.
4. Exercise on a Regular Basis and Lead an Active Lifestyle:
It is common knowledge that physical exercise is great for your health, but did you know there is a close relationship between leading a sedentary lifestyle and blood glucose levels? That’s right. Research shows that exercise helps to keep blood sugar levels in control in several ways. Brief periods of exercise assist the cells in the muscles to use glucose for energy production. This helps lower blood sugar levels gradually.
Exercise in the long term on the other hand, improves the cells’ responsiveness to insulin, and is therefore integral to preventing resistance. Take at least half an hour each day, for about five days a week to exercise. Some of the ideal options include running, swimming, lifting weights, jogging and cycling. Additional benefits of regular exercising include reduced inflammation, stress management, hormonal balance as well as improved insulin sensitivity. All of these are intertwined to ensure that cells use any insulin available thus managing blood sugar levels naturally.
5. Live a Stress-Free Life:
Stress, in itself, does not pose any harm to the body. In fact, a certain level of stress is required to spur you into action. Excessive stress however, causes an increase in blood sugar levels, thanks to the release of cortisol. Cortisol, which is commonly referred to as the stress hormone, triggers a vicious cycle that many people are unaware of. It spikes blood sugar levels in the body, increases the intensity of cravings and affects sleeping patterns. Poor sleeping patterns often lead to cravings, which are usually associated with greasy unhealthy foods.
Additionally, dealing with a lot of stress makes it increasingly hard for people to take care of their health. It is not uncommon to notice increased alcohol intake, overindulgence and excessive/lack of sleep in people who suffer chronic stress. It creates a vicious cycle because, the stress causes these bad habits, and getting caught up in this self-destruction triggers even more stress.
It is little wonder that such people suffer from a myriad of health conditions such as diabetes, obesity, depression and even heart conditions. Finding ways to deal with stress is imperative to keeping cortisol levels down, which in turn helps manage blood sugar levels.
Some of the ways in which you can keep stress at bay include:
- Exercising on a regular basis.
- Spending time in the outdoors has been shown to release feel-good hormones which help counter the effects of cortisol.
- Getting a solid support system is also key as it provides invaluable social connections.
- Self-care has also been recommended as a way to manage stress, and may include yoga, journaling, meditation and spiritual practices.
6. Make Sure you get Adequate Rest:
Getting enough rest is closely related to how the body balances blood sugar levels. Lack of sleep has been linked to increased stress, which as mentioned above, causes cortisol production and this affects blood sugar levels. In addition to this, poor sleeping patterns can also increase appetite hormones, which make you hungry more often. The overall effect of this is increased likelihood of binge-eating unhealthy sugary foods and overdosing on caffeinated drinks.
That is not all as sleep has also been linked to the efficiency of metabolic processes in the body. Sleep is part of the natural circadian rhythms, which, when out of whack, triggers high glucose levels. It is also known to interfere with insulin production, but what makes it tricky is the fact that once insulin secretion is impaired, even a change in diet will not have a positive effect. To make sure that the body gets enough rest, it is advisable to aim for between seven and nine hours of sleep daily. Try to establish a night routine to help you get enough sleep.
7. Eat Your Breakfast:
In today’s fast paced world, many people find it hard to sit down for a proper meal, let alone breakfast. As a result, many are always on the go and this makes it easy to skip breakfast in a mad dash out of the door. The result is poor concentration, brain fog and general restlessness.
This happens because breakfast is in fact, one of the most important meals of the day as it sets the metabolic pattern for the rest of the day. Try as much as possible to eat within the first two hours of waking up in order to replenish the body’s energy levels. Remember to include fats and proteins in your breakfast to help keep you full for longer. This is a simple yet effective way of balancing blood sugars naturally.
8. Avoid Sweetened Drinks:
Sweetened drinks are another common way to wreck havoc on your blood sugar levels. This has often been compared to hooking yourself up on an IV line with nothing but pure sugar. Here’s the reason why: sugar has no nutritional value as it is lacking in fat, proteins and fiber which helps control the release of sugar into blood circulation.
To put this in perspective, a bottle of Coke (about 500 mls) has been found to have more than 10 teaspoons of sugar. Take just one bottle of this drink daily and you are well on your way to the pre-diabetes danger zone. Choose instead, to go for natural juices and herbal teas.
9. Plan Your Meals in Advance:
This is a no-brainier because it reduces the chances of over-indulging in all the unhealthy snacks. At the end of a long day at work, it definitely is easier to slump on the couch and munch on crackers and soda than it is to prepare a nutritious meal. To get this out of the way, prepare your meals in advance. Find recipes for make-ahead meals to get ideas on eating well even when you are pressed for time.
10. Consider Using Supplements:
Supplements can be used to improve your health by balancing blood sugar levels naturally. Some of the most popular options include chromium and cinnamon. Cinnamon is a warm spice that has been shown to lower fasting blood glucose levels. Just half a teaspoon daily will go a long way in stabilizing blood sugar levels. Include cinnamon in your herbal tea, oatmeal breakfast or midday smoothie.
Chromium on the other hand, has been shown to improve the function of insulin receptors and balance blood sugar levels. To get more information on nutritional supplements, consult your nutritionist for proper guidance. In summary, the above tips are great for managing blood glucose levels. While it is possible to take cues from the body, it also helps to carry out blood sugar tests at home from time to time. Get proactive and invest in a home glucometer that will guide you.
Keeping tabs on your fasting blood sugar levels is both reliable and effective in improving your lifestyle. Fasting blood sugar levels are those you will get first thing in the morning before eating anything. Typically, your fasting glucose levels should fall between 70-85 mg/dl. Remember, this is not a substitute for medical attention, and you should see your physician if you have any doubts or concerns.