The sugar present in the blood is glucose, a molecule belonging to the group of simple carbohydrates. Its job is to deliver emergency energy, which the body can use immediately in case of need.
It is also the only molecule capable of nourishing the brain. Life is not possible without glucose. The blood concentration must not differ from the physiological threshold of 110 milligrams per milliliter (110 mg/ml). When the amount of sugar decreases below this value, we speak of hypoglycemia, while when it increases, hyperglycemia establishes.
The metabolic disease known as diabetes mellitus is characterized by reduced insulin availability or poor sensitivity to the hormone produced by the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas, metabolic defects that alter normal insulin activity.
More specifically, insulin is an essential hormone for the metabolism of simple or complex sugars taken with food. It is an operation that transforms them into precious energy for muscles and organs. Basically, the protein hormone produced in the pancreas can no longer stimulate glucose uptake in muscle cells and adipose tissues and regulate blood sugar levels.
What is meant by hyperglycemia?
While hypoglycemia (low blood sugar level) is a condition that can be easily balanced by introducing carbohydrate-containing foods, hyperglycemia (high blood sugar level) is a serious metabolic disorder.
Insulin can help control glucose metabolism, a hormone synthesized by the endocrine portion of the pancreas; this substance keeps glucose within physiological limits to ensure the correct development of the body’s metabolic reactions.
When disturbances occur that affect insulin synthesis, or if the insulin does not work properly, the blood glucose level tends to rise, with the onset of hyperglycemia.
The clinical laboratories measure blood glucose by investigating a blood sample taken after fasting for at least eight hours. In post-prandial samples, this value is very high without this fact implying any disturbance.
The consequences of this disorder can occur both in the immediate and in the long term. The short-term consequences include the so-called “three P syndrome,” which implies:
- Polydipsia (increased thirst).
- Polyphagia (increased hunger).
- Polyuria (increased urine production over 24 hours).
The long-term consequences refer to ketoacidosis, which involves an accumulation of ketone bodies in the blood, leading to vomiting, dehydration, and in some particularly serious cases, loss of consciousness.
In addition, prolonged hyperglycemia can also determine the onset of visual disturbances (ocular fundus), impaired renal function with modification of some functional indices such as creatinine, uremia, and glomerular filtration rate, and finally, diabetic foot and some neurological alterations.
These disorders are usually accompanied by notable muscular asthenia (physical weakness), generalized malaise, and repeated infections, mainly affecting the bladder (cystitis) or migraine.
What are the causes of hyperglycemia?
It is necessary to distinguish between predisposing factors and real causes. Often, these two factors can overlap, strengthening each other. In most cases, the predisposing factors may not evolve into overt causes.
Among the main predisposing factors, we remember:
- Some previous pathologies.
- An incorrect diet with a prevalence of foods based on simple sugars.
- Little or no physical activity.
- Dehydration due to excessive sweating or poor fluid intake.
- Taking medicines in steroid drugs, or even diuretics, hormone replacement therapy, birth control pills, lithium, etc.
- Cushing’s syndrome.
- Impaired renal function.
- Overweight and tendency to obesity.
The overt causes are attributable to an altered insulin metabolism resulting from anatomical or functional abnormalities of the pancreas.
Foods that instantly lower blood sugar.
When hyperglycemia occurs in the blood, it is usually necessary to lower the glucose value very quickly since, as mentioned above, hyperglycemia is a disorder that presents numerous risks. Following are some foods that can help reduce the blood sugar level instantly and in the long term.
1. Foods rich in fiber.
To quickly lower the glycemic rate in the blood, it is advisable to consume a few slices of toasted rye bread, whole meal rusks, or a few tablespoons of oat flakes. Even a good soup of whole meal, spelled oat, barley, millet, or buckwheat can help normalize the blood sugar level.
2. Green leafy vegetables.
Among the green leafy vegetables most effective in controlling blood sugar are turnip greens, dandelions, kale, lettuce, spinach, and rocket.
Consider that almost all green leafy vegetables positively affect blood sugar as they contain active nutraceutical ingredients and chlorophyll, a particularly effective pigment to supply the body with energy instead of food sugars.
Wide varieties of these foods are defined as “seeds of health,” as they act as real pesticides to stabilize blood glucose levels and, at the same time, provide the body with noble proteins made up of essential amino acids.
In addition, the seeds offer the body high amounts of mineral salts, including iron, zinc, and magnesium. The main seeds recommended to lower blood sugar quickly are sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, hemp, flax, and chia seeds.
4. Bitter cocoa.
Bitter cocoa is a natural substance extremely rich in active ingredients that are beneficial to the body. It speeds up all metabolic processes by providing energy without causing an increase in body weight. Furthermore, due to its high magnesium concentration, it actively regulates blood sugar.
Almonds also contain a lot of magnesium, protein, and dietary fiber. In this way, the blood glucose level gets back to normal. At the same time, the fibers, having high satiating power, inhibit the appetite stimulus by controlling the desire to eat, especially snacks, and between meals.
Avocado is a fruit characterized by a high concentration of monounsaturated fatty acids responsible for controlling blood sugar as they reduce the phenomenon of insulin resistance. Furthermore, the pulp of this fruit contains beta-sitosterol, a chemical compound capable of significantly lowering the blood levels of cholesterol, another harmful substance to the body.
7. Lemon and lime.
Despite what many people think, lemon is not an acidifying fruit. On the contrary, it performs an effective alkalizing action on the body. Lime, containing high amounts of sodium and potassium, can raise the blood pH as these ions transform into salts (sodium bicarbonate and potassium bicarbonate), alkalizing the blood.
Tomato also has a rapid alkalizing effect in the blood, thanks to lycopene, an effective antioxidant to eliminate free radicals. Therefore, a raw tomato salad manages to normalize glucose levels by acting on the acid component of the blood.
9. Coconut milk.
Organic coconut milk provides the body with the right amount of unsaturated fatty acids, proteins, mineral salts, and fibers, which help lower blood sugar.
According to some scientific research published in the Journal of Nutrition, blueberries affect insulin synthesis, helping to regulate its concentration for blood sugar control. Therefore, consuming at least a handful of blueberries a day (even in the form of yogurt or fruit juice) is advisable to ensure a normal glucose metabolism.
If she had known, the famous English nanny could have sung, “Just a little vinegar and the sugar goes down”! Apple cider vinegar has long been a very popular food: the acetic acid in the vinegar reduces the levels of certain enzymes in the stomach.
Drinking apple cider vinegar mixed with water before meals has various health benefits. It improves insulin sensitivity and lessens blood sugar spikes after a starch-based meal for pre-diabetes sufferers and those with diabetes.
12. Garlic and onions.
It has long been used to lower cholesterol levels but also affects blood sugar levels. Garlic extracts increase the amount of insulin for diabetes sufferers.
In many recipes, garlic is often paired with onions, which also positively affects blood sugar levels. The sulfur-based components present in onions, such as S-methyl cysteine and the flavonoid quercetin, are the architects of these positive effects.
When you think of cinnamon, your mind immediately rushes to the combination of sugar and cinnamon. So, considering cinnamon to be effective for lowering blood sugar and reducing the risk of developing diabetes can be somewhat surprising.
Both cinnamon sticks and cinnamon extracts reduce the fasting glucose level. In addition, cinnamon reduces total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoproteins of bad cholesterol (LDL) while increasing high-density lipoproteins of good cholesterol (HDL).
But be careful! There are various types of cinnamon, and some are better than others. For example, Vietnamese cinnamon contains high levels of coumarin, a natural ingredient that could damage the liver. Ceylon cinnamon is safer.
A spice with seeds and leaves widely used in South Asian cuisine. Fenugreek is similar to beans. It is used as a supplement for nursing mothers and is a part of many herbal medicines. Fenugreek lowers blood sugar levels for diabetes and pre-diabetes sufferers.
Fenugreek fibers can slow down the digestion of carbohydrates. We can take it in the form of tea or add it to many tasty recipes.
Everyone knows about the benefits of oatmeal for the stomach. But few people know that this cereal also helps with high blood sugar. It is enough to use daily in order to prevent the development of diabetes mellitus. And all thanks to the soluble fiber in the composition.
There is absolutely no sugar in millet, but there is fiber. It is enough to consume this cereal daily to reduce sugar levels and avoid the development of diabetes by 20%.
Strawberries are a treasure trove of vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. This berry is an excellent prevention against diabetes as it helps control blood sugar levels.
But it is important to understand that here we are talking only about seasonal products – buying strawberries in winter, you are buying a “dummy” in terms of benefits.
18. Jerusalem artichoke.
Earthen pear is a storehouse of insulin and fructose. The inclusion of this product in food normalizes metabolism, removes toxins, and lowers glucose levels. It is enough to consume one fruit a day to lower the sugar level.
Sugar-rich food: why is it dangerous?
When we consume huge amounts of refined carbohydrates, a loading dose of glucose and fructose enters the body, and the concentration of sugar in the blood rises almost instantly. Therefore, such products quickly energize, and we feel vigorous, not thinking about the price that our body pays for them.
To “channel” excess sugar from the blood into muscles and other tissues, the body must produce an increased dose of insulin. Without it, sugar will remain “locked” in the blood. As a result, the pancreas works for wear and tear, producing more and more additional portions of the hormone insulin. And it is depleted. Or the body turns out to be immune to the insulin produced, and type 2 diabetes develops. But that is not all.
Sugar and sugar-containing foods are a source of “empty” calories. They do not carry any additional benefits for the body, and they do not contain vitamins and minerals. If we do not “work out” these extra calories by spending energy (and this requires movement), they are converted to fat and settle in the form of extra pounds and folds on the body.
So what is it? To declare a decisive “battle” against sugar? No. It is also impossible without sweets, so you need to include them in your daily food, but only in small quantities.
A healthy diet means severely restricting or even eliminating simple carbohydrates. Nutritionists and doctors note that the abuse of “fast” carbohydrates can cause the following complications:
- A decline in the functioning of the immune system.
- High likelihood of fungal infections.
- The appearance of excess weight and obesity.
- Predisposition to diabetes mellitus.
- Digestive disorders.
- Feelings of false hunger.
- Disorders of assimilation of vitamins and minerals.
- Mood swings.
- Decreased performance and concentration.
- Diseases of the oral cavity: caries, stomatitis, and inflammatory diseases of the gums.
- Deterioration of the skin and hair condition: rashes on the face, increased fragility and hair loss, etc.
How to offset blood sugar?
Diabetic subjects can counteract hyperglycemia by keeping in mind some tricks to reduce diabetes and two fundamental dietary principles for building a proper diet:
- Reduce portions of carbohydrates (cereals, potatoes, hulled legumes, sugary fruit, and so on).
- Choose foods with a low glycemic index (whole or dietary cereals, whole legumes, and slightly sweet fruit).
- Increase the number of meals and, at the same time, reduce the total calorie intake or reduce the portions of carbohydrates and divide them throughout the day.
- Increase the intake of vegetable dietary fibers (radicchio, lettuce, zucchini, and the like).
- Avoid alcohol.
- Extend the time amid the day’s last meal and breakfast the next day.
Lifestyle changes to control blood sugar.
1. Reduce your sugar intake throughout the day.
It is important to choose foods with a low glycemic index and increase the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables throughout the day. Pursuing a healthy and balanced diet that is not too rich in sugar and fat is fundamental. Prefer whole foods, such as pasta, bread, and cereals, and prefer protein-rich foods. It is not necessary to eliminate carbohydrates; just moderate their intake.
2. Get some physical activity every day.
Getting some physical activity throughout the day is very helpful in regulating blood glucose levels. It is because the muscles will use glucose as an energy source, and consequently, the blood sugar will drop.
3. Always stay hydrated.
Drinking at least 2 liters of water a day is basic. It will help us lower blood sugar and reduce the risk of contracting diabetes. Therefore using water as a prevention method. It is imperative to avoid sugary drinks because they may promote weight gain, so if we gain weight, it will be dangerous not only for diabetes but for our overall health.
4. Keep stress under control.
Stress can trigger blood glucose levels to rise. Stress means both physical and mental fatigue, various worries, etc.
5. Get enough sleep.
Sleep, but rest in general, are essential to combat health problems. Insufficient rest increases blood glucose levels and also reduces insulin production.
Restoring normal blood glucose values and consequently lowering blood glucose levels is of fundamental importance since very serious problems can arise for our health.
The remedies against hyperglycemia are varied. In some cases, we know it is a real pathology; therefore, drugs are necessary and pay attention to nutrition. In contrast, it will be sufficient to follow some small precautions, remedies essentially natural when it is not a proven pathology.
As well as with the wrong diet, blood sugar can also increase due to stress or lack of physical activity.
As mentioned earlier, to keep diabetes under control, you need to follow a correct diet. It does not mean that one must completely abolish certain foods. Still, it is important to be careful and consume them in minimal quantities. In the case of foods containing sugars, sugary fruit, and carbohydrates, such as pasta, bread, and potatoes, consume them in small quantities.
However, there are foods that, if obviously eaten in the correct quantities, can lower blood sugar in a completely natural way.
Many other foods can help lower your blood sugar levels, including barley, lemons, and sweet potatoes. We hope that there is something you like among the foods we have talked about so far!
In short, don’t forget that if you are insulin resistant and want to avoid diabetes, the best way to do this is to lose weight and exercise. No food or supplement will replace the long-term benefits of weight loss and physical activity.
Either way, a pinch of cinnamon in your morning coffee and a cup of blueberries is a magnificent way to start the day, both from a taste and a health standpoint!