By Holy Grail for people with diabetes: Check your blood sugar and see the numbers on the line. Can lifestyle changes help? Yes, says Jill Weisenberger, RDN, a nutritionist based in Newport News, Virginia.
If you have diabetes, lowering blood sugar is not just a temporary goal – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it helps prevent or delay diabetic complications, including heart, kidney, eye and nerve diseases. It can completely change the course of the disease.
“It’s 100 percent more important [for people with type 2 diabetes] to try to lower their blood sugar by using dietary supplements first,” said Jessica Crandall Snyder, RD, CDCES, of Vital RD in Denver. “For some people, it is not only a preventative measure, but it can also help reverse the disease itself.”
Grandall Snyder says that making some lifestyle changes can sometimes eliminate the need for medication. “Cooking with insulin is not fun,” she says. “Diabetes is a progressive disease, and you have to find out how to control it.”
Here are 10 ways to do it, no rules required.
Keep Your Carb Diet
Paying attention to carbohydrates is important for people with type 2 diabetes. “Carbs are what cause your blood sugar to change,” says Brandall Snyder.
How many carbs are in the right diet? “It’s for the individual,” Weisenberger said. How much exercise, your weight, and your age can all affect how long your sugar stays in your system, according to the CDC. The typical start for people with diabetes is to limit their carb intake to 200 grams to 245 (g) per day, which is about half of your daily calories from carbs, according to the CDC. From there, make changes based on your blood glucose reading or as recommended by your dietitian, says Crallall Snyder.
Also keep in mind that carbs are not only available to common criminals, such as bread, potatoes, and pasta. They are also found in fruits, vegetables, sweets, and milk, so you should consider them all, says Crallall Snyder.
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Avoid Eating Excessive Foods
Another way to keep carbs controlled is to eat a balanced diet. “I always tell my patients to spread their food all day,” Weisenberger said. “Don’t eat small meals to save a big dinner.” Feeding your body throughout the day helps control your blood sugar levels and prevents rise and fall, says Brandall Snyder.
Both Weisenberger and Brandall Snyder say you pay attention to carbs, even if you eat them. “Generally, less than 15 g of carbs a single meal is a good alternative,” said Crallall Snyder. This is about getting one cup of fruit, he says.
Fill in the Fiber
Fiber is another ingredient in the body that you may want to control your blood sugar management, but in this case, it’s much better! It can help stabilize your blood sugar, says Brandall Snyder. It also plays a role in weight management and may reduce the risk of heart disease, according to a review published in September 2017 in Advances in Obesity Weight Management & Control.
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Fiber plays a protective role, too. Studies have found that a high-fiber diet can reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes by 15 to 19 percent compared to a low-fiber diet, according to a March 2018 study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine.
You will find fiber in plant foods such as raspberries, peas, and whole grains, according to the Mayo Clinic. Beans are another good source of fiber. People with type 2 diabetes who ate at least a cup of legumes (beans, chickpeas, and lentils) daily for three months had lower blood sugar levels as measured by the A1C test, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. (A1C is a way to measure your blood sugar level over a three-month period, according to MedlinePlus.) Beans are also an excellent source of folate, linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, a common diabetes problem, at national health facilities.
Men should aim for 30 to 38 g of fiber a day, while women should consume 21 to 25 g per day, according to the Mayo Clinic.
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Get extra quality Sleep
Insomnia or limitations affect the body’s chemicals, and getting too much sleep helps control blood sugar, says Weisenberger. Prolonged insomnia may contribute to the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a small study published in Diabetologia in February 2015. Healthy volunteers who slept only four hours for three consecutive nights had high levels of fatty acids in their blood, reducing their insulin ability to control blood sugar by about 23 percent , the researchers found. Insomnia is also linked to other health conditions, including obesity, heart disease, and stroke, according to Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
Do you have sleep problems? Follow these recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation:
Sleep in a cool, dark room.
Avoid drinking alcohol or caffeine in the hours before bed.
Sleep and wake up at the same time each day, and on the weekends.
Do not look at the screens for at least half an hour before bedtime, including TV, tablets, cell phones, and computers.
foot on the scales in the bathroom
Carli Teteris / Stocky
Being overweight is one of the major causes of insulin resistance, keeping the sugar-lowering hormone working properly, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
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