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Elevated blood sugar levels are the #1 cause for heart disease, memory loss, and diabetes. They increase the risk for cancer, weight gain, and hypertension.

High blood sugar levels also deprive people of energy, vitality, and sex drive. This is a condition everyone should want to avoid!

Tips to improve blood sugar control was one of the top requests in a recent survey sent to readers of my blog.  

Fortunately, there are several straight-forward steps that will keep blood sugar levels normal and lower them if needed.

While genetic factors can increase the risk for high blood sugar levels, they do not cause diabetes by themselves. The lifestyle choices we make are the primary reason that people have high blood sugar levels or not, often overpowering our genetic make-up.

The hormone that controls blood sugar levels is insulin. When you consume energy (whether it is protein or carbs), it passes from your gut into the blood stream, and insulin levels spike and push that energy out of the blood stream and into your tissues converting it primarily into muscle and fat.

If over time you continue to consume more energy than you burn through activity, eventually your muscle cells will be totally loaded with energy in the form of glycogen, and the muscle cells will become resistant to insulin’s message to store more energy, especially if the energy comes from sugar and flour. Insulin resistance starts within muscle cells, but quickly expands to nearly all the cells in the body.

Once your cells become insulin resistant:

  • Brain cells are unable to use glucose as energy and they become dysfunctional and die. Initially this results in brain fog and mental sluggishness and over time leads to brain shrinkage and long-term memory loss.
  • You start growing arterial plaque at an accelerated rate.
  • Blood sugar levels start to rise and become elevated.
  • As your proteins become sugar coated, inflammation and oxidation levels increase—resulting in a downward spiral of worsening health body wide.

Here Are Three Tips to Lower Blood Sugar Levels

The first two are the most important, yet all contribute to elevated blood sugar levels.

  1. Avoid sugar and grain flour, and eat more fiber
  2. Add more activity
  3. Meet your nutrient needs

Avoid Sugar and Grain Flour, and Eat More Fiber

Most people know that they should avoid sugar, but they either underestimate how much they are getting, or are fooled by the many forms of sugar that are in processed foods. If your blood sugar levels are even mildly elevated (greater than 99 mg/dL), you are eating far too much!

Sugar does not only come from table sugar, but from many other ingredients including: corn syrup, corn starch, fruit juices, cane products, honey, fructose, potato starch and agave.

Worse than eating sugar from food is to consume it in beverages. Drinking a sugar loaded drink (such as a soda, sweetened tea, or fruit juice) is especially harmful.  Unlike junk food, you do not get any sense of fullness (satiety) from these drinks and the energy pours into your body as you continue to be hungry and eat more food. Diet sodas are no better, as chemical sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose and saccharin (blue, yellow, and pink packs), kill healthy gut microbiomes and cause long term weight gain and insulin resistance.

Many people think whole grain flour sources have a better impact on blood sugar than pure white flour foods. Please be aware that eating whole grain bread, crackers, and cereal that has been ground into grain flour will cause the same rise in blood sugar level as does eating pure table sugar. (Yes, whole grain flours have more nutrients than white grain flour, but they have the same impact on blood sugar levels.)

In contrast, when you eat fiber from vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts, it blocks your blood sugar levels from rising quickly as fiber slows the delivery of sugar from your gut to your blood stream.

This slow release allows your body to consume the energy as it is released, without causing a spike and a jump in insulin levels. You end up with a slow, steady source of glucose over time, instead of a sudden spike that causes a jump in insulin production.

This is why I am now substituting nut flours (such as almond meal) in most recipes that call for grain flour. That or avoiding foods made with grain flours as much as possible.

Cutting out any form of sugar and grain flour from your diet and eating more fiber from vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts will reduce blood sugar levels beautifully.

Add More Activity

Nearly everyone knows that adding more activity will improve blood sugar levels yet there are a couple of suggestions that will make this even more effective.

First, combining strength training and aerobic activity over time is more effective than either activity alone. Both activities deplete sugar stores inside muscles and fat. Aerobic activity improves insulin sensitivity and makes your insulin more effective at lowering blood sugar levels. Strength training builds muscle mass and increases your capacity to absorb blood sugar from the blood stream after a meal.

Ideally you would add some form of aerobic activity nearly every day and add some form of strength training 2-3 days per week.

Second, not all aerobic activity is equal. Higher intensity aerobic work outs will provide more benefit than low intensity, especially in terms of reversing insulin resistance.

For example, did you know that high intensity exercise for 20 minutes 3 days per week (60 minutes per week) has the same benefit as 25 minutes of moderate aerobic activity 5 days per week (125 minutes per week). That means getting the same benefit in less than half the time.

For people who are in excellent health and exercise regularly, increasing their intensity should be fairly easy to do. Importantly, if you have health problems always check with your medical provider before pushing your workout routine, and/or consider training with a professional exercise physiologist at your local gym to be assessed and learn how to benefit from a higher intensity work out.

Meet Your Nutrient Needs

Specific nutrients are essential for blood sugar control, in particular magnesium, zinc, selenium, and chromium. Nearly 80% of Americans do not consume enough magnesium, and zinc, selenium, and chromium deficiencies are also quite common.

Following a healthy version of a Mediterranean diet will provide many of the nutrients that you need, but as nutrient content in soil is decreasing worldwide, I think it is wise for everyone to take a good quality multivitamin to support even an excellent eating plan.

A good quality multivitamin will help to ensure that you meet your needs for zinc, selenium, and chromium.  Here is a link to the multivitamin that I take every day, which has a solid dosage of all three of these critical nutrients.

You can meet your magnesium needs from food, yet most of my patients will not meet their minimum requirement of 400 mg every day. Most multivitamins do not provide more than a trace of magnesium.

See the food chart below (adapted from The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up) with common magnesium sources:

Magnesium in Foods

Food                                                                                           Magnesium (mg)

Pumpkin and squash seed kernels, roasted, 1 oz                       151

Brazil nuts, 1 oz (1 handful)                                                         107

Bran ready-to-eat cereal (100%), 1 oz                                         103

Halibut, cooked, 3 oz                                                                     91

Quinoa, dry, ¼ cup                                                                        89

Spinach, frozen, ½ cup                                                                  81

Almonds, 1 oz                                                                                 78

Spinach, cooked from fresh, ½ cup                                               78

Halibut, 3 oz                                                                                    78

Swiss chard                                                                                      76

Buckwheat flour, ¼ cup                                                                   75

Cashews, dry roasted, 1 oz                                                              74

Soybeans, mature, cooked, ½ cup                                                   74

Pine nuts, dried, 1 oz                                                                         71

Mixed nuts, oil roasted, with peanuts, 1 oz                                      67

White beans, canned, ½ cup                                                              67

Pollock, walleye, cooked, 3 oz                                                            62

Black beans, cooked, ½ cup                                                               60

Bulgur, dry, ¼ cup                                                                               57

Oat bran, raw, ¼ cup                                                                          55

Soybeans, green, cooked, ½ cup                                                        54

Artichokes (hearts), cooked, ½ cup                                                   50

Peanuts, dry roasted, 1 oz                                                                 50

Lima beans, baby, cooked from frozen, ½ cup                                50

 Add up what you get on a typical day:                     

If you consume more than 400 mg of magnesium every day from food—then great! However, if you will not consume at least this amount from food on most days, then you should be taking a magnesium supplement to meet your needs.

Many magnesium supplements are either irritating to your stomach or difficult to absorb, such as magnesium oxide. The best forms of magnesium are protein-bound, making them gentle on your intestines and with double the absorption. My preferred magnesium sources would be magnesium chelate, magnesium glycinate, or magnesium malate.

Many of my own patients who were taking oral diabetic medications and/or taking insulin shots daily and still had elevated blood sugar levels were able to slowly wean off their medications and restore normal blood sugar control by using these same tips with the right diet, activity, and nutrient support to restore normal blood sugar control. (If you are taking medications for blood sugar control, always work with your own medical provider to achieve the best and safest results.).

I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help thousands of people reverse type 2 diabetes and improve blood sugar control, returning them to normal and vibrant lives.

I hope this information can help you, as well.

I wish you the best of health!

Steven Masley, MD, FAHA, FACN, CNS


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