These 12 Foods Help Lower Blood Sugar Naturally
Every time you eat, your digestive system goes on full alert to break down the food and transport the nutrients where they’re needed, so everything works properly, and you stay healthy. What you eat, however, can have a big impact on what happens inside your body afterward. A great example is what happens to your blood sugar levels, and along those lines, certain foods can cause blood sugar levels to quickly skyrocket. Other foods help lower blood sugar levels. And how you orchestrate this fantastic dance can lead to more consistent, robust energy and to greater health. Or not…
Why Manage Blood Sugar Levels?
You don’t need to be diabetic or pre-diabetic for managing blood sugar to be important. Keeping blood sugar levels well-regulated within a normal range can improve energy and mood, prevent the development of diseases like diabetes, and help prevent serious health issues like heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.1 Maintaining blood sugar levels in the normal range can also help you manage your weight, burn fat, and just feel better.
Makes sense, right? Yet an estimated 100+ million people in the U.S. alone experience health issues due to imbalanced blood sugar. What’s worse, 80% of those people don’t even know it, and the medical costs associated with those issues, along with lost productivity, add up to over $250 billion per year. This is obviously a very important issue to get under control—both on the individual and society levels.
What is Blood Sugar?
Blood sugar levels refer to the amount of glucose that’s flowing through the bloodstream. Glucose, if you’ll remember, is a building block of carbohydrates and a primary source of energy for the body.
Any time you eat carbohydrate-containing foods—from vegetables and fruits to whole grains to sugary snacks—glucose enters into the blood. At the same time, a vital hormone—insulin—is also released to encourage cells to suck up the glucose, which can be used immediately for fuel, stored for later use (as glycogen), or converted to fat. For example, cells can convert glucose to ATP (with or without oxygen), which then powers the cells and helps them grow and function properly.
Problems, however, can arise when people consume too many carbs (particularly too many refined carbs) too often. The body can eventually become insulin resistant, leaving the glucose circulating in the blood rather than being absorbed and used for fuel by the cells.
This can result in a condition called hyperglycemia, which can turn on hunger, leading to increased food consumption followed by weight gain. Worse, the calories that are consumed aren’t properly burned for energy and rather are shuttled into the fat stores.
Hyperglycemia can also lead to dehydration as the body tries to flush out the extra sugar from the blood via the kidneys. And that can leave you feeling lethargic and unwell, put undue strain on the kidneys, and increase blood pressure.
All of this can lead to the mitochondria not getting the glucose they need to produce ATP. The cells don’t have the fuel they need to function properly. And thus, they may be less effective at neutralizing free radicals. They can then go into oxidative stress, which leads to free radical damage, higher risk of disease for all systems, decreased insulin sensitivity, and just plain exhaustion. That is why it is crucial to consume those foods that help lower blood sugar.
Controlling Blood Sugar
At the other end of the dietary spectrum are well-controlled blood sugar levels, also known as reduced glycemic variability, which comes with a host of health benefits. It can help you shed fat, contribute to consistent energy levels, reduce the risk of diabetes and other health problems, and more.
And fortunately, how to control blood sugar levels isn’t complicated or hard. It’s just a matter of choosing foods wisely and staying active.
These 12 Foods Help Lower Blood Sugar
1. Nuts, like walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and peanuts, provide protein, healthy fats, and fiber, which all help stabilize blood sugar levels as well as support healthy levels of inflammation. 2,3
2. Beans and legumes, like chickpeas, lentils, black beans, and kidney beans, are packed with protein, full of healthy fiber, and provide slowly digested starch, which all help regulate blood sugar. These foods are also notably high in soluble fiber, which may lower blood sugar by improving insulin sensitivity. 4,5 Oats are also high in soluble fiber to support blood sugar regulation. 6,7
3. Seafood, from fish to shellfish, provides protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It’s an all-around healthy food that supports healthy blood sugar levels. And because it’s high in protein, it slows digestion, helping avoid blood sugar spikes, and can increase satiation. It can also reduce hunger, so you don’t overeat and maintain healthy body fat levels. 8 Fatty fish, like salmon and sardines, appears to be particularly effective. 9
4. Eggs are incredible, concentrated sources of protein combined with healthy fats, loads of vitamins and minerals, and even antioxidants. And they’re also good for balancing blood sugar levels. They’ve been shown to reduce fasting blood sugar levels as well as improve insulin sensitivity, and when consumed regularly, they have even been shown to help decrease the risk of developing diabetes by up to 40%. 10, 11
5. Avocados are rich in healthy fats and fibers that help lower blood sugar while keeping you feeling full for longer, lowering inflammation, decreasing blood pressure, and supporting healthy weight. 12, 13
6. Leafy greens, like spinach, kale, microgreens, and collard greens, are low in calories and carbs yet very high in nutrients (like vitamin C and other antioxidants), fiber, and phytochemicals. 14, 15
7. Broccoli and broccoli sprouts are also rich in nutrients like vitamin C, magnesium, and antioxidants, as well as fiber. They also provide sulforaphane, which is a unique compound that has been associated with numerous health benefits, such as decreasing disease risk, supporting digestion, and helping the body detox. 16 It may also help transport sugar into cells, so it’s easier to maintain blood sugar levels. 17 To make the sulforaphane even more available to the body, combine cooked broccoli with brown mustard. 18
8. Cinnamon, which adds sweet flavor to many recipes, has actually been shown to lower blood sugar levels by up to 29% after a meal. 19 Cinnamon has also been found to help slow the breakdown of carbohydrates after eating.
9. Pumpkin and pumpkin seeds provide yet another reason to look forward to fall. This vibrant fruit is loaded with fiber and antioxidants, including unique polysaccharides, which help support blood sugar regulation. 20 Pumpkin seeds provide their own benefits. They’re high in healthy fats and proteins, for example, and have even been found by research to reduce blood sugar levels after a meal by up to 35%. 21
10. Chia and flax seeds are high in fiber and healthy fats, and both have been found to help improve blood sugar control and improve insulin sensitivity. 22, 23
11. Fermented foods, like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, and yogurt, provide health-promoting probiotics, minerals, and antioxidants. And studies have demonstrated these foods can also improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity. 24, 25, 26
12. Berries are loaded with fiber and are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Yet, these sweet treats have also been shown to help improve blood sugar regulation. One study found, for example, when red raspberries were consumed as part of a high-carb meal, post-meal insulin and blood sugar levels were significantly reduced. 27 Other berries, including blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries, have been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity and help clear glucose from the blood. 28, 29, 30
Of course, the foods you eliminate or at least reduce can also be a big help in stabilizing blood sugar levels. Foods to limit include:
- Highly refined carbohydrates like those found in white bread, pasta, and rice
- Sugary soft drinks and juices
- High-sugar desserts and pastries
- Processed junk foods
- Fast foods
Your lifestyle, activity levels, body weight, stress levels, and genetics can also play significant roles in how well you maintain your blood sugar levels. Yet, a healthy diet loaded with green leafy, cruciferous, and yellow vegetables and berries is one of the most important components. 31, 32, 33 In other words, eat well, exercise regularly, get a good night’s sleep, and drink plenty of water to support balanced blood sugar levels.