Here are 4 ways to help manage your blood sugar
The amount and type of sugar you consume affects how your blood sugar levels change. And other factors, like exercise and sleep, can also have an impact.
How quickly your blood sugar level rises after you eat, how high the rise is, and whether it’s followed by a dip can all influence your health over time.
There’s no magic trick to quickly lower your blood sugar if it’s high.
But you can take steps to change how quickly your blood sugar level rises after you eat — and how high that rise gets.
By doing certain activities, eating certain things, and eating at certain times, you can make your blood sugar changes become slower, steadier, and healthier.
Exercise can improve how your body controls levels of blood sugar, also called blood glucose.
When we exercise, our muscles need more energy. So, they take more sugar from our blood. Our muscles also use up their own stores of energy.
Regular exercise increases your muscles’ capacity to take sugar from your bloodstream.
The more you exercise particular muscles, the easier it is for them to take in sugar. This helps regulate how much sugar is in your blood.
Some research suggests that even short amounts of high-intensity exercise can improve blood sugar levels for up to 3 days.
Any kind of exercise can have an effect. So, low-intensity activities, like walking, household chores, and gardening can each make a difference.
“If you’re only able to do low-intensity activity, a good time to do that is after a meal,” advises Prof. Javier Gonzalez, a professor of nutrition and metabolism at the University of Bath, in the United Kingdom.
The ZOE Science & Nutrition podcast series delves deeper into the relationship between exercise and blood sugar control. If you want to learn more, listen to the discussion with Dr. Sarah Berry and Prof. Gonzalez here.
Get a good amount of sleep
The number of hours you spend slumbering can influence how well your body controls your blood sugar the next day.
In one of ZOE’s studies, we saw that participants who hadn’t slept well had bigger increases in blood sugar after breakfast, compared with participants who had slept well. This was particularly true for participants who ate sugary foods.
The time when people went to bed also had an impact.
Those who went to bed early tended to have better blood sugar control than those who went to bed late, even if those participants stayed in bed for longer the next morning.
If you’ve slept badly, you may end up craving a sugary breakfast or drink. When this happens, consider opting for foods that are rich in protein and healthy fats, rather than refined cereals, white bread, or pastries.
Some good breakfast options include eggs, sourdough with avocado, and yogurt with nuts and berries.
The ZOE Science & Nutrition podcast features a discussion of the study’s findings and analysis from one of the lead authors, Prof. Paul Franks, as well as from Dr. Sarah Berry.
Eat plenty of fiber
Your gut loves fiber, which feeds the microbes of your gut microbiome and promotes regular bowel movements. But fiber can also lend a hand with blood sugar control.
One type of fiber is soluble — it dissolves in water. When you eat this, it forms a gel that slows your digestion and the movement of sugar into your bloodstream.
These effects may continue until your next meal; it’s known as the “second-meal effect,” and the cause is currently unclear.
Many of us don’t eat enough fiber. If you want to start eating more, check out our article on foods that contain the most fiber.
When adding fiber to your diet, be sure to drink plenty of water. Eating too much without adequate fluids can lead to cramps, constipation, and excessive gas.
You can learn more by checking out the ZOE Science & Nutrition podcast on fiber.
Avoid late night eating
What you eat affects your blood sugar levels — and when you eat also plays an important role.
Prof. Tim Spector, scientific co-founder of ZOE, believes that ending your eating at a reasonable time can have further benefits.
“Leave a good interval overnight, so your gut microbes can recover,” he says. “They send out a different team at night — like the office cleaners who come in and tidy all the desks. These microbes clean up your gut lining so it’s ready for the next day.”
Keeping your gut lining healthy supports your immune system.
So, winding up your eating early could be a good move for your overall gut health, as well as a way to support your blood sugar control.
To learn more about the effects of fasting intervals, check out the ZOE Science & Nutrition podcast on intermittent fasting.
There’s no way to quickly bring down your blood sugar levels if they’re high. But the steps we’ve covered above can help make any rises and falls steadier and more controlled.
Plus, the benefits of exercise, fiber, and healthy sleep don’t stop there. Each of these strategies is great for your gut health and can improve your overall health in the long term.
It’s worth noting that we all have different blood sugar responses to different foods. So, even if you and a friend had the same meal, the effects on your blood sugar wouldn’t be the same.
ZOE's at-home test measures your blood sugar and blood fat responses to foods, along with the health of your gut. With this information, our personalized nutrition program supports you to eat the best foods for you and your health goals.
You can learn more about how it works by taking our free quiz.