Controlling blood sugar levels
Consistently high blood sugar levels (hyperglycaemia) are closely linked to Type 2 diabetes. It is normal for blood glucose to fluctuate throughout the day. An occasional high blood glucose level is not a concern. However, should blood glucose remain high for several days and if a feeling of unwell presents, medical assistance may be needed.
Some causes of hyperglycaemia include eating too much carbohydrate foods at once, stress, infection, illness and effects of medications. Reducing incidents of hyperglycaemia is an important factor to prevention of sugar-related health problems.
Some of the symptoms associated with high blood sugar to watch out for are:
- Increased thirst
- Increased hunger
- Increased urination, especially at night
- Weight loss
- Blurred vision
- Regular infections such as thrush and cystitis
- Sores that do not heal
Drops in blood sugar levels can also contribute to sugar-related health problems. Have you noticed that when you skip meals or when blood sugar levels are too low, a feeling of fatigue, poor concentration, irritability, nervousness, depression, sweating, headaches, cravings or digestive problems?
According to Patrick Holford, Nutrition expert and author of numerous nutritional books on Optimum Nutrition, “keeping your blood sugar balanced and stable is probably the most important factor in sustaining energy levels and weight”.1 Aiming for balance blood sugar levels will better manage weight, control cravings, stabilise moods and enhance energy.
Dietary approaches to reducing hyperglycaemia and balance blood sugars are the initial steps to good health.
Always Eat Breakfast
Start the day with a high protein breakfast to stabilise sugars through the day and keep you from craving sugary foods. Oats with nut-milk, eggs, turkey, beans, nuts butter (almond, brazil, cashew) on wholemeal bread, hummus and yoghurt are examples of great sources of protein.
Drinking Water Offers Satiety
Drinking water gives a feeling of fullness, which can minimise cravings and the amount of sugary snacks consumed.
Cinnamon extract can be added to water. Cinnamon is believed to have a glucose regulating effect due to the presence of procyanidins, which are insulin enhancing. Procyanidins mimic the physiological effects of insulin, which removes excess glucose from the blood to cells in the body to be used as energy. 2
Protein Rich Sugar Balancing Foods
Stabilising blood sugar with high quality protein foods in each meal provides the body with slow releasing energy and thus a feeling of satiety. It is recommended that 1/3 of your plate should include protein. Good sources of protein are: fish, lean cuts of meat, eggs, pulses and legumes, tofu, soy milk, quinoa, raw nuts, nut butters, and seeds.
Low GI and GL Carbohydrates
Eat low glycemic load (GL) or glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates, this includes non-starchy vegetables, pulses and lentils, whole fresh vegetables and fruit. Good food choices include apples, pears, plums, berries, buckwheat, cherries, chickpeas, lentils and pulses, oat-bran and flakes, cinnamon.3
Avoid Simple Sugars and Refined Carbohydrates – these include processed foods, white flour, white breads, pasta, white rice, alcohol. Refined foods are stripped of essential nutrients, they are also digested into sugars and absorbed quickly in the blood stream creating a surge in blood sugar levels.
Other foods to avoid and which are highly processed include cakes, biscuits, sugary
breakfast cereals and soft-drinks.
Improve Fibre Intake
Fibre can help to stabilise blood sugar levels. It slows down the absorption of glucose and decreases possible insulin rises. Best sources include wholemeal breads and cereals, buckwheat, brown rice, legumes, raw fruit and vegetables.
Fibre is also beneficial as it helps nutrients from food be absorbed, so the body gains maximum benefit from the food’s health properties. Fruits are better eaten raw and whole, as the fibre content of the fruit slows the absorption of sugars in the fruit. Also, cooking increases the sugar content and decreases the nutrient levels in most fruit and vegetables, so raw is overall the better option.
Good fats can provide satiety and slow down the absorption of glucose in the bloodstream to prevent spikes and crashes in sugar levels. Avocados, flaxseeds and nut butters offer good fats so that you feel full longer.
Nutrients and Herbs
Apart from cinnamon, as mentioned above, nutrients and herbs, such as chromium, gymnema, fenugreek, bergamot and bitter melon may offer positive effects on blood glucose balance. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Control what you buy
Exercising self-control when shopping will mean sugary snacks or foods are not in the house for you to succumb to. Apply the 80:20 rule when shopping or eating out. Ensure your shopping trolley contains 80% of good wholesome fresh foods, and allow less than 20% of those “sometime” foods for your indulgence.
Routine exercise, such as walking 20-30 minutes daily, 4 days a week, allows the body to utilise blood sugar efficiently, controlling blood flow around the body and help to manage weight. It can also contribute to improve blood pressure and cholesterol.
If you are concerned about your blood sugar levels, visit your healthcare professional to rule out any potential health problems.
1. Holford, Patrick, The New Optimum Nutrition Bible, 2005, Ten Speed Press, CA
2. Richard A Anderson, Cinnamon extract lowers glucose, insulin and cholesterol in people with elevated serum glucose,
Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine 04/2015
3. Holford, Patrick, http://www.gl.patrickholford.interactiveprofiling.com
4. Al-Romaiyan, A novel extract of Gymnema sylvestre improves glucose tolerance in vivo and
stimulates insulin secretion and synthesis in vitro. Phytotherapy Research. 2013 Jul;27(7):1006-11
5. Gupta A, Effect of Trigonella foenum-graecum (fenugreek) seeds on glycaemic control and insulin resistance in type 2
diabetes mellitus: a double blind placebo controlled study. Journal of Association Physicians India. 2001
6. Mollace V, Hypolipemic and hypoglycaemic activity of bergamot polyphenols: from animal models to human studies.
Fitoterapia. 2011 Apr;82(3):309-16
7. Joseph B, Antidiabetic effects of Momordica charantia (bitter melon) and its medicinal potency Asian Pacific Journal of
Tropical Diseases 2013 Apr; 3(2): 93–102.
8. A scientific review: the role of chromium in insulin resistance. Diabetes Educ. 2004;Suppl:2-14.