Interested in finding out how to lower blood sugar? Learn 11 natural ways to stabilize your glucose levels quickly
Blood sugar, or glucose, is the main sugar in your blood. It comes from the foods and beverages you consume, and it’s your body’s preferred source of energy.
Your blood sugar rises and falls naturally during the day and night: after you eat, often before waking up in the morning, and when you exercise at higher intensities. If you’re healthy, your body can handle these glucose spikes and will work to return blood sugar to normal not long after the rise.
Your blood sugar may rise naturally in the morning to give you the energy to get out of bed, and your glucose may spike when you do a HIIT workout, lift heavy weights, or do intervals on the Peloton. Sugar moving into your cells from your blood from storage is actually what gives you the energy to move. These are “good” rises in blood sugar.
What you want to avoid: Too frequent and high glucose spikes that result from eating too much, drinking too many sugary beverages (like soda or frappuccino), eating too much sugar and/or refined and processed carbs, and flopping on the couch when a “carb coma” comes on and your glucose rises rapidly. High stress and poor-quality sleep can also cause erratic glucose levels.
Keep reading for strategies to lower blood sugar fast.
Regular exercise improves and increases your sensitivity to insulin. This means the cells in your body can better absorb and use the glucose in your body to make energy.
When your muscles contract during movement, glucose is the preferred source of fuel. That’s why when your glucose spikes after eating a sugary treat or a large meal with lots of high-glycemic foods, you can bring your glucose back down to a normal range if you exercise within 30-60 minutes after eating.
Any type and duration of exercise can improve insulin sensitivity and helps stabilize your glucose afterward.
That said, if you’re fit enough and able to handle high intensity, short bursts of movement performed at 80% of your max effort can burn up to four times the amount of glucose compared to what you’d burn slumping on the couch.
If you want short and sweaty to bring down your blood sugar quickly, follow along with our 10-minute full-body or dumbbell leg workout. These get-‘er-done-fast efforts combine strength training with cardio in a circuit-style workout that stabilizes glucose in less time.
While this one may seem obvious to some, don’t scroll past just yet. How closely do you read ingredient labels? You likely buy and eat some processed foods unless you make all foods including sauces, dressings, and condiments, from scratch.
That’s OK; you’re a modern-day human and convenience and cost matter. But, most packaged or pre-made foods contain added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Select carefully and, as an example, buy big tubs of steel-cut oats or quick-cooking oats over the flavored, sugary oatmeal in a box or cup.
Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist, professor, and specialist in childhood obesity, believes that sugar is so toxic to health that he recommends federal regulation against marketing sugar-laden products (1) to children and even adding taxes to processed foods that contain added sugar.
These ideas may seem radical but are similar to rules that govern marketing alcohol to minors, and similar to the extra taxes consumers pay to purchase alcohol and tobacco products. Just as booze and cigarettes can be addictive for some, sugar can hook you and make you want more (2).
Sugar pleases the reward center of the brain. It activates ghrelin, a hormone that sends a hunger alert to the brain and interferes with the normal signaling of leptin, a hormone that signals the feeling of satisfaction. This is the physiological description of what happens during the oh-crap moment you have standing in your kitchen, holding an empty sleeve of thin mints and realizing that, yes, you just ate all of them.
Sugar can be particularly harmful to health when consumed in large amounts with excess calories and fat. This trifecta can lead to insulin resistance, increased belly fat, total body fat (3), and fat stored outside of fatty tissues in the liver and muscle. Over time, insulin resistance and extra fat mass can lead to metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes (4), and cardiovascular disease (5).
Strive for a diet of mostly whole foods filled with plenty of plants and more low-glycemic foods than high. If and when you do decide to eat higher-glycemic carbs, pair them with protein and some fiber to help slow down your glucose response.
When it comes to managing blood sugar, the types of foods and drinks you consume plus what you sprinkle on top to add zest and a pop of color can help to stabilize your glucose.
Higher doses of spices are available in pill form. Check with your doctor before taking any supplements, and for advice on specific dosage recommendations.
Here are some foods, spices, and minerals that may help you control blood sugar:
Pucker up and sample sour fruits that contain pectin, a soluble fiber associated with blood sugar control. Pectin-containing fruit, such as tart apples, oranges, grapefruits, and the peels of lemons and limes, form a gel in the GI tract that has been shown to improve glucose and fat metabolism (6). One study conducted on non-diabetic, non-obese men found an 11% reduction in blood glucose and insulin (7) in those who ate prickly pear pulp.
This warm, aromatic spice isn’t just for Thanksgiving and pumpkin spice lattes.
Scientific reviews of cinnamon supplementation saw evidence of improved blood glucose (8), better insulin levels and sensitivity, among other benefits. A separate research review found that those who took cinnamon had a decrease in fasting blood glucose levels (9) and an increase in insulin sensitivity.
Look for Ceylon cinnamon, either as a supplement or a ground spice to add to your noatmeal instead of cassia. The most commonly used variety of cinnamon, cassia contains higher amounts of coumarin, a compound that could be harmful if consumed in large amounts (10).
And please do not take this tip to mean you should make a TikTok video of yourself taking the cinnamon challenge. Choking on cinnamon dust is neither funny nor good for your health.
A link may exist between high blood sugar and certain micronutrient deficiencies—specifically in chromium and magnesium.
Chromium helps insulin do its job better (11). It hangs out in the bloodstream and ensures the macronutrients, particularly carbs and fat, are metabolized properly. One study suggests that low chromium levels cause glucose intolerance, inability to use glucose for energy (12) and other metabolic issues.
Another research review associates low chromium with elevated insulin and glucose intolerance (13) that can progress to diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. Diets high in refined carbs can lower chromium and lead to enhanced losses of the mineral, the review states.
Food sources of chromium (14) include:
Magnesium may also benefit blood sugar levels, as it plays a key role in regulating insulin action and glucose uptake (15).
One study completed on more than 4,000 participants without diabetes at the start of the 20-year research found that those with the highest magnesium intake were almost half as likely to develop diabetes (16).
A meta-analysis of 13 studies showed that magnesium intake is inversely associated with type 2 diabetes risk (17). It’s worth noting that magnesium supplements may not improve insulin sensitivity in diabetics (18) who aren’t deficient in the mineral.
Foods that are high in magnesium (19) include:
Up to 60% of the human body is water, so it makes sense that drinking plenty of h-two-oh remains necessary for good health. Water lubricates the joints, forms saliva and mucus, helps keep skin elastic, cushions the brain and spinal cord, regulates body temperature, flushes toxins, and helps maintain blood pressure.
Calorie-free and exactly what your body needs, water prevents dehydration and helps your kidneys flush out excess glucose. One study showed that those who drank more water were less likely to develop hyperglycemia (20)(too much sugar in the blood because the body lacks enough insulin).
Ever wondered why the blueberry crumb muffins in the coffee shop look even more irresistible when you’re shuffling on three hours of sleep? Poor sleep can affect glucose levels (21), insulin sensitivity (22), and the hormones that control appetite.
When you don’t get enough shut-eye, your cravings and desire to eat now can go into overdrive. That’s because leptin reduces and ghrelin increases (23), signaling to your brain that you have to eat that blueberry crumb muffin… maybe even two of them before you feel satisfied.
You might find it easier to choose the sous-vide egg bites over the tender, berry-studded cake-with-no-icing when you’re well-rested. Even partial sleep loss may increase the risk of weight gain and obesity (24), one sugary muffin at a time.
Life happens. Work demands seem relentless, bills pile up, everyone and every pet in your household need attention, your phone pings with notifications incessantly, someone texting while driving nearly sideswiped you on the road… stress can feel as every day as your morning cup of coffee.
When anxiety increases, cortisol provides the body with glucose from stores in the liver to power that fight-or-flight response. Elevated cortisol over time means extra glucose floats around your body, raising your blood sugar.
Cortisol thwarts the effect of insulin, making the cells insulin resistant and signaling your pancreas to release more insulin to deal with the extra glucose. Your cells have trouble getting the glucose they need for energy when cortisol is elevated chronically, and the cycle continues. High amounts of cortisol for a while can contribute to weight gain and visceral fat storage in the belly (25)—that’s fat stored underneath the ab muscles.
You may also “stress eat” when you feel stressed out for long periods. This is a physiological response to your body’s cells being starved of glucose. Consistently high amounts of cortisol, glucose, and insulin suppression sends hunger signals to your brain that could cause you to overeat. What’s worse, we tend to crave calorie-dense foods (26).
Think about it: Have you ever reached for hardboiled eggs or kale salad when you’re stressed? Heck no! You’re more likely to want french fries, ice cream, or a behemoth burrito smeared with guac and washed down with (three) margaritas.
Meditate, practice deep breathing, journal, or do calming movements like yoga or tai chi.
Research supports long, slow, intentional breathing provides stress-reducing relief (27). Try five or six diaphragmatic breathing cycles the next time you’re anxious. Contract the diaphragm, expand the belly, and deepen yours inhales and exhales. Breathe in slowly through the nose so the inhale pushes the tummy out and then exhale slowly through the mouth.
Far from a quick fix to lower your blood sugar quickly, this is more of a fact-of-life tip. You likely know the reasons why maintaining a healthy weight is vital to your longevity and quality of life.
It turns out that a trim tummy not only helps your pants fit better but also wards off the risk of developing abnormal high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and diabetes (28). Your wait measurement could be more important than the number on the scale when it comes to maintaining metabolic health and avoiding chronic conditions related to high glucose.
Men and women who have waist circumferences greater than 40 inches (102 cm) and 35 inches (88 cm), respectively, are considered to be at increased risk for cardiometabolic disease (29).
A whole foods diet made up of more low-glycemic foods than high combined with plenty of physical activity, enough quality sleep, hydration, and stress coping strategies can help you whittle your waist to a healthy circumference.