The diabetes epidemic sweeping the U.S. is hitting the African American community particularly hard. Approximately 2.7 million or 11.4% of all African Americans aged 20 years or older have diabetes but at least one-third of them don’t know it. The average African American born today has a 50% chance of developing type 2 diabetes in his or her lifetime. So if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you’ll want to learn all you can to help lower blood sugar levels. And if you can do so naturally, even better!

Here are 8 ways to help lower sugar levels naturally:

  • Drink water! Drink lots of water because it not only hydrates you but helps the kidneys push out excess blood sugar through urination. Don’t forget to steer clear of sugar-ladened drinks like soda and fruit juices as they will only increase blood sugar levels and make you gain weight.
  • Watch food portions. If you pay attention to how much you put on your plate, you’ll lose a few pounds. Managing your weight will help keep your blood sugar levels within a healthy range. Weight control has been proven to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  Eyeing food portions also cuts calories.  Some tricks to remember when trying to watch how much you eat:
  1. Use smaller plates
  2. Take a pass on those buffet eateries
  3. Use food scales to weigh portions
  4. Write down what you eat to keep tabs
  • Eat low glycemic index foods.  A glycemic index is a measure of how quickly a food causes our blood sugar levels to rise. The measure ranks food on a scale of 0 to 100. Foods with a high glycemic index, or GI, are quickly digested and absorbed, causing a spike in blood sugar. These foods that rank high on the GI scale are often, but not always, high in processed carbohydrates and sugars.

Foods with a low GI are digested and absorbed at a slower rate and as a result, cause a slower rise in blood sugar levels and foster weight loss too. These are typically rich in fiber, protein and/or fat. Low-GI diets also have been shown to reduce long-term blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in people with type 1 and 2 diabetics. So the foods that are low on the GI scale–seafood, meat, eggs, oats, barley, beans, lentils, legumes, small sweet potatoes, cheese, tomatoes, nuts, avocados. corn, small yams, berries, apples, and non-starchy vegetables.

  • Get enough sleep.  It is imperative that you get enough sleep in order to maintain health. Poor sleeping habits impact overall health, including blood sugar levels. Not sleeping enough increases appetite and promotes weight gain. Lack of sleep also increases the production of cortisol, which can make cells more resistant to insulin. Not getting proper rest can also affect other hormones, including the thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and testosterone, which can lead to decreased insulin sensitivity and higher blood sugar levels.
  • Chow down on chromium and magnesium-rich foods. In recent studies, researchers discovered that both chromium and magnesium are good for blood sugar control by helping to regulate insulin. There are some clinicians who believe that the increased prevalence of type 2 diabetes is partly due to a deficiency of both nutrients in diets.

Chromium-rich foods include egg yolks, whole-grain products, high-bran cereals, garlic, coffee, nuts, green beans, broccoli, and meat.  Magnesium-rich foods include dark leafy greens, whole grains, fish, dark chocolate, bananas, avocados, and beans.

  • Consume more fiber. You hear about fiber all the time and how important it is when it comes to healthy eating.  Fiber does play a HUGE role in blood sugar management by slowing down the rate that carbs break down, and the rate that the body absorbs the resulting sugars.

There are two kinds of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is “soluble” in water and has many benefits, including moderating blood glucose levels and lowering cholesterol. Meals containing soluble fiber are less likely to cause sharp spikes in blood sugar levels and may prevent them. Good sources of soluble fiber include oats and oatmeal, legumes (peas, beans, lentils), barley, fruits and vegetables (especially oranges, apples and carrots).

Insoluble fiber does not absorb or dissolve in water. It passes through our digestive system in close to its original form. Good sources of insoluble fiber include beans, whole wheat or bran products, green beans, potatoes, cauliflowers, and nuts. Foods high in insoluble fiber are best for constipation only.

  • Herbal supplements. There are a few herbal preparations that may help control blood sugar levels, but many folks prefer to stick to a well-balanced diet. For those who don’t eat well, supplements can help. Most physicians do not recommend taking supplements as a sole remedy for what ails you because they can interact with prescribed meds. Some naturopathic practitioners swear by certain supplements and their ability to lower sugar levels. Word to the wise, however, if you’re thinking about buying nutritional supplements, slow your roll! OTC supplements are like medications, and those considering taking them should exercise caution. Healthy food eating is the best and safest source in getting the nutrients your body needs to help lower blood sugar levels.

Here a few supplements that have been linked to lowering blood sugar levels:

Cinnamon extract–studies show that it can lower blood sugar levels by up to 29% by slowing the breakdown of carbs in the digestive tract and this moderates the rise in blood sugar after a meal; an effective dose is 1–6 grams of cinnamon per day, or about 0.5–2 teaspoons; too much cinnamon extract can be harmful and may cause liver toxicity and cancer

Berberine–has reportedly been used for thousands of years to treat diabetes, helps lower blood sugar by speeding up the breakdown of carbs, how this supplement works is still unknown, a common dose for berberine is 1,500 mg per day, taken before meals as 3 doses of 500 mg; there are some side effects to watch out for such as flatulence, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain

Fenugreek seeds–great source of soluble fiber which helps keep blood sugar in check, it can be added to baked goods, make a flour out of it or brew it into tea; is considered to be one of the safest herbs for diabetes, recommended dose is 2 to 5 grams per day

  • Watch those carbs–Diabetics can’t process carbs effectively. So when they eat carbs, their bodies breaks them down into sugar which leads to insulin function issues and rising blood glucose levels. Count your carbs when you eat. A recommendation of 20 to 90 grams of carbs a day is what seems to provide improvements in blood sugar numbers. The American Diabetes Association, however, suggests that folks work with their healthcare provider to come up with a carb intake plan that works best for them. Good carb sources are veggies, berries, nuts, grains (rice, oatmeal, barley), yogurt, milk, and seeds.