meal to balance blood sugar

5 ways you can support blood sugar balance

Before we look at 5 ways you can support blood sugar balance, let’s look at why most people could benefit from improving their awareness of blood sugar balance in order to reduce their chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes in the UK

According to BANT (British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine), current figures show that more than 4.9 million people have diabetes in the UK and a further 13.6 million are considered at risk. Of these, 90% have Type 2 diabetes mellitus, the most common type, which is heavily influenced by dietary and lifestyle factors. A normal blood sugar level is 4 to 5.9 mmol/L before eating and under 7.8 mmol/L 90 minutes after eating a meal.

How to reduce your risk

Risk factors include being overweight or obese, poor dietary choices, and low levels of physical activity. The good news is that addressing these risk factors can prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. Good nutrition, regular exercise and getting enough sleep can all play an important part in helping us to stay well.

What is type 2 diabetes?

It’s a chronic condition that develops when blood glucose levels become dysregulated and the body develops insulin resistance, which is when your cells fail to respond to the hormone insulin. This results in high blood glucose levels as your body’s cells are unable to take in the sugar and use it for energy. These sugars are then free to travel around the body where they accumulate and can lead to disorders of the circulatory, nervous, and immune systems, including diabetes.

Obesity is believed to account for 80-85% of the risk of developing the disease. Current data shows that 63% of the British population is now classified as overweight or obese. Carrying excess weight around the abdominal area is particularly significant. Waist circumferences greater than 80cm in women and 94cm in men increases risk factors.

When we regularly consume too many sugars the body can eventually stop responding to insulin, leaving blood glucose levels dangerously elevated. Additionally, these excess sugars can also be converted into fat, increasing the risks of becoming overweight or obese.

5 ways you can support blood sugar balance

Switch to wholegrains

Simple carbohydrates, found in processed white bread and pasta, are quickly absorbed, causing spikes in blood sugar levels. In contrast, complex carbohydrates found in wholegrain bread, pasta, rice, oats, etc are richer in fibre, take the body longer to digest and cause blood sugar levels to rise more steadily. This helps maintain blood glucose levels and a regular insulin response.

Eat a wide range of vegetables and fruit

Vegetables typically contain low or no sugars and are also rich in fibre and other essential nutrients. Not only does fibre support blood glucose regulation, but it also has the added benefits of nourishing your gut bacteria, helping you feel fuller for longer and promoting regular bowel activity. Aim to fill half your plate with vegetables. Fruits contain some natural fructose sugars; however, these are balanced by the fibre content. Stick to 2-3 portions of fruit a day and ideally make them berries or apples which are lower in sugars than other fruit.

Protein every time you eat

This is so important. Balancing the carbohydrate content of your meals with a portion of protein can help lower the increase in blood sugar levels than if they are consumed alone. Protein foods typically contain no, or very low sugar content. Much like fibre, protein foods are also more slowly digested which helps steady the release of sugars from the carbohydrate ingredients. Proteins sources include pulses, nuts & seeds, fish, eggs, tofu, dairy products such as Greek yoghurt and cheese, as well as meat and poultry.

Cut out snacks

Snacking between meals can lead to a vicious cycle of sugar highs and lows and a continual release of insulin to regulate blood glucose levels. Snacks are often a habit rather than a necessity. Reducing, or better still removing, snacks between meals allows your blood glucose level to regulate itself and reduces the production of insulin and likelihood of developing insulin resistance.

Avoid processed food

Processed foods can contain high levels of salt, sugar, and saturated fats. They often have the fibre removed and lack the nutrient content of natural wholefood ingredients. Regularly consuming processed foods likely increases your intake of free sugars and may contribute to weight gain and blood glucose imbalances. Get to know your foods by reading the labels. Aim to fill your basket with more fresh, seasonal ingredients and limit the more heavily processed foods.

How I can help you

Registered Nutritional Therapy Practitioners are trained to support clients in reducing their risk factors for metabolic conditions. I have helped many clients over the years who have been told they were pre-diabetic and, having guided them to make dietary changes, their blood sugar readings have then come back into the normal range. If you would like my help, you can contact me here vanessa@wellbeingandnutrition.co.uk or see here for more information