Need to Keep Blood Glucose Under Control? Healthy Eating, Exercising Are Key

DIABETES CARE|Mar.21, 2018

The amount of sugar in your bloodstream is called your blood glucose level. When you are living with a condition such as diabetes, it's important to keep your blood glucose at a healthy level. The food that you eat and how much you exercise can affect the level positively or negatively — exercise and blood sugar work together.

Diabetes Nutrition

When you are living with diabetes, it's important to understand how the foods you eat can affect your blood glucose:1

  • High fiber, starchy carbohydrates, such as whole wheat bread or legumes, are broken down into sugars and absorbed more slowly, helping to keep your blood sugar level smoother throughout the day.

  • Sugary foods, such as soda, juice and sweets, are absorbed quickly. This causes your blood glucose to rise more rapidly.

  • Include five fruit and vegetable servings a day with meals or snacks for fiber and vitamins.

  • Eat a variety of meats, fish and protein alternatives such as tofu. Choose low-fat options wherever possible.

  • Drink low-fat milk and eat dairy foods such as yogurt, which contain calcium for healthy bones and teeth.

  • Limit your intake of fats, sugars and salt. Don't cut out fats completely, but do keep them to a minimum. Use herbs instead of salt for flavor and cut down on sugar wherever you can.

  • Eat fewer foods that are high in saturated fat. These have been linked to increased cholesterol levels, which can magnify your risk for heart disease and cause weight gain.

  • Cut down on excessive salt as it can cause your blood pressure to rise.

Please consult your healthcare professional before making any changes to your diet.

Exercise and Blood Sugar: Staying Fit

While good diabetes nutrition is essential, so is exercise. The more weight you carry, the more insulin you may need. In addition to eating right, staying fit through regular exercise is a great way to manage diabetes.2,3

Exercise has the following benefits for people with diabetes. With regular exercise, you can:

  • Tone your muscles to make them more sensitive to insulin.

  • Use up energy and lower blood sugar levels.

  • Maintain or achieve a healthy weight.

  • Relieve stress.

  • Increase your lung capacity and the amount of oxygen in your bloodstream.

  • Help reduce your cholesterol levels and blood pressure, which in turn lowers your risk for heart disease.

  • Improve blood circulation throughout your body, reducing the risk of arterial disease, which can cause angina, heart attacks and strokes.

As someone with diabetes, you do need to keep a few things in mind when exercising:

  • If your blood glucose level is too high and you don't have enough insulin available, don't exercise, as this will make it go even higher.

  • It's also not advisable to exercise when you're ill, as your blood glucose will rise to fight off infections.

  • Always use a reliable meter to test your level. If your blood glucose level is greater than 240 mg/dL, or if you have ketones, stop exercising immediately.

To prevent blood glucose levels from falling too low, try these options:

  • Before exercising, test to make sure your blood glucose level is not too low.

  • Have glucose tablets, a sugary drink or snack on hand while you exercise.

  • Test yourself again after your workout and decide if you need a snack.

  • If you have participated in vigorous activities, watch your level over the next 36 hours.

1Joslin's Diabetes Mellitus, 14th Edition 2005, New York Ovid Technologies.
2National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health Bethesda, Mol. NIDOK.
3Kronenberg: Williams Textbook of Endocrinology 11th Edition 2008.

Information provided is for general background purposes and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment by a trained professional. You should always consult your physician about any healthcare questions you may have, especially before trying a new medication, diet, fitness program, or approach to healthcare issues.