How to Control Blood Sugar Levels: 14 Easy & Natural Methods
14 Easy Ways to Control Blood Sugar Levels Naturally
High blood sugar — or hyperglycemia — happens when your blood contains too much sugar, specifically in the form of glucose. The glucose in your blood, commonly referred to as "blood sugar" or "blood glucose," can become too high if your body doesn't produce enough insulin or respond well to its blood sugar-lowering effects.
High blood sugar primarily affects people with pre-diabetes and diabetes, but it can occur as a result of other medical conditions, with the use of certain medications, an inactive lifestyle, and stress. Managing blood sugar levels is especially important for people with diabetes, since chronically elevated levels can lead to a number of health complications, but it's also useful for people without the condition to support various aspects of health and well-being, such as energy levels and body weight.
However, many people don't know how to control blood sugar levels naturally, so let's uncover 14 easy ways to lower blood sugar levels.
1. Walk After Meals
Walking is a great way to manage stress and improve your cardiovascular fitness, but it's also great for lowering blood sugar, especially when done after a meal. Walking immediately after a meal improves your body's sensitivity to insulin and allows for the better disposal or removal from blood by your muscles.
A review of eight randomized controlled trials found that walking just 20 minutes following a meal can significantly reduce blood sugar in both people with and without diabetes (1). Depending on where you live and the climate, walking outdoors may not always be possible, but indoor walking or walking in place is always an option.
2. Be Pro-Protein
Eating a generous amount of protein every day doesn't just benefit athletes and bodybuilders, but it also supports healthy blood sugar levels. Protein can curb high blood sugar by stimulating or affecting the production and activity of insulin and by slowing digestion (2).
The blood sugar-regulating benefits of protein start at just 7 to 10 grams — equivalent to one to two eggs, an ounce ounce of meat, or cup of milk. For this reason, it's best to include protein with every meal/snack to keep your blood sugar in check.
Good sources of protein include:
lean meats: lean cuts of beef, lamb, and pork
poultry: chicken, turkey, eggs
seafood: fish, scallops, clams, crab
dairy products: milk, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt
legumes: chickpeas, peas, black beans, kidney beans
3. Up Your Fiber Intake
Fiber is the indigestible part of plants. Increasing your fiber intake (gradually) can delay the absorption of carbohydrates following a meal, helping to keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range (3).
Beyond its benefits for blood sugar, fiber can also significantly lower high blood pressure and cholesterol levels while promoting gut health. Unfortunately, most people don't get enough fiber to benefit from its blood sugar-lowering effects and other health benefits.
Ideally, women should aim to consume at least 25 grams daily, while men should aim for 38 grams.
The best sources of fiber include:
seeds and nuts
oats and other whole grains
non starchy vegetables like broccoli
4. Lift Weights
Any form of exercise can benefit blood sugar regulation, but lifting weights or resistance training is especially beneficial. The muscles are responsible for the majority (80–90%) of glucose clearance from the blood (4). Insulin resistance develops in part when your muscles become desensitized to insulin's effects, leading to elevated blood sugar levels.
However, lifting weights can reverse insulin resistance and enhance the activity of a special protein that allows for the uptake of glucose into cells. In other words, the more muscle you have, the better you can regulate blood sugar levels.
Lifting weights becomes especially important with age as muscle mass gradually declines, increasing the risk for diabetes and poor blood sugar regulation. Aim to target every major muscle group — the back, chest, shoulders, arms, core, and legs — at least two days per week.
5. Sleep Better
The importance of regular, quality sleep is highly underrated. Poor sleep is linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease, obesity, depression, and cognitive decline. It's also linked with poor glucose control and reduced insulin sensitivity (5).
What's more, poor sleep can make it more difficult to maintain healthy blood sugar levels since it can increase your cravings for fatty, sweet foods.
But, getting enough sleep is only part of the solution, it must also be quality sleep. You can improve the quality of your sleep with these habits:
go to bed and wake up at consistent times, including on the weekends
keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool
avoid large meals and caffeine before bed
limit alcohol consumption
get some exercise, or better yet, lift weights
6. Berberine May Help
Berberine is bioactive compound found in Berberis (barberry) and other types of plants. A review of 46 trials demonstrated that berberine can significantly decrease average blood sugar levels (hemoglobin A1C) in people with type 2 diabetes when supplemented alone or when combined with common diabetes medications like metformin (6). It may also improve blood lipids and decrease inflammation, which tends to be elevated in people with high blood sugar.
It's believed that berberine lowers blood sugar levels by increasing its uptake from the blood and by preventing the breakdown or increasing the secretion of glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), which stimulates insulin secretion. Most studies suggest a dose between 1 and 1.5 grams taken in two to three doses daily.
Berberine appears to be relatively safe but it may cause mild digestive symptoms and increase or decrease the absorption of certain prescription medications.
7. Don't Fear Fat
While the reputation of fat hasn't always great, adding certain types of fats to your meals can support blood sugar management. Studies have shown that the adding fat to meals — especially those that are high in carbohydrates — can lessen the effect it has on your blood sugar level by slowing digestion (7).
This doesn't mean that you should consume a high fat diet as doing so has been shown to worsen blood sugar control, but including some healthy sources of fats with your meals is a good strategy.
Choose foods rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fats, such as:
nuts and seeds
fatty fish like salmon, herring, and mackerel
8. Plate Up Polyphenols
Polyphenols are beneficial plant compounds that have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It's through these effects that boosting your intake of polyphenols can positively affect blood sugar levels (8).
The richest sources of polyphenols include (9):
9. Optimize Your Magnesium Intake
Magnesium is an essential mineral necessary for more than 300 metabolic reactions that regulate various functions in the body. One of these functions is supporting healthy blood sugar levels by maintaining insulin sensitivity.
Based on this role, it's known that people with prediabetes and type 2 diabetes have low magnesium levels and that increasing magnesium status can improve blood sugar regulation in these populations.
The dosage and form of magnesium varies across studies, but taking around 300 mg of elemental magnesium daily for three months has been deemed effective for improving blood glucose (10). You can also get adequate amounts of magnesium from your diet by including foods like:
10. Control Your Carbs
Unlike carbohydrates, fats and protein, have little, if any, effect on blood glucose levels.
Carbohydrates break down into individual sugar molecules that are then absorbed into the blood stream.
With an inability to clear the glucose from your blood effectively — as in the case with people with prediabetes or diabetes — glucose levels can rise.
To this effect, while the American Diabetes Association emphasizes that there is no best diet for diabetes — which is true — some people can better control their levels by decreasing carbohydrates from their diet (11).
This doesn't mean that you have to follow a very low carbohydrate or ketogenic-type diet.
Instead, it can mean decreasing the portions of the carb-containing foods you already consume, such as breads, pasta, rice, and snack foods, or swapping these foods for non starchy vegetables like leafy greens and the like.
11. Stay Hydrated
Drinking enough fluids each day can support blood sugar management.
To this point, one study found that just three days of low water intake significantly impairs blood sugar regulation in people with diabetes (12). It's believed that low hydration increases cortisol levels.
Cortisol — widely known as the body's stress hormone — raises blood sugar levels by releasing stored glucose. The amount of fluid you need daily varies depending on your body size, where you live, and how active you are, among many other factors.
But, if you need a general guideline, an adequate intake for fluid is about 16 cups for women and 12 cups for women. You can meet this goal with water, coffee, tea — and ideally calorie-free beverages — as well as from foods, especially fruits, vegetables, and meats.
12. Manage Stress
Just as poor hydration can increase the stress hormone, cortisol, and, consequently glucose levels, so too can excessive stress. Of course, some stress is an expected part of most people's lives. It's the uncontrolled, chronic stress that becomes a detriment to your blood sugar levels (13). Stress can also lead to weight gain and consequently increase insulin resistance.
You can manage your stress by sleeping well, exercising regularly, surrounding yourself with supportive friends and family, and avoiding or limiting potential triggers like caffeine and alcohol. Also, recognize that there are things that you cannot control (which can be paradoxically "freeing").
13. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Body weight has a significant impact on your ability to support healthy blood sugar regulation. Excess body fat decreases insulin sensitivity and inhibits the muscle uptake of glucose from your blood (14).
In people with excess body fat, research suggests that losing just 5% of body weight results in significant improvements in blood sugar levels, decreases the need for diabetes medications, and improves quality of life (15).
The only way to lose weight is to consume fewer calories than you expend. You can do this by eating fewer calories, increasing physical activity, or both.
14. Limit or Avoid Fried Foods
Fried foods like french fries, onion rings, donuts, spring rolls, you name it, are pro-inflammatory, meaning they promote inflammation in the body. Low-grade inflammation tends to already be present in people with high blood sugar but consuming pro-inflammatory fried foods can add more insult to injury and worsen insulin resistance (16).
Other foods that tend to be pro-inflammatory include:
processed meats, including bacon, hot dogs, and lunch meat
refined grains, including white breads and breakfast cereals
snack foods, including cookies, crackers, and chips
sodas and other sugar-sweetened drinks
If you consume these foods, removing or reducing them from your diet can help lower your blood sugar by increasing insulin sensitivity.
The Bottom Line
High blood sugar levels can occur in anyone, but it most commonly occurs in people with prediabetes and diabetes. Consistently elevated blood sugars can damage blood vessels, which can lead to stroke, heart attack, and problems with the kidneys, eyes, and nerves.
Fortunately, there are a number of natural things you can do to effectively and safely lower your blood sugar. They all involve making lifestyle changes, like upping your protein and fiber, managing weight and stress, exercising, and limiting pro-inflammatory foods.
It's always a good idea to talk with your medical provider if you plan to try new supplements like berberine or a glucose disposal agent.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Can I Treat High Blood Sugar?
Except in people with type 1 diabetes, improving or restoring insulin sensitivity through diet and exercise is the best way to treat high blood sugar. In some cases, medications might be needed in combination.
What Causes Blood Sugar to Be High?
Blood sugar becomes elevated when you don't produce any or enough insulin or if your body doesn't respond well to its glucose-lowering effects.
These instances occur in people with diabetes, but other medical conditions and the use of some medications can also increase blood sugar.
What Are the Symptoms of High Blood Sugar?
Not everyone experiences symptoms as a result of high blood sugar, but if your blood sugar is excessively or chronically high, you might experience excessive thirst, urination, and appetite.