Controlling Blood Sugar with Diet and Lifestyle

When you eat food, your body breaks down carbohydrates into a simple sugar called glucose, which is absorbed into the blood. Blood glucose (or blood sugar) is the main sugar found in your blood, and it is a critical element in the human body. Not only does blood glucose fuel every cell in your body to keep your muscles moving and your heart pumping, it’s essential to keep your brain thinking and the central nervous system firing.

The body tries to maintain your blood glucose levels within a specific range to ensure your blood sugar levels never dip too low or go too high. Maintaining a steady blood glucose level throughout the day can keep you feeling adequately fueled in the short-term, and helps keep you healthy in the long-term. When your levels spike or dip too quickly it can lead to symptoms like sleepiness, mood swings, and food cravings. Having uncontrolled blood glucose levels that are consistently outside of the healthy range can lead to complications like type 2 diabetes and heart disease. 

The good news: it is possible to manage your blood sugar levels via your eating and lifestyle habits. Many people know the importance of eating healthy and exercising frequently helps to prevent type 2 diabetes, but because reducing stress and getting enough rest is often overlooked as a way to control blood sugar, let’s tackle that first.

Find ways to reduce stress. Stress and depression are the two major causes of elevated levels of cortisol, the body’s main stress hormone. Over a long period of time, sustained higher levels of cortisol make it more difficult to control blood sugar. Some studies have shown practicing mindfulness can help to improve body weight, blood glucose levels, and blood pressure in people with diabetes. 

However, we’d like to stress (no pun intended!) the importance of choosing activities that you find enjoyable. It can be listening to music, reading a book, doing yoga, or perhaps, taking the plunge to do something you’ve always wanted to do but never really had time.

Prioritize sleep. Most sleep experts would recommend you sleep 7 to 8 hours each night. When you’re short on sleep (less than 6 hours), your body becomes less efficient in maintaining your blood glucose level, raises afternoon and evening levels of cortisol (as we mentioned above), and makes you crave sweet and salty snacks. Turn the lights off and get ready to sleep with these helpful tips for getting a good night’s sleep.

Get moving. Inactivity is closely linked to increased diabetes risk, so get moving! Active muscles are more efficient at absorbing and using the glucose that circulates in the blood. You don’t need to exercise at a high intensity or for a long time to get the benefits—aim for 150 minutes per week or about 20 minutes a day of moderate-intensity exercise like walking, light jogging, or swimming. Regular physical activity also helps to improve metabolism, support a healthy body weight, and reduce stress.

Eat nourishing food. Look at food as nourishment and healthy eating as a form of self-care. Focus on what to add to your plate rather than what to eliminate. One of the most important food groups for preventing type 2 diabetes is whole grains—such as whole wheat, oats, or brown rice—due to the high fiber content and nutrients that are typically removed in processed grains. Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables to ensure you’re getting lots of fiber and nutrients to help you feel satisfied, nourish your cells, and reduce inflammation. The abundance of phytonutrients and antioxidants found in plants helps prevent disease, including lowering your risk of developing diabetes

Choose lean and minimally processed sources of protein such as fish, chicken, and eggs. If you can afford it, grass fed and organic tend to be more nutrient-rich. Including small amounts of protein-rich foods in your meals and snacks can help you manage your hunger better and improve insulin sensitivity, and eating probiotic rich yogurt lowers your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

If you’re interested in seeing how your personal diet and lifestyle habits are impacting your blood glucose levels, start to track your readings using the Blood Glucose feature in the Fitbit app. You can find the feature by tapping Discover and then Health & Fitness stats. 

Essentially, all four areas are the cornerstone in controlling blood sugar. If you are keen on making lifestyle modifications, your Fitbit Health Coach is just a click away to provide you with personalized care.