15 Ways To Lower Your Blood Sugar, Naturally

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Maintaining a healthy level of blood sugar can help improve your mood and overall energy levels. In addition, chronically high blood sugar levels can lead to increased health risks like heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.

Whether you have type 2 diabetes, or your goal is to prevent chronic disease and optimize your health, there are several lifestyle habits and strategies that can help keep your blood sugar in balance.

Here are 15 ways to naturally lower your blood sugar.

Eat Carbohydrates Last

While it may not be possible to do this at every meal, research shows that eating carbohydrates after vegetables results in lower blood sugar levels post meal.  

In one study, 16 participants with type 2 diabetes ate the same meal on separate days in various orders: carbohydrate first, followed 10 minutes later by protein and vegetables; protein and vegetables first, followed 10 minutes later by carbohydrate; or all components together.

Blood sugar, insulin, and other measures were taken just before meals and every 30 minutes after eating for up to three hours. Researchers found that blood sugar levels were significantly lower when carbohydrates were consumed at the end of the meal rather than at the start.

Another research review concluded that the order in which you eat food impacts blood sugar levels after a meal. Researchers advise consuming foods in the following order: high-water and fiber-rich dishes (such as vegetables), then high-protein foods, then oils/fats, next slowly digested whole, complex carbohydrates, and finally simpler carbohydrates or foods high in sugar.

Incorporate More Soluble Fiber Into Your Meals

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that doesn’t get broken down and absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream. That means the fiber in a carbohydrate-rich food won’t raise your blood sugar. Soluble fiber (which dissolves in water) in particular slows digestion, which means that the carbohydrates that do get absorbed still enter your bloodstream much slower. This results in a lower blood sugar spike after a meal.

This effect was seen in a 2018 study in 50 healthy adults. Researchers found that adding soluble fiber to a sugary drink resulted in significantly lower total blood sugar levels.

Another study in people with type 2 diabetes looked at the effect of breakfast meals with the same calorie levels but different amounts of soluble fiber on post-meal blood sugar levels. Breakfast meals that contained higher amounts of soluble fiber, either from fiber-rich foods or the addition of a soluble fiber supplement, led to an 18% reduction in blood sugar levels post meal.

Natural sources of soluble fiber include nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, apples, bananas, oats, Brussels sprouts, and avocados.

Try Intermittent Fasting 

Intermittent fasting (IF) has become a popular strategy for weight loss and other health benefits, including blood sugar management.

There are several ways to carry out IF, but to manage blood sugar levels specifically, some research suggests it's best to eat most of your calories at breakfast and lunch, and enjoy a smaller and earlier dinner before 6:00 p.m.

Other research confirms that eating later in the evening worsens post-meal blood sugar regulation, even in healthy adults.

However, a 2020 research review found that regardless of the specific type of IF intervention, IF improved health outcomes in people with high blood sugar and high cholesterol levels. This included improvements in hemoglobin A1C or HbA1c, a blood test that measures average blood sugar levels over the previous three months. HbA1c is one of the commonly used tests to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes.

Choose Whole Grains Over Refined Grains

Not all carbs are created equal, especially when it comes to how they affect your blood sugar levels. A 2017 analysis of previously published studies consistently found that consuming whole grains improved blood glucose levels post-meal compared to refined carb foods in healthy people.

Another review of 80 previous studies concluded that compared to refined grains, whole grains lowered blood sugar levels post meal. This may explain the inverse association between whole grain intake and risk of type 2 diabetes, which means the more whole grains you consume, the lower your risk.

Whole grains include, but are not limited to:

  • Amaranth
  • Barley
  • Brown rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Oats
  • Popcorn
  • Quinoa
  • Sorghum
  • Wild rice 

Go on a Walk After Meals 

Taking walks post meal allows your body to burn carbohydrates you recently consumed to fuel muscle movement, which reduces post-meal blood sugar levels. Walking also improves how effectively insulin works to clear sugar from your blood.

A 2022 study looked at the effects of walking on 21 healthy young volunteers who were broken into two groups. The first group took brisk 30-minute walks after meals that contained various amounts of carbohydrates. Another group completed brisk 30-minute walks after eating a mixed meal or a high carbohydrate drink. Researchers found that brisk walking substantially reduced post-meal blood sugar peak in both groups.

Another 2022 study found that while light intensity walking was more effective, even standing rather than sitting after meals resulted in lower post-meal blood sugar levels.

Practice Strength Training

In addition to building muscle and strength, resistance training can improve blood sugar regulation. A 2021 study found that just a single bout of resistance training before a meal significantly reduced post-meal blood sugar levels in 10 sedentary men with obesity and prediabetes.

Another small study explored the impact of various activities on blood sugar after a meal in eight people with type 2 diabetes. They included uninterrupted sitting, 30 minutes of walking, 30 minutes of combined walking and aerobic exercise, and 15 minutes of circuit resistance training. Researchers found that all types of exercise improved post-meal blood sugar regulation, even though the resistance exercise required the least time commitment.

Incorporate More Pulses Into Your Diet

Pulses include all types of beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas. This food group is rich in antioxidants, several key vitamins and minerals, and contains a unique combination of protein and high fiber carbohydrates.    

A 2022 research review found that in adults with and without type 2 diabetes, eating more pulses improved both post-meal blood sugar levels and long-term regulation, including HbA1c values.  

Another research summary concluded that pulse-based diets consistently resulted in substantial improvements in blood sugar control, as well as blood lipids (fats), and body weight. Eating three-quarters to one cup of pulses just one time significantly reduced post-meal blood sugar levels. And eating five cups of pulses per week improved HbA1c values in people with type 2 diabetes.

Add pulses to salads, soups, veggie chili, tacos, and curries, and opt for pulse pastas, like chickpea or lentil penne, as well as pulse-based dips, like hummus and bean dip.         

Eat a Protein-Rich Breakfast

A breakfast high in protein may help reduce post-meal blood sugar levels throughout the entire day. One small study in 12 healthy adults found that those who ate a high protein breakfast had reduced post-meal blood sugar levels after breakfast, lunch, and dinner, compared to those who ate a typical lower protein breakfast meal. Sixty percent of the calories came from protein in the high protein breakfast compared to 18% in the typical breakfast.

When you reach for more protein, don’t forget about plants. One large population-based study in nearly 7,000 people over nearly eight years found that those who ate more plant-based foods had a lower risk of developing insulin resistance (when insulin doesn’t work properly to clear sugar from the blood) as well as prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Eat More Avocado

Avocados are full of good fat, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Including them in meals has been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels.

A 2018 study in 31 people with overweight or obesity compared three calorie-matched meals that contained either no avocado, half an avocado, or a whole avocado. The meals with a half or a whole avocado reduced post-meal blood glucose levels and improved blood flow, compared to meals with no avocado.

This may help explain the results of a 2023 study that examined the link between avocado intake and type 2 diabetes in U.S. adults with Hispanic/Latino ancestry. Researchers found that over a six-year period, those who regularly consumed avocado were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who didn’t consume avocado, especially if they had prediabetes before the study began.

Wear a Continuous Glucose Monitor

Continuous glucose monitors or CGMs have traditionally been used by people with diabetes. But the devices have become increasingly popular with users who simply want to monitor and better regulate their blood sugar levels.

CGMs involve apps synched to sensors (typically placed on the back of the arm) that measure interstitial sugar levels, which is the sugar found in the fluid between the cells.

A 2019 study in 12 healthy male volunteers concluded that CGMs were useful for evaluating post-meal blood sugar levels and researchers cite several CGM benefits, even for healthy people. These include the ability to see real-time trends and patterns in blood sugar levels throughout the day, the opportunity to see individual responses to various foods, and the ability to use the data to adapt eating and physical activity habits to keep blood sugar levels within a normal range.

Eat and Drink More Fermented Foods

Fermentation is the conversion of carbohydrates to alcohol or organic acids using microorganisms—yeasts or bacteria—under anaerobic conditions. Fermented foods include kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, tempeh, natto, miso, kimchi, and sourdough bread.

In addition to supporting digestive health, research shows that fermented foods may slow carbohydrate absorption, which leads to lower post-meal blood sugar levels.

In a 2023 study, 11 healthy adults consumed a high glycemic index meal (known to raise blood sugar levels more quickly) with either soda water, diet lemonade soft drink, or unpasteurized kombucha. Only the fermented kombucha resulted in a clinically significant reduction in post-meal blood sugar.

Fermented foods have also been shown to reduce inflammation, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

Reduce Your Intake of Added Sugar

Added sugar is sugar added to a food product by a manufacturer to sweeten it, or sugar you add yourself, like stirring sugar into your coffee.

Because added sugar is absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, it makes blood sugar levels spike. And over time, too much added sugar increases the risk of not only diabetes, but also heart disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s, obesity, high blood pressure, and certain cancers.

The American Heart Association recommends a limit of no more than 25 grams—or six teaspoons—of added sugar per day for women and no more than 36 grams or nine teaspoons for men. 

Other research shows that when added sugar is restricted to less than 5% of total calorie intake there is an approximate 50% reduction in the prevalence of prediabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Reduce Sugar Substitutes

While sugar substitutes don’t immediately raise blood sugar levels like added sugars do, they aren’t a good alternative for long-term blood sugar management or diabetes risk reduction. That’s because fake sugars have been shown to spike insulin levels, which can eventually lead to insulin resistance, which means insulin becomes less effective at clearing sugar from the blood.

In 2023 the World Health Organization (WHO) advised against the use of non-sugar sweeteners to control body weight or reduce the disease risk. Based on a scientific review, the organization stated that there may be potential undesirable effects from long-term non-sugar sweetener use, including an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Consume More Vitamin D

Not consuming enough vitamin D can negatively impact blood sugar regulation, and according to the American Diabetes Association four in 10 adults are vitamin D deficient.

However, it's also important to say that too much vitamin D can lead to an abnormally high level of calcium in the blood, which can damage the kidneys, soft tissues, and bones over time.

A 2023 research review, which looked at 46 previously published studies, found that a vitamin D supplement improved blood sugar regulation and reduced HbA1c levels in patients with type 2 diabetes and low vitamin D.

Other research has shown that a vitamin D supplement reduced the risk of developing diabetes by 15% and increased the likelihood of normalizing blood sugar regulation by 30% in people with prediabetes and low vitamin D.

If you’re unsure about your vitamin D status, talk to your doctor about getting your blood level tested before you take a supplement.

Stay Hydrated

A 2023 study concluded that adults who stay well-hydrated appear to be healthier, develop fewer chronic conditions, and live longer compared to those who may not consume enough fluids.

Proper hydration may also be a benefit blood sugar regulation. A 2021 research review found an inverse relationship between water intake and the risk of type 2 diabetes, meaning a higher intake lowered the risk.

A small study in nine men with type 2 diabetes found that three days of low water intake impaired blood sugar regulation. And a 2021 study in 40 people with type 2 diabetes concluded that those who drank one liter of water 30 minutes before meals had improvements in blood sugar regulation compared to those who didn’t consume water.

After eight weeks, the people who drank water before their meal also consumed fewer calories, lost weight, had smaller waist measurements, and had reduced levels of triglycerides and “bad” LDL cholesterol.

A Quick Review

There are numerous benefits to managing blood sugar levels, including improved energy and mood and a reduced risk of several chronic diseases.

A healthy lifestyle of exercising, staying hydrated and eating balanced meals can help naturally keep blood sugar levels in balance, and also offer additional health benefits, like reduced cholesterol and improved gut health.

For more information about how to best monitor or regulate your blood sugar, talk to your healthcare provider.  

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