Changes to Control Blood Sugar Levels
According to the American Diabetes Association, type 2, or adult onset, diabetes affects around 10% of the general population and approximately 25% of American senior citizens. About one-third of these cases remain undiagnosed. Diabetes is a condition in which the body does not manufacture or use insulin properly. Uncontrolled diabetes can result in kidney disease, heart disease, skin complications, and blindness. There are lifestyle changes that can be employed to lower the risk of developing this devastating disease. Read on for changes you can make to keep your body strong, healthy, and at a lower risk of disease.
Get Enough Sleep
The benefits of a full night of restorative sleep are often overlooked due to the frenzied pace of life. However, sleep deprivation is a significant risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes. A lack of sleep affects hormone levels in your body. When your body is deprived of sleep, it releases more of the stress hormone cortisol into your bloodstream. This allows you to stay awake during the day despite improper amounts of rest, but it also prevents insulin from functioning properly. With less insulin available in your bloodstream, your blood glucose levels are raised. Allow your body to get a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night.
Exercise Your Body
Exercise has many health benefits for your body, including improving circulation, building strong bones and muscles, and strengthening your heart. Additionally, it helps lower blood sugar levels, decreases your blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, and decreases your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Keep your body moving throughout the day by interrupting long periods of sitting with getting up to walk around. Use the stairs instead of elevators when possible. Engage in aerobic exercises such as walking or swimming as well as strength training and stretching exercises.
Eat a Healthy Breakfast
You have probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. This is true for the prevention of diabetes as well, as it is helpful to fuel the body after fasting during sleep. Start your day with a bowl of whole grain cereal, as this will provide the fiber that helps improve blood glucose and cholesterol levels. An added benefit of whole grains is the feeling of fullness they provide. Satiety, or fullness, prevents overeating and helps you maintain a healthy weight. Top choices for a heart-healthy and diabetes-friendly breakfast are bran cereal or a delicious bowl of oatmeal.
Avoid Sugary Foods and Beverages
This one should be obvious. Foods and beverages that are high in sugar raise your blood glucose levels without providing any nutritive value to your body. Skip that sugary doughnut and satisfy your sweet tooth with delicious yet fiber-rich fruits and berries. Avoid energy drinks or sports drinks that are high in sugar as well as electrolytes and keep your body hydrated with plain water. For extra flavor without the extra sugar, add a squeeze of lemon to your water bottle.
Spread Out Meals
Avoid peaks and valleys in your blood glucose levels by spreading out small meals throughout the day, rather than eating one or two large, heavy meals per day. Keep your blood sugar levels consistent by avoiding fasting or skipping meals. Consistency is key to keeping your blood glucose at predictable, steady levels. Try to eat at regular times spaced evenly throughout your day.
Drop a Few Pounds
Obesity is one risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes. However, even small increments of weight loss can contribute to decreasing your risk of developing this disease. Employing lifestyle practices that reduce your risk of diabetes will also help with weight loss. Make a concerted effort to keep your body moving throughout the day. Engage in exercise, get plenty of sleep, and avoid sugary sweets. Fuel your body with nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and you should see weight loss benefits as well as increased energy.
Lower Your Stress Levels
Decreasing stress in your life may seem easier said than done, but doing so can reduce your blood sugar levels. If you are living life at a fast pace, and feel the effects of stress and anxiety, make time to pamper your mind and body. Make sure to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If you find your heart and mind racing due to stress, try breathing exercises. Schedule time with friends to relax, unwind and share each other’s burdens. Release tension by walking, running, or stretching. Take time to relax by listening to soothing music or read a good book. A long soak in a bubble bath may help to wash away tension and strain.
Enjoy Beans and Legumes
Beans and legumes such as chickpeas and lentils help to maintain healthy blood glucose levels through their combination of fiber, complex carbohydrates, and protein. These foods have a low glycemic index, which means they are slowly digested, absorbed, and metabolized by the body. This translates to a slower rise in blood glucose levels. Aim to eat one cup of these folate-rich foods each day. For ease of preparation, use canned beans, which are as nutritious as the dried varieties, but look for beans without added salt. Enjoy them in a hearty bowl of chili or soup, add them to casseroles or serve them as a side dish.
Indulge in Whole Grains
If you love bread, you may be distressed to know that white breads are high in the carbohydrates that quickly raise blood glucose levels. If you love carbohydrates, look for ways to exchange unhealthy options for delicious, nutrient-rich items. Swap out bread made from processed white flour and give rich, hearty whole grain bread a try. Pumpernickel, rye, and whole wheat bread have a low glycemic index and contain the fiber so crucial for digestion and satiety. Swap out your morning blueberry muffin for a bowl of fiber-rich oatmeal sprinkled with blueberries and a dash of pure maple syrup.
Consume Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are rich in dietary fiber, high in protein, and may decrease the risk of diabetes. They also contain antioxidants important to heart health. Furthermore, nuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and vitamins and minerals such as calcium and potassium. Enjoy a handful of raw walnuts as a mid-afternoon snack. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds or pecans on your morning bowl of oatmeal. Spread all-natural almond butter on pumpernickel bread for a fiber-rich sandwich that won’t raise your blood sugar.
Cook with Garlic
Studies have suggested that garlic plays a part in lowering blood glucose levels. Components of garlic may improve insulin sensitivity and production. Add minced garlic to salad dressings, salsa, or pesto. Saute garlic with onions when preparing savory soups or casseroles. Sprinkle olive oil and garlic on vegetables and roast in the oven for a flavorful side dish. Include garlic in mashed potatoes for a burst of flavor or simmer a pot of fragrant garlic soup on a cold or rainy day.
The benefits of drinking water are easily overlooked. However, keeping your body well hydrated allows it to function at peak performance. When your body is dehydrated, your body releases stress hormones such as cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. These hormones can cause an increase in blood sugar levels. Be sure to drink a glass of water first thing each morning to rehydrate your body after sleeping. Keep a water bottle on hand for sipping throughout the day. Snack on fruits with high water content, such as grapes or watermelon, to provide your body with other sources of hydration.