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High blood sugar level causes serious, but often preventable, side effects like nerve damage, fatigue, loss of vision, arterial damage and weight gain.
Most of the habits that help us maintain healthy, normal blood sugar levels are fairly obvious and simple to carry out. Small changes in your diet, exercise routine and sleep schedule can wind up making a big difference when it comes to blood sugar management. Let’s look at some of the best ways to help get you on the right track to reaching and maintaining normal blood sugar levels for life.
A healthy diet is key to blood sugar management and preventing or treating diabetes. A healthy diet can prevent too much insulin from being released following food consumption and help create normal blood sugar levels.
Eating a source of protein, fiber and healthy fat with all of your meals can help stabilize blood sugar, especially when you consume carbs/sugar (such as starchy veggies like potatoes, fruit or whole grains). These slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, help manage your appetite, and are also important for your metabolism and digestion.
While all types of added sugars are capable of raising blood sugar levels, some sources of sugar/carbs affect blood glucose levels more so than others. When you use appropriate amounts sparingly, natural/unrefined, ideally organic sugar sources (such as those from fruit or raw honey) are less likely to contribute to poor blood sugar management than refined sugars (such as white cane sugar or refined products made with white/bleached wheat flour).
Skip anything made with refined flour (also called wheat flour or “enriched flour”) and added sugars, such as beet sugar/beet juice, cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, fructose and dextrose. Instead choose natural sweeteners, including raw honey, organic stevia, dates, pure maple syrup or blackstrap molasses.
There are dozens of health benefits associated with exercise. According to the National Diabetes Association, exercise manages blood sugar in more than one way. Short-term exercise helps cells in your muscles to take up more glucose in order to use it for energy and tissue repair, therefore lowering blood sugar in the process. Long-term exercise also makes cells more responsive to insulin and helps prevent resistance.
Doing about 30–60 minutes of exercise most days of the week (such as running, cycling, swimming and lifting weights) is also a simple, beneficial way to lower inflammation, manage stress, improve immunity and balance hormones. Insulin sensitivity is increased, so your cells are better able to use any available insulin to take up glucose during and after activity.
Excessive stress can actually cause blood sugar levels to rise due to an increased release of the “stress hormone” cortisol. Stress kicks off a vicious hormonal cycle for many people. It not only contributes to high blood sugar by raising cortisol, but also tends to increase cravings for “comfort foods” (many of which are refined and filled with sugar or other inflammatory ingredients) and often interferes with getting good sleep.
Studies have found that natural stress relievers, including exercise, yoga, meditation and using relaxing essential oils for anxiety (such as lavender, rose and frankincense) are all helpful for diabetics and those with insulin resistance. Other ways to wind down include spending more time outdoors, joining groups in your community, and connecting with family and friends more.
Being well-rested is crucial for maintaining a healthy outlook on life, sticking with healthy habits and even managing hormone levels. A lack of sleep can raise stress and appetite hormones (like cortisol and ghrelin, which make you hungry), making it harder to void sugary snacks, refined grain products and caffeine overdose.
Sleep and metabolic processes are linked in several key ways, and research shows our natural circadian rhythms can trigger high blood glucose or raise the risk for diabetes when they’re disturbed. Sleeping too little, getting poor quality sleep or sleeping at the wrong times can impair insulin secretion even if you don’t change your diet. Aim to get between seven to nine hours of sleep per night, ideally by sticking with a normal sleep/wake schedule — in order to balance hormones, curb stress responses, and have enough energy to exercise and keep up with your day.