Who isn’t concerned about developing type 2 diabetes or the precursor to type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance? Although there’s a genetic component to insulin resistance, lifestyle is a bigger factor than genetics in determining whether your fasting blood sugars will rise too high at some point. In fact, the strongest risk factor is being overweight or obese. On the plus side, losing as little as 5 to 10% of your body weight can improve blood sugar control and even reverse some cases of type 2 diabetes. So, it doesn’t take drastic measures to control your blood sugar. Small changes such as altering your diet and getting more exercise can bring your blood glucose levels down.
Now, let’s look at small changes you can make to reign in your blood sugar after a meal. Even if you’re not diabetic or pre-diabetic, you need to mind your blood sugar. Type 2 diabetes is too common to assume you’ll never get it. Here are six small ways to lower your blood sugar through diet.
Add Some Vinegar
Balsamic vinegar adds flavor to vegetables and is a tasty base for a salad dressing. However, balsamic vinegar may have unexpected health benefits too. Research shows that people with insulin resistance who consume vinegar with a meal experience less of a rise in blood sugar and have better insulin sensitivity after a meal. Another study found that adding vinegar to rice reduced the blood glucose response to rice by 20 to 35%. That’s a significant drop for making such a small change! How about making a balsamic vinegar-based salad dressing and adding it to your next salad?
How does a little cinnamon on your morning porridge or a generous pinch in your cup of coffee sound? Hopefully, you like the taste of this woodsy, aromatic spice as it does more than satisfy your taste buds. Some research links consuming as little as a half teaspoon of cinnamon daily with a reduction in blood sugar. In one study, consuming this amount daily for 40 days led to a 24% drop in blood sugar and an 18% decline in cholesterol. Some studies also show that cinnamon has anti-inflammatory benefits.
As good as it sounds, don’t overdo the cinnamon! Cassia cinnamon, the type you find in most supermarkets, contains coumarin, a compound that’s toxic to the liver if you consume a substantial amount. Another type of cinnamon called Ceylon cinnamon has only minor amounts of this compound and is a safer option if you add a lot of cinnamon to your food. Also, don’t get your cinnamon by eating cinnamon buns! That’s defeating the purpose.
Switch the Bread You Eat
It’s best to replace bread with more nutrient-rich food choices as bread is more empty calories than it is nutritious. But if you can’t give up bread, switch the white bread for a type that will impact your blood sugar less. More blood-sugar friendly bread includes sourdough bread, pumpernickel bread, and 100% stone-ground whole wheat bread. Because sourdough bread is fermented, it will have less impact on your blood sugar level. Pumpernickel bread and stone-ground whole wheat bread is less processed and higher in fiber, making it more blood sugar friendly.
Walk for 10 Minutes After a Meal
Walking is good for your blood sugar, but you’ll get the most benefits if you stroll for 10 minutes or more after a meal. In one study, subjects with type 2 diabetes who walked for 10 minutes after meals reduced their blood glucose by 12% relative to taking a single 30-minute walk. Too often, we sit after a meal when we should be walking. You don’t have to do intense exercise to bring your blood sugar down. Take a short walk instead. Even if you exercise in a structured manner, post-meal walks can further help with blood sugar control.
Switch Starchy Carbs for Protein and Healthy Fat
Carbohydrates, particularly processed carbs, have the greatest impact on blood sugar. You can reduce the post-meal rise in blood glucose by substituting healthy fats and protein for some of the carbs you eat now. Also, skip the starchy carbs, like rice, white potatoes, and pasta, and replace them with fiber-rich vegetables to tame your blood sugar. Wash a meal down with unsweetened tea or water rather than a sugary beverage. Too many people get too many of their daily calories from beverages! Yes, those drinks from Starbucks count too.
Eat More Mindfully
If you gorge yourself at a meal, it will push your blood sugar up. So, slow down the pace of a meal and focus on the sensory experience of eating. The more senses you stimulate during a meal, the more likely you are to feel full and satisfied with less food.
Mindfulness can also help you make smarter food choices. Building a meal around refined carbohydrates and sugary foods can wreak havoc with anyone’s blood sugar. However, when you adopt a mindful approach to food, you appreciate how foods taste in their natural, unprocessed state, so you can put more nutritious meals on the table less like to cause blood sugar spikes.
Decrease the size of your plates and bowls too. Studies show that people eat more when they choose a larger plate or have lots of foods to choose from. A study showed that people eat 92% of the food on their plate, regardless of the size of the plate. If you choose a smaller plate, you’ll eat less and still feel satisfied. It’s a simple way to trick yourself into being satisfied with less and when you don’t eat as much, you’re less likely to get a blood sugar spike.
The Bottom Line
Now you have some practical strategies for reducing the post-meal rise in blood sugar that occurs after a meal. That’s good for your metabolic health and your health in general.
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