How to Lower Blood Sugar Levels Through Food

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

You may have heard in the past that your blood sugars are high and you were not sure why. Maybe you are diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and are not sure how to lower your blood sugars without medication. Maybe you are prediabetic and wanting to learn how to manage your blood sugars so you don’t develop Type 2 Diabetes. Maybe you are curious in general about how to maintain your blood sugar levels within normal limits. Food plays a large role in blood sugar control, and this post dives into what that means.

What foods cause blood sugars to rise?

There are three macronutrients: carbohydrate, protein, and fat. Of these three, carbohydrates are what affect blood sugars. Now, this is slightly more complex than it sounds, but once you understand the breakdown it is not that complicated.

There are different types of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Complex carbohydrates are made of larger carbon chains. Simple carbohydrates are made of smaller carbon chains, which means they are digested quicker. Food examples of simple carbohydrates include refined grains (white breads, white rice, etc.), sugar sweeteners, and pastries. The end product of carbohydrate digestion is glucose, a simple carbohydrate the body and brain use as its primary fuel source. When you eat refined grains with nothing else (e.g.: not paired with a protein or fat source), your body digests the carbohydrate quickly to glucose which causes a spike in blood sugar.

What foods help control blood sugar spikes?

Remember from above that there are simple and complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates are made of larger carbon chains. There are two different types of complex carbohydrates: starches and dietary fiber. Starches can raise blood sugar levels and are commonly found in grains, peas, corn, legumes, and potatoes. Dietary fiber is a complex carbohydrate that our body cannot digest. Common sources of dietary fiber include plants (fruits and vegetables), legumes, and nuts. Dietary fiber assists in improving blood sugar levels because it slows down the amount of time it takes for our stomachs to empty food contents into the intestine, which creates a feeling of fullness and gradual release of glucose.

It’s important to know that starch sources also contain dietary fiber. For example, the skins of potatoes contain fiber, whole grains are a good source of fiber, and legumes contain fiber and protein.

Tips for how to control your blood sugar using food:

  • Choose whole fruits and vegetables to increase fiber intake (e.g. vegetables like potatoes, carrots, celery with their skins on; fruit with their skins on)

  • Choose whole grains such as brown rice, rice berry, whole-grain breads, quinoa, oats, amaranth, bulgur, millet, barley

  • Pair carbohydrate choices with a protein or fat to slow down carbohydrate digestion (e.g. cheese and crackers, carrots and hummus, apples and peanut butter)

  • Limit consumption of refined grains such as white bread, white rice, pastries, sugar sweeteners

The Bottom Line

There are different types of carbohydrates, and complex carbohydrates are a better option to manage blood sugar levels. Consuming carbohydrates with protein and fat sources will decrease blood sugar spikes and help manage blood sugar levels.

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