The average American gets 16 percent of total calories from extra sugars added to foods and drinks, according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Sugar is also found naturally in fruit and milk products. Added sugars spike your blood glucose levels and contribute a lot of calories without a lot of nutrients, putting you at risk for weight gain and health complications. However, you can make dietary and lifestyle changes to neutralize the harmful effects of sugar on your body.
The time between dinner and breakfast is typically the longest period you go without food. According to Dr. Eric Rimm, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, your blood sugar increases slightly after your morning meal, but it takes a substantial amount of time to absorb the sugar leaving you satiated for hours. Without breakfast, you produce more hunger hormones causing you to overeat at your next meal resulting in spikes and dips in your blood sugar, which can contribute to diabetes over time. Skip the doughnuts though and opt for eggs or whole-grain cereals.
Exercise is a natural way to regulate blood sugar levels. Exercise increases your sensitivity to insulin, which allows your body to put more glucose back into your cells during and after your work out. Muscle contraction also enables you to take up glucose for energy whether or not insulin is present. Medline Plus states that exercise can lower blood sugar levels without medication. They recommend starting slowly such as walking for 5 to 10 minutes. Gradually increase it to a brisk walk 5 days a week for 30 to 45 minutes. Do more if you are able to or take swimming or exercise classes instead.
Get Your Fiber
Two types of fiber are found in foods: soluble and insoluble. Both are carbohydrates your body doesn’t metabolize. Fiber doesn’t elevate blood sugar, and soluble fiber can actually lower blood sugar levels, according to the Joslin Diabetes Center. Soluble fiber is found in wheat bran, vegetables and whole-grains. You should get between 20 and 35 grams of fiber a day; however, most Americans don’t meet this recommendation. Increase your fiber to meet that amount, but do so gradually to prevent gas, bloating and stomach cramps. Eat oatmeal for breakfast, shred vegetables into sauces and stews, and opt for whole wheat breads and rice.
Alpha Lipoic Acid and Chromium
Certain nutrients support healthy blood sugar. Alpha-lipoic acid helps turn glucose into energy and may lower blood sugar levels, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. It’s found in yeast, spinach, broccoli and potatoes. Chromium influences how insulin regulates blood sugar levels. You get it from brewer’s yeast, mushrooms, dried beans, asparagus, oatmeal, bran cereals and seeds.
- U.S. Depatrment of Health and Human Services: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- ConsumerReports.org: Why Eating the Right Breakfast is so Important
- American Diabetes Association: Blood Glucose Control and Exercise
- Medline Plus: Diabetes and Exercise
- Joslin Diabetes Center: How Does Fiber Affect Blood Glucose Levels?
- Medline Plus: Fiber
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Alpha-Lipoic Acid
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Chromium