6 ways diet can improve blood sugar levels

Did you know that your blood sugar levels impact your energy and mood?

For example, after eating sugary foods you may have experienced feeling overly energetic and happy. This is followed shortly by a crash in mood, leaving you exhausted, cranky and craving more sugary treats.

Beyond being an energy-draining annoyance, blood sugar highs and lows can impact your health. If chronically elevated they can wreak havoc on your long-term health and put you at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Maintaining normal blood sugar levels is important for everyone; however, if you have diabetes it becomes even more important to achieve good control. In many instances, individuals with type 2 diabetes can avoid or reduce medications by altering their eating habits and making positive lifestyle changes.

Whether you have diabetes or are seeking to ensure you are eating to manage your sugar levels and reduce your risk of developing diabetes, following a healthy diet is important.

In this article our in-house dietitians, Anna and Alex from The Biting Truth, share 6 tips to help manage your blood sugars.

1. Ditch restrictive diets

The diabetes and health world online these days is overloaded with restrictive diets that often teach eliminating an entire food group or ingredient from your diet. Worse, they often contradict each other! It’s confusing and overwhelming.

If you have diabetes or are at risk of developing diabetes, it is best to steer away from overly restrictive fad diets. Restrictive diets that encourage the elimination of entire food groups and skipping meals can negatively affect blood sugar levels. Instead, consult an Accredited Practising Dietitian to get an individualised food plan.

You do not need to cut out specific foods or food groups from your diet. A smart diet for people with diabetes looks a lot like a healthy eating plan for everyone. Looking past the quick fix and fad diets to longer-term solutions will improve your chance of staying healthy and help to manage or prevent diabetes.

2. Eat regular meals

If you make sure you eat regular meals, spread evenly throughout the day, you will help maintain your energy levels without causing large rises or falls in your blood sugar levels. For most people this will look like 3 main meals a day and 2-3 snacks.

3. Eat balanced meals

Whether you have diabetes or not, eating balanced meals is important. At each meal, include a source of carbohydrates, protein, veggies and healthy fats.

If you can roughly achieve the below balance at main meals it will help to stabilise blood sugar levels and manage your appetite, which also assists with weight management.

4. Opt for foods with a low glycemic index

When it comes to carbohydrates, there is often a lot of confusion around whether or not to include them in the diet, especially for individuals with type 2 diabetes. Rather than avoiding carbohydrates altogether, focus on the types of carbohydrates and your portion sizes.

Carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (GI) are those that are less likely to cause a big spike in your blood sugar levels. Eating low GI foods has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels in both people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.

5. Load up on fibre

Fibre is a type of carbohydrate found in plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. Increasing the amount of fibre in your diet can help lower your blood sugar levels.

Fibre slows down the digestion of carbohydrates and the absorption of sugar, which means you experience a more gradual rise in your blood sugar levels after meals.

Try these easy swaps to boost fibre in your diet:

  • Switch from white to whole grain bread
  • Keep the skin on your fruits and vegetables
  • Sprinkle mixed seeds onto your breakfast bowl
  • Use wholemeal products wherever you can (e.g. wholemeal flour)
  • Enjoy a handful of nuts as a snack
  • Eat more vegetarian meals (go meatless on Mondays!)

6. Watch for added sugars

Everyone should aim to reduce their intake of added sugars. The reason for this is that added sugars are used by the body as a source of quick energy. They are typically processed quickly, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, followed by a crash.

While it is not necessary to eliminate them entirely from your diet, even if you have diabetes, it is a good idea to keep an eye on your intake (i.e. you can still enjoy a few squares of chocolate for dessert – just don’t go overboard).

Sugary beverages, particularly soft drinks, have little to no nutritional benefit and can lead to quick blood sugar spikes which are hard to control. Aim to drink mostly unsweetened beverages such as water.

Bottom line

What you eat and drink can play a positive role in regulating your blood sugar levels. It is important to remember that there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” diet. Speak to your doctor or dietitian to receive tailored dietary advice to best suit you.

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