Do you know that one in 10 Americans has diabetes? Surprisingly, only 20% of them are aware of their condition. November is marked as National Diabetes Month to raise awareness about diabetes and provide valuable information to patients on ways to effectively manage their health.

Diabetes is a condition that results in excess blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetes, often known as juvenile diabetes, is a condition when the pancreas fails to make adequate insulin to regulate blood sugar. Adult-onset diabetes or type 2 is the most common form of diabetes that occurs when the body does not effectively use insulin due to a condition called insulin resistance.

While type 1 and type 2 diabetes are chronic, prediabetes and gestational diabetes are potentially reversible. No matter what type of diabetes a person has, adopting a healthy lifestyle and making wise food choices can help in effective blood sugar control and reduce the risk of complications.

On this National Diabetes Month, Kelly Schmidt, a registered dietician and health coach from Columbus, Ohio, shares with us some dietary tips to manage blood sugar levels.

"Managing blood sugars goes beyond calories. There is an art to eating well for healthy levels and what is healthy for one person may not be healthy for another. For example, we may tolerate different foods, and inflammation from a perfectly 'healthy,' food can behave differently in the gut and therefore create a different blood sugar response. Our tolerance to carbohydrates, meaning tolerance for keeping a steady blood sugar, can vary based on our biology, sleep deprivation, hydration, age, gender, activity level and more," Schmidt, who has expertise in gut health and blood sugar control, told Medical Daily.

Although people tolerate foods differently, and what is effective for one may not be ideal for another, following certain common principles helps to make a healthy diet. Reducing processed food and ensuring adequate fiber in the diet are some such examples.

"A diet that is as 'close to the farm' (less processed) as possible, colorful, eating 5-10 colors a day, and has adequate fiber (30+ grams a day) and adequate protein (25+ grams per meal for adults) is a good formula for nourishment, good gut health and favorable for insulin levels," she said.

While dietary restrictions should be tailored based on a person's unique requirements, Schmidt recommends pairing the carbs with protein or fat to slow down digestion.

"Carbohydrates are one of the main macronutrients in our diets (protein, fat, carbohydrates, water and alcohol) and can have the biggest impact on blood sugar levels, and they (carbs) should never be consumed 'naked.' Carbs need some protein/fat 'clothes' on them to slow down the digestion/glucose breakdown. Also, things like corn syrup and liquid calories (lacking fiber or protein) do not fare well on blood sugar spikes," she explained.

Tracking each meal with a glucose monitor will help you understand how each food item affects blood sugar and to what levels.

"If we have a device like a continuous glucose monitor to track what our blood sugars are doing, it helps to tune in and learn what works best for our body. No one diet is perfect for everyone, and how certain foods support steady blood sugars should be the key to knowing what foods/meals/ingredients to limit or avoid," Schmidt added.

She advocates a "5-Step GRACE model" for effective blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity.

  • Gut health: The first step is to focus on digestion and gut health. It involves understanding food sensitivities, ensuring that meals are colorful and have a balance of protein and fiber, and fixing issues with bowel movements.
  • Rest: Getting adequate sleep is the secret to good health.
  • Analyze: Identify the variables that cause blood sugar drops and spikes from a client's daily routine.
  • Chemicals. Detox the body from chemicals that interfere with insulin production by using the right lifestyle, hydration, sleep hygiene and therapeutic real food cleansers.
  • Exercise: The key is to improve muscle mass, which then helps to improve metabolic health and insulin sensitivity.