by Jeff S. Volek, Ph.D., R.D.
Why blood sugar matters
You’ve probably heard a little about trying to avoid large blood sugar spikes. There are several very good reasons why. If your blood glucose (aka blood sugar) rises too high, you’re on the path to developing metabolic syndrome (pre-diabetes) which can lead to type-2 diabetes.
Every time you eat carbohydrate-containing foods, your blood sugar levels rise. The rise in blood sugar triggers the storage of fat and blocks fat breakdown. Thus, eating carbohydrates (both sugars and starches) is like flipping a switch that signals your body to go into fat storage mode. Avoid these foods
As a rule of thumb, the closer a food is to its natural form, the less it will raise blood sugar levels. Foods that slowly convert into glucose in the body tend to raise blood sugar levels less. Examples of these low glycemic index foods include proteins, fats and most vegetables. Conversely, the more processed the food is the greater the increase in blood sugar and insulin. Of course, you may not be ready to give up many of the fast-digesting carbs like pasta, cereals, rice and even sweets which are all high glycemic index foods.
However, there are ways you can slow the rate sugar is absorbed into your bloodstream which I’ll discuss below. Research shows that keeping blood sugar levels in check decreases appetite—which makes it easier to stick to a lower calorie diet—and reduces the risk of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. 10 tips for better blood sugar levels
Performing resistance exercise drains your muscles’ carbohydrate stores known as glycogen. As long as muscle glycogen levels are reduced, the body tends to accelerate the disposal of ingested sugars and starches into muscle, which translates into better blood glucose control. For example, scientists have shown that a single weight training session reduces the effect of a high-sugar meal on blood glucose by 15 percent for more than 12 hours after a workout. Cinnamon Extract
Cinnamon contains bioactive chemicals that may act on cells to enhance uptake of blood glucose. Several clinical trials have evaluated the effects of cinnamon in individuals with type-2 diabetes. A recent meta-analysis of 10 randomized clinical trials in 543 patients concluded that cinnamon supplementation was associated with a significant decrease in fasting blood glucose (-25 mg/dL). Gymnema Sylvestre
The herb gymnema sylvestre contains several bioactive substances that may contribute to better blood sugar management. Several animal studies have shown multiple mechanisms by which the herb may improve blood sugar. A recent study in type-2 diabetics showed that supplementation with gymnema sylvestre (500 mg/day) for 3 months resulted in a 14% reduction in fasting and a 22% decrease in postprandial blood sugar. Alpha Lipoic Acid
Alpha-lipoic acid is a powerful antioxidant and studies indicate that it’s associated with decreased food intake, increased energy expenditure and decreased body fat. Alpha-lipoic acid enhances sensitivity of cells to insulin-mediated blood sugar uptake. Type-2 diabetics who supplemented with 600 mg of alpha lipoic acid twice a day for 4 weeks showed an 85% increase in insulin sensitivity. Chromium
Chromium is an essential trace mineral that is often low in the diet. Several studies have shown that chromium can normalize blood sugar levels, improve blood sugar utilization and decrease insulin requirements in individuals with insulin resistance. In one recent study, blood sugar responses to a carbohydrate meal of white bread were measured with and without a single 400 mcg dose of chromium (picolinate). The addition of chromium resulted in a 23% reduction in blood sugar after the meal. Soluble Fiber
Glucomannan, a highly viscous soluble fiber derived from the konjac plant, has been shown to lower blood sugar levels. A large number of studies have consistently shown that glucomannan taken prior to or with a meal significantly reduces the glucose and insulin response by as much as one-half. Other fibers also work to slow down the body’s insulin response such as psyllium, chia, oat bran and others. White Kidney Bean Extract
Phaseolus vulgaris, an extract derived from white kidney beans, has been shown to inhibit the enzyme that breaks down starch into glucose in the gut. Therefore, less ingested starch ends up as sugar in the bloodstream. Subjects who ingested 100 mg of the extract with a standard meal increased glucose at 30 minutes by only 15% compared to a 26% increase after the same meal plus placebo. Green Coffee Extract
Chlorogenic acids found in green coffee extract have recently been shown to promote weight loss and provide other health benefits—the primary mechanism may be related to blood sugar metabolism. The blood sugar response to 25 grams of sucrose ingestion was reduced by 7% when subjects consumed a coffee extract rich in chlorogenic acids. Magnesium
Ensuring you have adequate magnesium in cells is important for optimal blood sugar management. Individuals with diabetes or pre-diabetes tend to have suboptimal magnesium levels. Research suggests that magnesium intake is inversely related to risk of type-2 diabetes. Vinegar
Using vinegar on your salad may help manage blood sugar. When people consumed two tablespoons of vinegar with three slices of white bread, their blood glucose was 23 percent lower than when they ate white bread only. They also felt more full. Blood sugar – key to weight loss
If you struggle with your weight, undoubtedly high blood sugar levels play a role. Reduce your chances of storing fat by consuming low glycemic foods, reduce calorie intake and lifting weights or exercising. Also, consider supplements as part of a comprehensive program to manage your blood sugar. You’ll lose weight easier, improve your cardiovascular health and reduce your metabolic syndrome risk factors.
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