I think it's a striking statistic: by 2020, 1 out of every 2 Americans could have diabetes or prediabetes (blood sugar that's elevated, but not yet at the levels seen in diabetes). But in my opinion-as a registered dietitian and associate nutrition editor of EatingWell Magazine—there's good news: lifestyle can play a big role in managing diabetes and keeping it at bay. Which is why I've compiled these 5 tips for managing blood sugar. (Of course, you should always consult your health-care practitioner when making lifestyle changes related to a medical condition.) But you don't have to have diabetes to follow these guidelines-they're the same health tips I would share with most people.
Tip #1: Lose Weight
Extra fat can make your body resistant to the action of insulin. Losing weight improves insulin's activity, which reduces blood-glucose levels. Research suggests that people at high risk for diabetes who lose as little as 5 percent of their body weight (i.e., about 10 pounds, if they weigh 200 pounds) can prevent or delay onset of the condition.
Must-Read: 7 Steps to Permanent Weight Loss
Tip #2: Exercise Regularly
Studies show that physical activity improves the body's response to insulin and helps lower blood-glucose levels. Not only that, exercise goes hand in hand with healthy eating to achieve weight loss. Aim to fit in 30 minutes of moderate activity-such as brisk walking-nearly every day.
Must-Read: 6 Ways to Sneak In Your Exercise
Tip #3: Choose Whole Grains
Selecting whole grains, such as whole-wheat breads and pastas, barley, corn and oats, over refined ones can help improve insulin sensitivity. Whole grains will help you meet your recommended daily intake for fiber (25 grams for women; 38 grams for men); they also provide more vitamins, minerals and other health-promoting nutrients than refined grains.
Tip #4: Don't Skip Meals
Eating breakfast helps insulin to lower blood-glucose levels, and eating regularly spaced meals also helps insulin work better, suggests research.
Related Link: 28-Day Diabetic Meal Plan
Tip #5: Choose Foods Low on the Glycemic Index—But Keep in Mind That Mixing Foods Will Change the GI.
The glycemic index (GI) is a system of ranking foods that contain equal amounts of carbohydrates according to how much they raise blood-glucose levels. (The lower the GI number, the less the food boosts your blood sugar and the more diabetic-diet-friendly it is.) The GI is somewhat confusing and even a little controversial (for instance, we rarely eat single foods by themselves and when you combine foods it affects the GI). But, in general, it does lead you to healthy foods. For example, vegetables, whole grains, beans and high-fiber foods tend to fall lower on the glycemic scale, while processed and refined foods and sweets are higher up.
What's your best tip for keeping your blood sugar in check? Tell us what you think below.