Diabetes is a serious condition that can be managed with diet, exercise, and sometimes medication. But what you eat plays the biggest role in how your blood sugars will react. The quality of food, eating low glycemic index, and even the timing of when you eat proteins, fats, and carbohydrates all matter. It impacts how they’re processed by your body, so it’s important to understand the basics of how diabetes works in order to make healthy choices every mealtime. Also, if you’re concerned about your blood sugar, it helps to get an HbA1c test to monitor how well you are controlling your blood sugars every few months.
Choose Low Glycemic Index Foods
Go for foods with a low GI to help manage your blood sugars. The Glycemic Index (GI) is a measure of how quickly carbohydrates raise blood sugar. A GI level of 70 or above is considered high, while 55 and lower is low. GI does not equal calories, so you can eat foods with a high GI but still stay within your calorie goal for the day. Low-GI foods like whole grains, fats, and animal proteins don’t have as strong an effect on your blood sugar levels because they’re broken down more slowly by your body than rapidly digesting refined carbohydrates like white bread or pasta.
Eat More Protein
Swap out some of your carbohydrates for protein. If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve probably noticed that it’s easier to stick to a diet full of high-protein foods than one filled with lots of carbohydrates. This is because protein is more satiating than carbs—meaning that eating it will keep hunger at bay for longer. Additionally, protein takes longer for the body to digest than carbs do, so consuming more protein can help you feel fuller for longer. You can also choose high-fat dairy products with protein as well for something extra filling and low-GI.
Enjoy Fruits and Vegetables
Starchy vegetables like potatoes are usually a no-no when you are struggling to get your blood sugars under control. However, you can add high-volume, low-energy fruits and veggies to your diet. Enjoying things like a leafy salad, a sliced apple, or even a handful of berries not only adds variety, but they are foods that help you manage your blood sugars more easily. Fruits and veggies can also help you feel fuller as well as improve your digestion.
Eat Protein or Fat if You Do Eat Carbs
Make sure you’re always eating something with protein and fat, along with carbs. This will help your blood sugars be more stable, and when you’re eating the right combinations, it’ll keep your sugars lower. As you already know, a high blood sugar level is not good. Proteins and fats slow down the absorption of carbohydrates into your bloodstream—and when they do this, they also help you feel fuller for longer.
Don’t Eat Carbs on an Empty Stomach
One of the biggest mistakes people make when it comes to blood sugar management is eating carbohydrates on an empty stomach. Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose and then absorbed into the bloodstream, which can spike blood sugar levels if you don’t balance out your intake with protein or fat.
When you eat too many carbs at once, your body releases a lot of insulin to help manage those sugars in your bloodstream—but if you’re not eating enough protein or fat at the same time, that excess insulin may cause a crash later that makes you feel tired. This is why it’s important to pay attention to timing when it comes to eating carbs: they should be eaten with other foods rather than alone on an empty stomach in order for them not only to digest properly but also to maintain healthy blood sugar levels throughout the day.
Consider Low-Carb or Ketogenic Diets
There are a lot of opinions on low-carb diets. One of the biggest downsides is that they can be difficult to maintain long-term and they can be devoid of important nutrients. The jury is still out on the best foods for managing healthy blood sugar levels, but there are more studies that show a healthy, clean ketogenic diet can help people improve their overall health and blood sugar. Work with a doctor who is well-versed in how to implement these diets in a healthy way.
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