Tips and Tricks to Stabilize Your Blood Sugar
Just as stubborn weight gain isn’t necessarily tied to how much you’re eating, the tips for how to keep your blood sugar chilling in that sweet spot have more to do with the how of your diet. This means it is entirely possible to balance your blood sugar and still dip into the breadbasket every once in a while.
A few things you can do to keep your blood sugar nice and even are:
Avoid “naked carbs”
Whenever possible, eat your carbs with fat or protein (or some combination of both, like avocado toast). Brown suggests having a handful of nuts along with mango for a snack, or an apple with almond butter. This helps slow digestion and absorption, limiting the amount of glucose that floods the body at once. Similarly, loading up on fiber alongside or before eating carbs can help “significantly slow the absorption of sugars into the blood,” Brown says.
Be mindful of coffee
You may think of black coffee as a “diet food,” but coffee on an empty stomach can spike blood sugar. Caffeine can actually cause a hormonal reaction in the body, and it may cause insulin to take longer to kick in. “Always have coffee with a meal or protein and fat, like cream and collagen,” Brown says.
Pass the vinegar
“Incorporating vinegar into your meals (like in a salad dressing) slows down the breakdown of carbs and reduces the spike in blood sugar,” Brown says. One 2019 study also found that two to six tablespoons of vinegar per day improved the glycemic response (aka the effect food has on glucose levels). That’s a lot of vinegar but if you can stomach it, you could try taking it like a shot before or during your meal.
Check the ripeness of fruit
Picture the difference between an unripe banana and one that is soft with brown spots. The reason it gets squishier (and why banana bread is better made with overripe bananas) is because the starch turns to sugar as it ripens. For this reason, very ripe fruit may spike blood sugar. While it’s fine to eat a banana in its prime, you may want to pair it with a fat or protein, like a nut butter. Also keep an eye on the kind of fruit you’re eating; blackberries and blueberries for example don’t spike blood sugar nearly as much as grapes or watermelon.
Stand up whenever you can
If you can replace sitting with standing – even for as little as one hour per day – it can have a big effect on your glucose levels. Surprisingly, even heel raises while sitting can help. Jessie Inchauspé, French biochemist and author of Glucose Revolution, calls these “soleus pushups” and demonstrates how to do them here.
Enjoy an after dinner stroll
If you’re able to, Brown says that going for a walk after eating has been shown to reduce post-meal blood sugar spikes.
Eat almonds before a meal
Beyond being tasty and a good source of protein, fiber, and fat, eating a handful of almonds (about 15-20) before a meal reduced the glucose spike post-meal by as much as 28%.
Stand in the sun (or take vitamin D)
Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with an increased risk of diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Remember that sunscreen blocks the absorption of vitamin D so — dermatologists, put on your ear muffs — try to get outside for a few minutes sans sunscreen a day, ideally in the morning or evening when the sun isn’t at its peak.
Let starchy vegetables cool before eating
This one seems odd, but it’s true. If you let starchy vegetables cool before eating, they won’t spike your blood sugar as much as their freshly cooked counterparts. “Certain starches like potatoes, rice, and oats when cooked and cooled form resistant starch which is especially beneficial for certain bacteria in our microbiome and have been shown to have a positive effect on insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels,” Brown says.
Eat broccoli sprouts
You don’t hear a ton about broccoli sprouts, but you can find them at most health food stores (and certain grocery stores, too). They contain glucosinolates which convert to sulforaphane during digestion (dietitian Casey Farlow has a good Instagram post about this). Sulforaphane has been shown to have many hormone benefits, and studies have shown that the broccoli sprouts specifically reduce fasting blood glucose levels.
Skip gluten-free products if you don’t need them
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking gluten-free products are healthier, but keep in mind that gluten itself is not responsible for blood sugar spikes. Inchauspé recently broke down a 2017 study that found that gluten-free pasta made using corn and rice flours actually spiked glucose levels a whole 57% more than its good old wheat counterpart.
It may seem like keeping your body humming along in balance requires a lot of effort, what with all the talk of meditation apps, trips to the yoga studio, and convoluted diets. Fortunately, if you can adopt a few lifestyle and diet tweaks here and there, it’s easier than you may think to keep your blood sugar in the ideal place. This will make you feel healthier, but it also will make it easier to maintain a steady weight or help in your efforts to knock off a few pounds. Plus, who can argue with getting to take more walks and adding cream to your coffee – doctor’s orders!