What Can I Eat To Keep My Blood Sugar And Cholesterol Low
Cutting out refined carbs and eating whole foods can help you lower these markers at the same time.
Q: My blood test shows prediabetes and a cholesterol score of 208 mg/dl . Im finding it difficult to know what to eat because the recommended diets for these conditions seem contrary. For example, fruit is said to be acceptable on a low-cholesterol diet but not on a low-blood-sugar one, while meat is the opposite. How can I balance this out?
Many people who have high blood sugar also have high cholesterol levels. However, both can be managed with a healthy diet. Whats more, for some, its possible to reverse prediabetes through diet and lifestyle changes .
Its common to see misinformation about what foods are bad for certain conditions, including high cholesterol, prediabetes, and diabetes. Nevertheless, the overall quality of your diet is most important.
The three macronutrients carbohydrates, proteins, and fats have different impacts on both blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
For example, sources of carbs like bread, pasta, and fruit affect blood sugar more than sources of protein or fat. On the other hand, cholesterol-containing fat sources, such as dairy and meat, have a greater effect on cholesterol than on blood sugar.
Carbs That Keep Blood Sugar Steady
Our wide variety of food products contain different levels and types of carbohydrates, making it harder to eat wisely with diabetes. In general, you will want to choose carbs that have the least impact on your blood sugar. That means selecting items that are high in fiber and low in sugar since these are absorbed more slowly and so have little impact on blood sugar changes. Think whole-grain breads and cereals, beans, fruits and vegetables, and dairy products without added sugar.
Apple Cider Vinegar And Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar and plain vinegar have many health benefits.
Although its made from apples, the sugar in the fruit is fermented into acetic acid. The resulting product contains less than 1 gram of carbs per tablespoon.
According to a meta-analysis of six studies, including 317 people with type 2 diabetes, vinegar has beneficial effects on fasting blood sugar levels and HbA1c .
Apple cider vinegar may have many other healthful properties, including antimicrobial and antioxidant effects. But more studies are needed to confirm its health benefits.
To incorporate apple cider vinegar into your diet, begin with 4 teaspoons mixed in a glass of water each day before each meal. Note that you may want to put 1 teaspoon per glass of water so that the taste is not as strong. Increase to a maximum of 4 tablespoons per day.
Apple cider vinegar may help improve fasting blood sugar levels, but more research is needed to confirm its health benefits.
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What To Drink When You Have Diabetes
Your choice of drinks can make a difference in your blood sugar levels. Palinski-Wade recommends focusing on unsweetened beverages, such as water and seltzer.
If you like coffee or tea, you may notice that caffeine increases your blood sugar levels, so Palinski-Wade advises monitoring your glucose response after consuming these drinks to see where you stand.
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Sprinkle On Some Cinnamon
Research on cinnamon’s blood-sugar-stabilizing powers is a little mixed, and it may not be a wonder spice. But if you’re adding it to an already healthy diet, then it can have a subtle benefit, especially if you add a lot of it into your diet .* Some studies suggest that cinnamon promotes healthy blood sugar by increasing insulin sensitivity, or making insulin more efficient at moving glucose into cells.* Try sprinkling it onto oatmeal or into low-sugar smoothies . Bonus: It tastes delicious!
Why Should I Be Physically Active If I Have Diabetes
Physical activity is an important part of managing your blood glucose level and staying healthy. Being active has many health benefits.
- burns extra calories so you can keep your weight down if needed
- improves your mood
- can prevent falls and improve memory in older adults
- may help you sleep better
If you are overweight, combining physical activity with a reduced-calorie eating plan can lead to even more benefits. In the Look AHEAD: Action for Health in Diabetes study,1 overweight adults with type 2 diabetes who ate less and moved more had greater long-term health benefits compared to those who didnt make these changes. These benefits included improved cholesterol levels, less sleep apnea, and being able to move around more easily.
Even small amounts of physical activity can help. Experts suggest that you aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate or vigorous physical activity 5 days of the week.3 Moderate activity feels somewhat hard, and vigorous activity is intense and feels hard. If you want to lose weight or maintain weight loss, you may need to do 60 minutes or more of physical activity 5 days of the week.3
Be patient. It may take a few weeks of physical activity before you see changes in your health.
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How To Reduce Blood Sugar Immediately
How to lower blood sugar fast in the moment can depend on a variety of factors, but the following strategies are almost always helpful.*
- Go for a walk**
- Drink a large glass of water
- Take rapid acting insulin if directed by your doctor
*Extremely high blood sugar can be a life threatening situation if ketones are also present. Diabetic ketoacidosis can develop when blood sugars reach this level. Discuss your plan of action with your doctor if/when this happens. This includes knowing when itâs ok to stay home and treat your blood sugar and when you need to head to the emergency room.
**Exercise may not be appropriate if blood sugars are > 250mg/dL. Discuss this with your doctor before trying to exercise when your blood sugar is this high.
Healthy Eating For Blood Sugar Control
If you have diabetes, a healthy eating plan for you is not that different from a healthy eating plan for people without diabetes. The American Diabetes Association echoes the dietary guidelines recommended for the general public that is, a diet centered on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes , and low-fat dairy products.
However, you’ll want to pay special attention to your carbohydrate intake.
Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains provide more nutrition per calorie than refined carbohydrates and tend to be rich in fiber. Your body digests high-fiber foods more slowly which means a more moderate rise in blood sugar.
For most people with diabetes, carbohydrates should account for about 45% to 55% of the total calories you eat each day. Choose your carbohydrates wisely ideally, from vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. Avoid highly refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta, and rice, as well as candy, sugary soft drinks, and sweets. Refined carbohydrates tend to cause sharp spikes in blood sugar, and can boost blood triglyceride levels.
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Foods To Avoid With Type 2 Diabetes
Flour and sugar represent 2 ingredients most likely to wreak havoc for people with diabetes because they typically add unnecessary calories and end up leading to a boost in blood sugar and your weight a double whammy. While you dont have to avoid white flour and sugar altogether, be aware that foods made with themincluding sugar-sweetened cookies, cakes, doughnuts, and other baked goods and sugar-sweetened drinkshave little nutritional value and are likely to send your blood sugar soaring.
Its also important to steer clear of processed foods when possible. The more a food has been mechanically handled and refined, the greater the likelihood that its nutritional value will decrease, and such foods are often high in sugar, refined flour, or saturated fats. By eating foods considered highly refined , you are filling up on foods that will make it harder to manage your weight and your blood sugar levels.
While a diabetes diet is more about avoiding certain types of foodsi.e., empty carbs and foods with little nutritional valuethan cutting out any single bad food, there are some clear items to avoid or minimize:
White breads and pastries
Pasta made from white flour
Processed foods made with added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup
Foods high in saturated fat
Candy and soft drinks that contain sugar and high-fructose corn syrup
Which Diet Is Right For Diabetes
Many diets claim health benefits. But newer guidelines for people with type 2 diabetes say that there is not just one diet for diabetes management that a variety of eating styles can work. How do you choose whats right for you?
Before you decide to commit to a particular diet, heres some tried-and-true tips:
- Eat more non-starchy vegetables things like broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. Raw or cooked vegetables or salads its hard to eat too many of this food group. Eat them at meals and for snacks.
- Minimize added sugars and refined grains. Choose cereals and breads without added sugars or very low in added sugar, and drink water as your main beverage.
- Choose whole foods over highly processed foods as much as possible. Look for whole grains over refined grains. Avoid or eat less from boxed mixes, breaded and deep fried foods, or those with heavy gravies and sauces.
There many diets out there that you can look to for weight loss. But our list highlights a few better diets, two you should approach with caution, and diets to avoid altogether if you have diabetes.
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Key #5 To Lower Blood Sugar: Choose Fats Wisely
When it comes to lowering blood sugar, the good news is that great food actually can help you do this!
Foods rich in healthy fat and protein are very satiating – meaning they help keep you full from one meal to the next. They are also nutrient-dense – meaning unlike carbohydrates that usually just get stored as energy if you dont need the energy right away, fat and protein are put to use to make hormones, bones, muscles, and more.
Ive covered the different types of fats in depth in this episode but as a quick review, youre going to want to bias your fat intake towards whole, unprocessed fats from animals and plants, and avoid the processed fats.
Great sources of fat from dairy would include whole milk, cream or half n half, string cheese, full-fat Greek yogurt, cottage cheese and butter.
Ive done a lot of research on saturated fats and in my opinion they are neutral at worst, beneficial at best. If youre worried about eating a lot of saturated fat because youre afraid of high cholesterol, Im going to push back on that because saturated fat is one of the few nutrients shown to raise HDL cholesterol which is protective against heart disease.
Ive done interviews with Dr. Nadir Ali and Nina Teicholz who will hopefully put your mind at ease on this topic.
Dr. Jason Fung does a great job putting the myth that saturated fat is linked to heart disease to bed. He sums it up by saying in his book The Obesity Code,
This is an important distinction.
Exercise That Affects Blood Sugar
Physical activity can:
- Make your body more use insulin better
- Help you reach and maintain a healthy weight
- Help reduce your risk of heart disease
Combining these types of exercise helps improve long-term sugar control:
- Aerobic exercise, which increases your heart rate
- Resistance training, for building muscle strength
Talk to your doctor about an activity plan. Ask about precautions you should take.
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Be Smart About Sweets
Eating a diabetic diet doesnt mean eliminating sugar altogether, but like most of us, chances are you consume more sugar than is healthy. If you have diabetes, you can still enjoy a small serving of your favorite dessert now and then. The key is moderation.
Reduce your cravings for sweets by slowly reducing the sugar in your diet a little at a time to give your taste buds time to adjust.
Hold the bread if you want dessert. Eating sweets at a meal adds extra carbohydrates so cut back on the other carb-heavy foods at the same meal.
Add some healthy fat to your dessert. Fat slows down the digestive process, meaning blood sugar levels dont spike as quickly. That doesnt mean you should reach for the donuts, though. Think healthy fats, such as peanut butter, ricotta cheese, yogurt, or nuts.
Eat sweets with a meal, rather than as a stand-alone snack. When eaten on their own, sweets cause your blood sugar to spike. But if you eat them along with other healthy foods as part of your meal, your blood sugar wont rise as rapidly.
When you eat dessert, truly savor each bite. How many times have you mindlessly eaten your way through a bag of cookies or a huge piece of cake? Can you really say that you enjoyed each bite? Make your indulgence count by eating slowly and paying attention to the flavors and textures. Youll enjoy it more, plus youre less likely to overeat.
Does Following A Type 2 Diabetes Diet Mean I Wont Need To Take Insulin
It might. For people with type 2 diabetes, your pancreas produces plenty of insulin that is not sensed by the cells, so your body is unable to properly use the insulin you make. Usually, type 2 diabetes can be controlled well with lifestyle changesparticularly shifting from processed carbs to high fiber foods and walking dailywith the addition of medication as needed.
Some people with type 2 diabetes may also need to begin taking insulin at some point, says Sandra Arévalo, MPH, RDN, CDE, a diabetes expert and spokesperson with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It can depend on your age and your individual ability to control your blood sugar with diet and exercise.
However, when type 2 diabetes is found early enough and weight loss is achieved, in most cases, insulin is never needed.
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Can I Follow A Vegetarian Or Vegan Diet With Type 2 Diabetes
Yes, definitely, and in fact plant-based diets can be especially beneficial for people with diabetes by providing lots of dietary fiber . Vegetarian and vegan are not necessarily synonymous with nutritious you could eat a vegetarian or vegan diet filled with highly processed junk, like chips and candy. So make sure your plant-based plan contains plenty of healthy items like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds and is relatively low in added sugar and processed fare.
Eat At Regularly Set Times
Your body is better able to regulate blood sugar levelsand your weightwhen you maintain a regular meal schedule. Aim for moderate and consistent portion sizes for each meal.
Start your day off with a good breakfast. It will provide energy as well as steady blood sugar levels.
Eat regular small mealsup to 6 per day. Eating regularly will help you keep your portions in check.
Keep calorie intake the same. To regulate blood sugar levels, try to eat roughly the same amount every day, rather than overeating one day or at one meal, and then skimping the next.
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What Foods And Drinks Should I Limit If I Have Diabetes
Foods and drinks to limit include
- fried foods and other foods high in saturated fat and trans fat
- foods high in salt, also called sodium
- sweets, such as baked goods, candy, and ice cream
- beverages with added sugars, such as juice, regular soda, and regular sports or energy drinks
Drink water instead of sweetened beverages. Consider using a sugar substitute in your coffee or tea.
If you drink alcohol, drink moderatelyno more than one drink a day if youre a woman or two drinks a day if youre a man. If you use insulin or diabetes medicines that increase the amount of insulin your body makes, alcohol can make your blood glucose level drop too low. This is especially true if you havent eaten in a while. Its best to eat some food when you drink alcohol.