They say what goes up must come down- and this is often the case with blood sugar. Blood sugar that is too low or too high can have an effect on your health, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or have blood sugar levels above or below the normal range. Read on for advice on what to put on your dinner plate to help keep your blood sugars stable.
What happens when you blood sugar is too high or low?
Also known as hyperglycaemia, high blood sugar is when your body isn’t able to carry sugar from your blood into your cells. It tends to affect people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, along with pregnant women who develop gestational diabetes. Sometimes, it can also affect people that have a serious infection or have just had a stroke or heart attack. As they grow, children and young adults may also experience temporary periods of high blood sugar.
The medical name for low blood sugar is hypoglycaemia, when our bodies react to blood sugar levels dropping too low. This is often triggered by missing a meal, too much exercise, drinking too much alcohol or taking too much insulin. On some occasions, medicines can make blood sugar levels drop.
How can you raise your blood sugar levels?
To treat an attack of low blood sugar, it’s important to drink or eat something sugary that contains 15 to 20g of fast-acting carbohydrate. This could be a few sweets, up to five dextrose tablets, a glass of fruit juice or a sugary soft drink.
How can you lower your blood sugar levels?
If your blood sugar levels are too high, there are a number of ways to help keep them under control:
Watch your intake of carbohydrates
When we eat carbohydrates, our bodies break them down into glucose which raises our blood sugar. This is why cutting down on refined or processed carbs like white bread or sugar-laden cakes and biscuits can help to control blood sugar. Several studies have shown that a low-carb diet helps reduce blood sugar levels. One in particular found that when obese patients with type 2 diabetes followed a calorie-restricted diet with only 20% carbohydrates, they lost weight and their blood sugar fell1.
Choose low GI foods
GI stands for glycaemic index (GI), which tells us how quickly the food we eat raises blood glucose levels. So, foods with a higher GI release glucose more quickly than foods with a lower GI which release glucose slowly and steadily. If you’re concerned about your sugar levels, go for low GI food like meat, eggs and seafood. When it comes to carbs, choose vegetables, fruit, wholegrains, sweet potatoes and pulses which also have low GI ratings.
Boost your fibre intake
High fibre foods like fruit, beans, wholegrains and vegetables slow down how quickly we absorb sugar and digest carbohydrates. This means blood sugar levels rise gradually. Sources of soluble fibre like porridge, apples, nuts, celery and flaxseeds, and wholegrains especially, have been shown to lower blood sugar levels and may protect older women from developing type 2 diabetes2.
According to research3, drinks that contain sugar raise blood glucose levels, raise the risk of diabetes and lead to weight gain. Water on the other hand, has been linked with lowering blood sugar and may reduce chance of developing diabetes4.
Up your chromium levels
Chromium is a mineral that helps the body breaks down fats and carbohydrates as well as helping to control blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes5. Foods like wholegrains, egg yolks, bran cereals, nuts, meat and vegetables like broccoli are rich in chromium.
Have a few spoons of Apple Cider Vinegar
With its golden colour and tangy taste, apple cider vinegar is used as a natural remedy for scalp and skin conditions. And now, researchers6 say a spoon or two of this vinegar could lower glucose levels and help you feel fuller after eating carbohydrates. Mix 2 teaspoons into a glass of water or use it to dress salad. However if you’re already taking medicine to lower your blood sugar, check with your doctor first.
Controlling your blood sugar can be a challenge, but making changes to your diet can make it easier to stay on track and keep your blood sugar levels in check.
Last updated: 24 January 2023