We have all been there – low blood sugar! After going too long between meals or snacks, you might have a headache, be irritable, or feel weak or shaky. And when we feel like this, the first then we reach for is something high in sugar or calories. In my case, chocolate bars… or, well, chocolate anything.
Why do we do this? Research shows that when our blood sugar levels drop, we lose our ability to control our desire to eat. And we crave calorie-laden sweets and snacks. But what happens when we eat junk food, or “empty” snacks? Our blood sugar levels spike then drop dramatically and we get tired. After hitting another low, the craving for even more high-calorie foods kicks in again. It’s a vicious cycle.
Blood sugar levels fluctuate naturally during the day. Levels are lowest in the morning before breakfast, when they trigger hunger. They peak an hour or so after a meal and then return to a base level for a few hours after that, when the stomach is satiated.
Blood sugar spikes stimulate the pancreas to pump out more insulin. Some researchers suggest that years and years of such peaks contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes, which usually occurs after age 40 and more than doubles the risk of stroke and heart disease.
To avoid extreme highs and lows, it helps to eat smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day. This helps to keep you feeling full, so that you don’t give in to the desire for unhealthy sweets and snacks.
Here are 10 more tips to help balance blood sugar levels and keep you from making unhealthy food choices.*
1. Apple cider vinegar: Not just a great salad dressing or condiment, apple cider vinegar has been found to reduce high blood sugar levels. In a study published in the medical journal Nutrition Reviews, which reviewed current research on apple cider vinegar’s health properties, researchers found that it helped to lower blood sugar. More research needs to be conducted but it’s safe to add to most peoples’ diets (if you have an ulcer you may wish to consult your physician first). Dilute a tablespoon in an ounce or two of water and drink before meals. Add to olive oil and herbs (such as cilantro or ginger) to make your own salad dressings.
2. Blueberries: Fresh or frozen blueberries are delicious enough to enjoy for taste alone, but you’ll also be getting blood sugar balancing benefits when you eat them. Research in The Journal of Nutrition found that the addition of blueberries to the diet improved insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels. Eat a half cup of fresh or frozen blueberries daily to obtain their health benefits. Frozen blueberries can be partially thawed and eaten. They taste like blueberry ice cream, without all the harmful ingredients.
3. Cilantro: Cilantro was traditionally used in parts of Europe and North Africa to combat diabetes. In 2011, a team of Moroccan scientists decided to test its efficacy in a study. They found that when cilantro was added to the diets of animals, it improved or normalized many metabolic symptoms of diabetes.
4. Cinnamon: Not just for sprinkling on lattes, research in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease shows that cinnamon can reduce high blood sugar levels and help regulate other symptoms of metabolic syndrome, which is a collection of symptoms, including abdominal fat, high blood pressure, and abnormal cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as high glucose levels. It is often a precursor to diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
5. Coconut: Fresh coconut is not only a delicious snack, research in the Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine found that eating fresh coconut helps to regulate blood sugar levels in otherwise healthy individuals. Eat coconut on its own or add it to your favorite nuts and seeds as a delicious trail mix or granola. It’s also a delicious addition to many soups and curries.
6. Dandelion: Dandelion is a great source of nature’s blood-sugar reducer, known as alpha-glucosidase, so it’s no surprise that herbalists have been using dandelion for many years to help regulate blood sugar levels and in the treatment of diabetes. Of course, you should work with a physician to monitor your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes because dandelion tea has been found to be so effective by many people that they’ve been able to reduce their medications.
7. Exercise: Regular exercise helps to use sugars as fuel for the muscles. In a study of children published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, researchers found that increasing levels of activity helped to lower blood sugar levels. Of course, the research likely applies to adults as well.
8. Ginger: In a study, researchers found that ginger significantly lowered blood sugar levels, in addition to regulating blood cholesterol levels, suggesting that the herb may offer potential as a natural diabetes treatment in humans.
9. Milk thistle: While most known for its liver protective and healing properties, milk thistle is also a great blood sugar regulator. Research reported in the medical journal Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome, and Obesity found that an extract of milk thistle improved various markers of diabetes, including reducing blood sugar levels.
10. Nettles: Nettles, or stinging nettles, as they are also known are most commonly used in the treatment of allergies but research published in the journal Neuroscience Letters found that nettles showed tremendous potential for alleviating many of the health problems linked to diabetes, including reducing blood sugar levels and insulin levels.
Before taking any supplements, please consult with a health care practitioner.
*Thanks to care2.com for these great points.
Photo from here, with thanks.