This Is the #1 Way To Lower Blood Sugar Naturally, According to an Endocrinologist

Find out how keeping blood sugar levels in check can benefit your health.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 96 million American adults have prediabetes (roughly one in three people). Just as eyebrow-raising is that 80 percent of people with prediabetes don’t know they have it. This is important info because prediabetes increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Consider this your wake-up call to know what your blood sugar levels are. Dr. Florence Comite, MD, an endocrinologist and the founder of the Comite Center for Precision Medicine & Health, says that blood sugar levels can be tested by a healthcare provider. There are also continuous glucose monitors that can be worn and used to track blood sugar levels.

Dr. Comite explains that while it’s natural for blood sugar levels to fluctuate moderately throughout the day, if blood sugar levels are consistently high, it’s a sign that it’s time to make some changes to your diet and lifestyle to get them back into a normal range. “Blood sugar is converted into energy for the body. If you have too much, it can damage the entire body because it hits every cell in the body, including small vessels, big vessels, the heart, kidneys, brain, eyes and nerves,” Dr. Comite says. “This is why people with diabetes are at higher risk for having a heart attack.”

There are several ways to lower blood sugar through diet and lifestyle and Dr. Comite says that there’s one action in particular that’s often overlooked and, in her opinion, it’s the most important one: getting consistent quality sleep.

Related: 6 Best Diabetes Apps for Managing Diabetes and Blood Sugar

Why Getting Good Sleep Is the Best Way To Lower Blood Sugar Naturally

“Getting good sleep is paramount to managing blood sugar,” Dr. Comite says. She explains that not getting enough sleep causes the body to release more cortisol (aka the “stress hormone”), which then raises blood sugar levels. Scientific studies show that both not getting enough sleep and also fragmented sleep (waking up periodically throughout the night) can affect glucose levels. “If sleep is erratic or disturbed, blood sugar levels can fall too high or get too low,” Dr. Comite says.

Related: Here's Exactly How Many Hours of Sleep You Really Need Every Night, According to Experts

Virtually everyone knows that not getting enough sleep leads to feeling sluggish the next day. This has a domino effect causing other unhealthy habits that negatively impact health. Scientific studies show that when you’re tired, you’re more likely to skip exercise and eat nutrient-void foods—two habits that can raise blood sugar levels. You’re also more likely to feel stressed and on edge, which can also (you guessed it), negatively impact blood sugar levels.

Getting consistently good sleep helps set you up for making other healthy decisions, all of which will help keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range.

Related: Why You Should Try a 'Coffee Nap'—and Other Surprising Tips on How to Sleep Better

Other Ways To Naturally Manage Blood Sugar

While prioritizing sleep is Dr. Comite’s number one tip for lowering blood sugar naturally, she says that making smart food choices is a close second. She says to avoid eating foods high in sugar—some of which are surprising. For example, Dr. Comite says that some foods that seem healthy (such as yogurt, cereal or granola) can be high in sugar, which is why it’s important to read the nutrition panels on the foods you’re considering buying or eating.

Other foods Dr. Comite says to minimize if you are trying to lower your blood sugar are rapidly absorbing carbohydrates (also called simple carbohydrates). Examples include white bread, pastries, fruit juice concentrate and candy. Instead, she says to prioritize foods that are low on the glycemic index (which means they are absorbed more slowly and won’t spike blood sugar levels) and are nutrient-rich. This includes foods like beans, tofu, non-starchy vegetables, wheat pasta, multigrain bread, fish, meat and eggs.

Dr. Comite says that exercising regularly and managing stress are also key ways to naturally lower blood sugar levels. “Exercise causes cells to use energy and sugar glucose is a big source of that,” Dr. Comite says, explaining the connection between exercise and lowering blood sugar. As for stress, just like how not getting enough sleep causes the body to secrete cortisol (which then raises blood sugar levels), so do prolonged feelings of stress and anxiety.

You likely already know that eating nutrient-rich foods, exercising regularly, managing stress and getting good sleep are all important for overall health. The fact that all of these elements impact blood sugar levels is one key reason why. If you have no idea what your blood sugar levels are, Dr. Comite recommends getting them checked by your healthcare provider or by using a continuous blood glucose monitor—especially if Type 2 diabetes or heart disease runs in your family.

Remember, 80 percent of people with prediabetes don’t even know they have it. Knowledge is power. Once you know your blood sugar levels, you’ll know if you need to change the way you eat and live.

Next up, here is everything you need to know about prediabetes, including what it is and how you can avoid it.