Weight loss in North America is a multi-billion dollar industry.
Fad diet manuals plague bookshelves, fat-burning supplements promise overnight results, and pre-packaged point-system meals take over your freezer.
We’re exposed to so many “solutions” to promote weight loss and improve our health – yet what if the answer to fat loss could be found in lowering your blood sugar level naturally?
What you may not know is that blood sugar plays a massive role in your ability to burn fat and lose weight.
Since having high blood sugar promotes fat gain, lowering your blood sugar levels is the first place to start when it comes to boosting fat loss and improving your health.
By implementing a few simple nutrition tips, you can get a quick start on balancing your blood sugar.
What is Blood Sugar, Really?
In simple terms, blood sugar is the concentration of glucose (or sugar) in your blood.
Whenever you eat a meal, your body receives a surge of sugar and other nutrients from food as it gets digested. The sugar broken down from carbohydrates gets transported to your bloodstream, where the hormone insulin is released to bring the sugar from your bloodstream into your cells to be used for energy.
If your energy stores are full during the time of digestion, insulin will signal for any excess sugar to get stored elsewhere in your body as fat.
If your blood sugar levels are consistently high (which results from eating a diet high in refined sugar), you can bet that your pancreas is working overtime to produce enough insulin to deal with the sugar it’s constantly receiving.
Avoiding Sugar Overload
First of all, your body can only handle so much sugar at once.
If you’re constantly eating foods that raise your blood sugar levels, the body will store that overconsumption of sugar as fat. Over time, your body can eventually “tire” of constantly producing so much insulin, and stop responding to the sugar altogether.
This is dangerous because elevated levels of sugar floating around in your bloodstream can not only lead to obesity, but neurological symptoms and type 2 diabetes.
When you have high blood sugar levels, it’s very difficult for your body to burn fat because, instead, it’s storing fat.
The other downside to high blood sugar levels (as if there weren’t enough already) is that it encourages the release of the stress hormone, cortisol.
In short, cortisol is a pro-inflammatory, pro-fat storage hormone that’s released when your body encounters a stressful situation.
We won’t go into a ton of detail about cortisol here (check out this post instead), but when your body releases an excess amount of cortisol on a regular basis, it sabotages your weight loss goals by encouraging fat storage (which was intended as a protective mechanism back in the caveman days).
Midsection weight gain is a common sign of elevated cortisol in your blood.
As you can see, addressing the causes of high blood sugar that may be present in your diet and lifestyle is the best place to start to encourage your body to burn fat. By lowering your blood sugar levels, your hormones will receive fewer signals to store sugar as fat and encourage fat loss instead.
Lowering Blood Sugar Naturally
Now, you may be wondering if all foods that contain sugar are bad for your blood sugar levels.
Since our bodies depend on glucose for fuel, we do need carbohydrates in our diets for optimal health. We just have to make sure we’re eating the right ones.
The problematic foods are those that raise blood sugar levels very rapidly. These are foods that are highly concentrated in sugar and contain very little nutrition, such as fiber, protein or healthy fats.
Typically, the foods that cause high blood sugar levels have been heavily processed, such as:
- White bread
- Pastries made from white flour: muffins, donuts, cakes, cookies
- Sugary juices
On the other hand, foods that contain fiber, protein, and healthy fats (such as fruits, vegetables and nuts and seeds) slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream, and don’t raise blood sugar levels as much.
This explains why fibrous fruits can actually help improve blood sugar levels, despite containing natural sources of sugar.
To help boost fat loss and improve your overall health, here are eleven quick and easy ways to lower your blood sugar levels.
How to Lower Blood Sugar Without Meds
1. Banish Refined Carbohydrates from Your Diet
The first and most important step to lowering your blood sugar levels is to reduce the foods that cause high blood sugar in the first place: processed sugar.
The most obvious sources of processed sugar are pastries, bread, and sugary drinks.
But processed sugar also hides in many other foods that are marketed as healthy, such as granola bars or sauces. Reading food labels to avoid consuming hidden sources of refined sugar is also important when minimizing the processed sugar intake in your diet.
At first, it can be helpful to replace processed grains with whole grains. But eventually, if you can eliminate your grain consumption altogether, you’ll help lower your blood sugar levels and boost fat loss even quicker.
2. Go Gluten-Free
Speaking of grains, avoiding glutenous grains such as wheat, rye and barley whenever possible can also help improve blood sugar levels.
This is because gluten is a pro-inflammatory protein that the body can have a very difficult time digesting. The body’s inability to digest gluten may lead to erratic blood sugar levels. Even if you don’t have a gluten sensitivity, it’s still in your best interest to avoid it for optimal health.
Replacing glutenous grains with minimal amounts of gluten free grains such as brown rice or quinoa (which is actually more of a seed) can have less of a negative impact on blood sugar levels.
3. Include a Protein or Healthy Fat with Every Meal
The best way to create a blood sugar balancing meal is by adding a healthy fat or protein (or both) to your plate.
Proteins, such as organic free range chicken or quinoa and healthy fats, such as coconut oil and avocado help slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream. This prevents your blood sugar levels from skyrocketing, and instead promotes optimal blood sugar balance.
4. Get More Apple Cider Vinegar into Your Day
It’s suggested that consuming apple cider vinegar right before meals may improve insulin sensitivity and decrease the blood sugar raising effects of carbohydrates after a meal (1).
The only downside to apple cider vinegar is that it can taste a little strong on its own. If you’re looking for delicious ways to add it to your diet, I have some apple cider vinegar recipes (and additional information) for you here, here, and here.
5. Do High Intensity Exercise
Exercising is one of the most effective ways to help lower blood sugar levels because it allows your cells to utilize any excess blood sugar that may be floating around in your bloodstream.
And while even the most simple forms of exercise (such as walking) can help lower blood sugar levels, high intensity exercise such as weight training and interval training, are most recommended to improve insulin sensitivity (2).
6. Include More Pure Cinnamon
Spices such as cinnamon have been widely studied for their blood sugar lowering effects. It’s suggested that cinnamon may help improve insulin action in the brain, and therefore increase insulin sensitivity to help lower blood sugar (3).
Include cinnamon in any meal or beverage to help get its blood sugar lowering benefits.
Note: Try to be selective with the cinnamon you use. Pure ceylon cinnamon contains the blood sugar lowering benefits, but many coffee shops and restaurants use cinnamon that has white sugar added to it (which will only negate the health benefits).
7. Reduce and Manage Stress
What you’ve heard is true: stress can make you fat.
As you know, cortisol is a stress hormone that signals fat storage to your body. Having excess cortisol released into your bloodstream contributes to elevated blood sugar levels and prevents your body from being able to burn fat (4).
Managing your stress levels with methods that work for you is key to preventing excess cortisol from ending up in your bloodstream, which triggers fat storage.
Yoga, deep breathing, meditation, taking time for self-care and eliminating unnecessary sources of stress from your life wherever possible will all help reduce your body’s stress response and therefore promote fat loss.
8. Replace Caffeine with Herbal Tea
I recommend against consuming caffeine every day, and that’s partially because of the impact it has on your blood sugar levels. Caffeine is known to have a “spike and crash” effect on blood sugar, which doesn’t do anything to promote healthy, steady blood sugar levels.
Replacing caffeine from coffee and tea with an herbal tea (or occasional decaf coffee) will help promote healthier blood sugar levels and set your body up for success when it comes to burning fat.
9. Eat High Fiber Foods
As previously mentioned, high fiber foods help slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream and keep blood sugar levels balanced to boost fat loss.
The best sources of fiber are real, whole foods found in nature such as fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Including high fiber foods at every meal will help improve blood sugar levels.
10. Go Crazy with Garlic
Who cares if it gives you bad breath? Garlic has been shown to have significant health benefits, and studies suggest that it may be helpful for lowering blood glucose levels (5).
11. Get Plenty of Restful Sleep
Not only is sleep deprivation a form of stress, but it also raises your ghrelin levels. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells your body you’re hungry and increases your appetite (6).
Elevated ghrelin levels can promote cravings for high calorie foods such as sugar and other starchy carbohydrates that contribute to raising your blood sugar levels and gaining fat mass.
Sleeping at least 7 hours each night, restfully, will help reduce your body’s stress response, keep your appetite in check and help lower blood sugar levels.
The Weight-Loss Bonus
When you take steps to lower your blood sugar naturally, you’ll likely find that keeping your weight under control – especially when it comes to the weight you hold in your belly area – becomes markedly easier.
Cravings may be diminished, you’ll find yourself feeling more satisfied with the foods that you eat, and you’ll feel more energetic and ready to move, which might help you with motivation for your workouts.
Balancing your blood sugar is a great way to feel more energized, less stressed, and less bulky around the midsection.
Food Choices That Help
Want some practical in-the-kitchen help when it comes to lowering your blood sugar? You might like my “All-Day Energy Diet” Community Cookbook, which is available for FREE. To get 67 quick and delicious recipes that help keep your blood sugar balanced – and your body energized – click the banner below.
Yuri Elkaim is one of the world’s most trusted health and fitness experts. A former pro soccer player turned NYT bestselling author of The All-Day Energy Diet and The All-Day Fat Burning Diet, his clear, science-backed advice has transformed the lives of more than 500,000 men and women and he’s on a mission to help 100 million people by 2040. Read his inspiring story, “From Soccer to Bed to No Hair on My Head” that started it all.