The question: I have been diagnosed with low blood sugar. Is there a special diet I should follow?
The answer: There isn’t a specific diet for low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, but there are dietary modifications that can help prevent reactions altogether. I have developed meal plans for many clients with hypoglycemia who now experience no symptoms at all.
Hypoglycemia can be a concern for people with diabetes taking certain blood sugar-lowering medications, but it can also affect people who don’t have diabetes. Symptoms can include headache, shakiness, weakness, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, confusion and blurred vision.
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Diet isn’t the underlying cause of hypoglycemia, but altering what you eat – and when you eat – can prevent your blood sugar from dropping too low if you’re susceptible to the condition.
My goal with clients is to prevent hypoglycemia from happening in the first place. And to do that, it’s important to ensure glucose enters your bloodstream at a steady, even pace throughout the day.
It’s critical to eat every two to three hours to prevent your blood glucose from falling too low. Don’t skip meals and include a snack midmorning and midafternoon. Be sure to carry snacks with you to prevent a hypoglycemic episode when you are away from home.
Meals and snacks should also include carbohydrate-rich foods with a low glycemic index (GI), which means they’re digested slowly and, as a result, converted to blood glucose gradually.
Low GI foods include bran cereals, large flake and steel cut oatmeal, stone ground whole wheat, pasta, milk, yogurt, soy beverages, apples, pears, oranges, dried apricots, nuts and seeds, and legumes.
Your meals and snacks should also include a source of protein to moderate swings in blood glucose. Lean meat, poultry, fish, low fat cheese, eggs, tofu, nuts and yogurt are digested more slowly than carbohydrate and help sustain your blood glucose level longer after eating.
Adding soluble fibre to meals and snacks can also help prevent hypoglycemia by slowing the rate that food is emptied from the stomach. That means glucose will be absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream.
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Good sources of soluble fibre include oatmeal, oat bran, psyllium-enriched breakfast cereals, flaxseed, barley, legumes, sweet potatoes, citrus fruit and strawberries.
Finally, limit caffeine and alcohol, which can worsen symptoms of hypoglycemia in some people.
Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at [email protected] He will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.
The content provided in The Globe and Mail’s Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
- 10 Powerful Foods To Help Lower Blood Sugar Quickly
- Start With These Tips to Lower Blood Sugar Levels
- 1. Spinach
- 2. Avocado
- 3. Eggs
- 4. Broccoli
- 5. Plain, Non-fat Greek Yogurt
- 6. Almonds
- 7. Chia Seeds
- 8. Wheatgrass
- 9. Wild Fish
- 10. Lentils
- Final Tips to Lower Blood Sugar Levels
- How to help someone with diabetes and low blood sugar
10 Powerful Foods To Help Lower Blood Sugar Quickly
Blood sugar is a sneaky health issue, but there are many powerful foods that can help you lower blood sugar levels efficiently and quickly. First, in order to understand why high (and low) blood sugar occurs, it’s important to have a basic understanding of what triggers blood sugar highs and lows, and it all starts with insulin. Insulin is the hormone that goes into our blood stream and delivers nutrients to the cells so that our blood sugar stays stable. While insulin is often thought of as a negative hormone, it’s actually valuable and vital to our health. When our body doesn’t produce insulin or use insulin efficiently, we can develop insulin resistance which can lead to Type 2 diabetes. One of the best things we can all do in order to help insulin do its job is to eat regularly and eat a balanced diet that’s filled with healthy foods.
Start With These Tips to Lower Blood Sugar Levels
To help you get started on filling your plate with more blood sugar friendly foods that will help lower your blood sugar, start by removing refined sugar, refined grains, and most processed foods from your diet. Processed foods (and especially fast food) all contain chemicals and refined ingredients that our bodies don’t recognize as real nutrients, so our cells never really get what they need and we feel hungry all the time as a result. This also leads to blood sugar swings and spikes that cause insulin to work less efficiently.
What helps insulin work best so that blood sugar stays in a stable place are foods that pack dense amounts of nutrition and contain amino acids (that form protein in the body), fiber (which is the best source of carbohydrates), and healthy fats from real food.
Let’s check out some foods that can help lower blood sugar levels by offering us these nutritional benefits, shall we?
Spinach is high in amino acids and actually has 5 grams of protein per cup. Spinach is also a rich source of the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium which all lower blood pressure levels, and it is a good source of fiber to help lower blood sugar. Fiber, protein and minerals are three wonderful components that help balance insulin levels and help the body feel more nourished.
Add spinach to your smoothies, salads, entrees, and remember that while kale is fantastic, spinach offers more overall nutrients per cup than any other green!
Avocados are a superfood for so many reasons, but they’re especially great to lower blood sugar levels. The avocado fruit is a rich source of monounsaturated fats which are the best type of fats for your heart. Avocado is also a good source of fiber, amino acids, B vitamins, minerals such as magnesium and potassium, and it’s a great replacement to foods such as mayo and cheese—especially for those with diabetes or food intolerances.
Chop some avocado into your next smoothie for a creamy texture, add it to a salad, use it in place of mayo or cheese, or feel free to add it to your next omelet. Used in moderation and in place of processed fats, this fruit can be an amazing addition to your diet.
Eggs have had a bad reputation for years, but the truth is they can be a very valuable part of a balanced diet and are a wonderful source of meatless protein, healthy fats, and vitamins such as vitamin B12 and vitamin D. The key is to consume them in moderation (no more than a couple a day), and to buy the highest quality eggs possible such as pastured, organic and non-GMO eggs. Eggs work to lower blood sugar levels very well because they are generally very easy to digest so that nutrients reach the cells quickly and help lower blood sugar levels as a result.
Keep some hard-boiled eggs in your fridge and have one when your blood sugar feels too high or stops to drop. You can also include eggs at breakfast, lunch, or dinner for lower blood sugar levels throughout the day. Egg whites can also be paired with one or two whole eggs for more protein without overdoing the fat from whole eggs.
Broccoli is packed with benefits that lower blood sugar levels. First, it’s a great source of fiber that slows down the release of sugar from foods into our cells. Even if we’re not eating sugar directly, everything we consume is eventually turned into glucose that our bodies use to energize us. However, it’s best to eat foods that turn into glucose slowly so that we get a steady release all the time and not intense swings that we get from eating sweets or junk food. Fiber is a key to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels all the time as well as digestion and assimilation of nutrients.
No need to nosh on broccoli raw or eat like a rabbit; have broccoli whatever way you enjoy whether that be roasted, steamed with spices and your favorite source of protein, use it in a stir-fry with lean protein, broth and some other veggies, or sauté it to have with your regular dinner. It can also be added to salads and is one of the most affordable and nutritious vegetables available all year round.
5. Plain, Non-fat Greek Yogurt
Plain, non-fat Greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein, calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Of course, if you are dairy intolerant or vegan, Greek yogurt isn’t for you, but if you’re incorporating dairy into your diet, high-quality sources can serve as an excellent source of protein in place of fatty cuts of meat or processed sources. Greek yogurt’s nutrients lower blood sugar levels as well as satiate appetite very quickly. Purchase from non-GMO and organic sources whenever possible for the best quality, and avoid yogurt products with added hormones or antibiotics as well as any that have added sugars or artificial ingredients.
You can use Greek yogurt in place of milk in a smoothie, in place of sour cream for less fat in dips and dressings, or use it as a base for sandwiches instead of mayo. It can also make a wonderful dessert with berries and can be frozen for an hour to serve as a more ice-cream like treat at night. If the taste is too sour for your liking, feel free to add some stevia to sweeten it up without any added sugar.
Almonds offer more protein than other types of nuts as well as more fiber and overall nutrition. This makes them an excellent choice for lowering blood sugar levels and even blood pressure levels too. Almonds include 7 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and only 1 gram of naturally occurring sugar per ounce. They are also packed with magnesium and potassium that help lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels. Almonds even offer a little calcium, iron and zinc too!
One ounce of almonds is equal to about 22 nuts and makes the perfect serving size as a snack throughout the day. You can also add slivered almonds to meals like salads, stir-fries and even oatmeal if you wish. Or, pair it with some of that Greek yogurt mentioned above for a filling snack or light breakfast.
7. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are tiny in size, but they offer big benefits that you won’t want to miss out on! Chia is a great source of amino acids that provides protein, fiber which lowers blood sugar levels, and nutrients such as magnesium, calcium and iron. Chia seeds are also rich in omega-3 fats that our hearts and metabolisms need to stay healthy. These same fats also fuel our brains and help us feel more balanced throughout the day.
Another benefit of chia is that it’s so easy to incorporate into your meals because it is tasteless, yet it helps thicken up anything it’s added to once it sets for a bit. Because of its gel-like consistency, chia is fun to add to oatmeal and smoothies, or you can even include it in your salad dressings and soups.
Though it doesn’t sound very appealing, wheatgrass is actually a bit sweet and one of the most power-packed foods you can eat for better blood sugar levels as well as detoxification and digestion. Wheatgrass is also gluten-free because it comes from a grass and not the actual grain that wheat is made from. It is a rich source of amino acids, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and chlorophyll, the pigment that makes it so beautifully green in color. Chlorophyll is one of the most overlooked nutrients for lowering blood sugar levels quickly and is found in densely green foods.
Wheatgrass can be consumed as a shot, used in the form of wheatgrass juice powder, or can be bought whole at any health food store and juiced or used in smoothies. I find that a greens powder made with raw and organic wheatgrass juice is the easiest and tastiest way to use it, but many people enjoy using the whole wheatgrass in their daily routines. Whatever way you choose to use wheatgrass, don’t give up on it the first time you try it. It can be an amazing food to lower your blood sugar levels as well as improve your overall diet, hair, and even skin appearance too.
9. Wild Fish
Wild fish is packed with health benefits including lean protein, iron, healthy fats, and B vitamins along with minerals like magnesium and potassium. Fish is a great food to lower blood sugar levels because of its overall nutrition, but remember to purchase lean options like wild salmon, tilapia, halibut, tuna, and avoid those that are fried or coated in breadcrumbs or high amounts of oil. It’s also very important to choose wild fish over farmed to avoid toxic pollutants, mercury, and pesticides.
Fish can be consumed for lunch or dinner, and if you’re into savory breakfast, it even makes a great part of omelets or served over greens. Or bake it, chill it, and use it to make salmon or tuna salad!
Lentils are packed with lean protein, iron, potassium, and fiber which makes them an overall incredible food to lower blood sugar levels. Lentils are also a good source of antioxidants, are very affordable, and offer a creamy and nutty texture that makes them delicious. One of the biggest benefits of these legumes is that they don’t have to be soaked or cooked a long time like beans and some other dried legumes do. Lentils can be cooked in only 20 minutes without any soaking, and red split lentils cook in about 15 minutes. The red ones tend to be sweeter while the other colors are more nutty, so choose whichever variety you enjoy.
Lentils can be used in soups, stews, added to salads and make a fantastic replacement to meat for a vegetarian/vegan option. If you’re not into beans or don’t like them, give lentils a try. They are a phenomenal food to lower blood sugar levels because they take a long time to digest but pack big amounts of nutrition.
Final Tips to Lower Blood Sugar Levels
While diet is important to manage blood sugar levels, so is overall lifestyle. Adequate sleep, enough water intake, and getting movement each day are all important factors that can promote lower blood sugar levels around the clock. Some people find that eating several times a day works better for them while others find they do best with three larger meals throughout the day. Test out both to see which works for you, and listen to your body. Prioritize eating real foods with a balanced intake of protein, fiber, and healthy fats throughout the day for overall healthier blood sugar levels as much as possible.
Other foods worth mentioning for lower blood sugar levels are coconut butter, dark chocolate, cinnamon, apple cider vinegar, other nuts and seeds, most all vegetables, greens, fiber-rich fruits like berries and apples, and even black coffee. Remember, there’s no need to deprive yourself when taking care of your body but choosing high-quality, real foods is key.
For more information, check out these tips so you can be on your way to better blood sugar levels in no time!
Featured photo credit: AnastasiaKopa via .com
How to help someone with diabetes and low blood sugar
More than 30 million Americans – at least 9.4 percent of the U.S. population – have diabetes. Because of this, your odds of knowing or interacting with someone with diabetes are high.
There may come a day when one of those people needs your help.
Here, we’ll prepare you for that day and answer some of the questions you might have about the situation, regardless of whether the person has type 1 or type 2 diabetes.
How can I tell if someone has diabetes?
You can’t tell someone is diabetic just by looking at them. Many people have undiagnosed diabetes and very high blood sugar without realizing it themselves.
Some people with diabetes wear medical bracelets identifying their diagnosis.
How can I tell if someone has low blood sugar?
Someone with low blood sugar may have some or all of these symptoms:
- Pale skin
- Anger, anxiety and irritability
If they don’t consume something quickly enough to treat the problem, they could have more serious symptoms, including passing out, experiencing mouth or tongue numbness, losing coordination or even experiencing seizures or coma.
If you know someone has diabetes and they’re displaying symptoms of low blood sugar, ask them if they’ve checked their blood sugar recently or if they could check it now.
If their blood sugar is low enough, they may not be able to process the question. You can try to get them to eat or drink something to slowly raise it.
Some people may get defensive when you ask about their blood sugar, but it’s common to become irritable and act unlike yourself when it’s low.
What is considered “low” or “high” blood sugar?
Typically, blood sugar should be between 70 and 120 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL). Below 70 mg/dL is considered hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
Blood sugar levels are a lot like temperatures, though. What’s too low for one person may not cause another person to have any adverse effects or symptoms. It’s best to try to focus on how the person feels and responds more than focusing too much on the difference between 68 and 70 mg/dL.
What can I do to help if someone’s blood sugar is low?
Ask them if they have snacks or glucose tablets (chewable supplements created specifically to raise blood sugar quickly).
If they don’t have either of those on hand, help them find a snack or drink that can raise that number.
A good rule of thumb is what we call the “rule of 15.” Someone with low blood sugar should eat 15 grams of carbohydrates and wait 15 minutes to see if their number rises and they feel better. If the number is below 70 or they’re still experiencing symptoms, repeat the process with another 15 grams of carbohydrates.
When your blood sugar is very low, it’s hard not to want to eat more — the hunger center of the brain is on overdrive to fix the problem. But that waiting period is important, because over-treating low blood sugar could make that number swing too high, causing a different problem.
Ideal foods for treating low blood sugar:
- Glucose tablets or gels, in increments of 15 grams of carbohydrates
- A small apple or orange, or ½ a banana
- Fruit juice (about ½ cup)
- Non-diet soda (about ½ cup, or third of a can)
Foods with protein or fat aren’t ideal because the glucose in them doesn’t break down quickly. When possible, avoid chocolate, peanut butter, cookies or ice cream, for example.
What if they refuse to eat or drink?
Do not force food into their mouth. If they’re displaying strong symptoms of low blood sugar and/or their blood sugar has been checked and it’s very low, it’s time to call 911 when they can’t or won’t eat or drink on their own. Remember: Their brain isn’t processing the information properly to make this decision.
How can I be better prepared for this?
If you work closely with someone with diabetes or a family member is diagnosed with diabetes, ask the person how you can best be of help in an emergency. Learn more about type 1 and type 2 diabetes and how to recognize symptoms of low and high blood sugar.
If you’re diagnosed with diabetes yourself, make sure that your family members and others that you interact with regularly at work or school know about your condition. They can help be on the lookout for symptoms, and they can be on the lookout if you’re not acting like yourself. Let them know where you keep snacks or glucose tablets for emergencies.
Wearing a medical identification bracelet is a smart way to help first responders and others nearby know about your condition in an emergency.
Diabetes education classes are a perfect way to help diabetics and their families know how to manage their condition.
The American Diabetes Association also provides a free, online educational course on type 2 diabetes and can direct you to a certified diabetes education course near you.
Janet Zappe is a registered nurse, certified diabetes educator and clinical program manager of the Diabetes Research Center at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.