Blood sugar, or glucose, has emerged as one of the most studied and discussed health topics around.
There are many reasons why. The most obvious is that diabetes, a disease reaching epidemic proportions today, is linked directly to blood sugar levels. In recent years, researchers have also linked blood sugar to heart disease, memory problems, even fertility problems. Plus, with the emergence of low-carb diets, Americans have learned that there is a connection between high blood sugar and gaining weight.
All this scary talk of blood sugar and body chemistry is intimidating to many people. But it needn’t be so; blood sugar isn’t really that complicated. In a nutshell: Much of the food you eat is converted to blood sugar, which is used by the cells of your body for energy. Too much (or little) glucose in your bloodstream leads to complications. Your blood sugar levels are linked primarily to two things: the types and amounts of food you eat, and your body’s ability to create and use insulin, a hormone that transports blood sugar into your body’s cells.
Whether you already have diabetes, or are overweight, or just want to prevent future health problems, here are 20 ways to make sure your blood sugar and insulin levels are as healthy as can be.
1. Drink a cup of skim milk and eat eight ounces of nonfat yogurt a day. A study of 3,000 people found that those who were overweight, but ate a lot of dairy foods, were 70 percent less likely to develop insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes) than those who didn’t. Turns out lactose, protein, and the fat in dairy products improves blood sugar by filling you up and slowing the conversion of food sugars to blood sugar.
2. Buy bread products that have at least three grams of fiber and three grams of protein per serving. They’ll slow absorption of glucose and decrease possible insulin spikes, says J. J. Flizanes, a nutritionist and owner of Invisible Fitness in Los Angeles. Plus, the hearty dose of fiber and protein will keep your stomach feeling satisfied longer.
3. Serve up a spinach salad for dinner. Spinach is high in magnesium, which a large study suggests can help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. One study in women found higher intakes of magnesium (also found in nuts, other leafy greens, and fish) reduced diabetes risk about 10 percent overall, and about 20 percent in women who were overweight. Another great source of magnesium? Avocados.
4. Sprinkle cinnamon over your coffee, yogurt, cereal, and tea. Researchers from Pakistan (where cinnamon reigns) had volunteers with type 2 diabetes take either one, three, or six grams of cinnamon or a placebo for 40 days. Those taking the fragrant spice saw their blood glucose levels drop 18-29 percent depending on how much cinnamon they took.
5. Eat soba noodles for dinner one night a week. The “Japanese pasta” is made from buckwheat, a grain that lowered blood glucose levels 12-19 percent in one well-controlled study on rats. Sure, you’re not a rat, but buckwheat is an excellent source of fiber, and the evidence on fiber and blood glucose improvement is unimpeachable. Add a helping of buckwheat pancakes every Sunday and get double the benefits.