Sure, having out-of-whack blood sugar raises your risk of diabetes. But did you know it can also raise your risk of cancer 24 percent by fueling the growth of abnormal cells? The great news: This is one risk factor that’s easy to control.
Steady your sugar with raw vegetables.
Eating two cups of antioxidant-rich veggies daily has shown in studies to cut your risk of blood-sugar woes 31 percent or more. Make meeting that goal easy by keeping a dish of ready-to-eat carrot, celery, cucumber and red pepper sticks — plus cherry tomatoes and raw string beans — front and center in your refrigerator. People who tried this trick doubled their intake of those healthy sugar-steadying foods. “When you see something over and over again, it reprograms your brain so you start wanting that food,” explains Tom Kersting, PhD, author of Losing Weight When Diets Fail ($13.73, Amazon).
Melting fat with rice and beans.
Sneaking ½ cup of brown rice and the same amount of beans into your daily diet could more than double your fat loss, plus cut your chance of developing a risky sugar problem 23 percent or more, say researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Beans are chock-full of appetite-suppressing protein, and rice is packed with sugar-stabilizing fiber and B vitamins.
Stock up on olive oil.
Most Greeks consume 26 liters of extra-virgin olive oil yearly — plus as much wine! And while you’d think lacing your meals with oil and alcohol would be a recipe for blood-sugar disaster, the opposite is true: Sipping 5 oz. of wine while dining reduces a heavy meal’s sugar surge 37 percent by stalling the digestive tract’s absorption of carbs. And downing two tablespoons of olive oil daily helps muscle cells soak up (and burn) glucose before it can cause trouble.
Eat less by talking more.
In Spain, one meal every day is a major social event. The family gathers to eat a hearty meal and catch up on everyone’s news. And Americans who adopt this mealtime habit — sitting long and talking lots — effortlessly eat 30 percent less food, shed up to one pound weekly and cut their risk of high blood sugar in half, say UCLA researchers. Conversation slows down eating, giving your body time to pump out more leptin, the hormone that shuts down appetite for up to four hours straight.
Baby your pancreas with GABA.
Folks who have high blood sugar and are at high risk of developing diabetes (due to their weight or family history) can protect themselves by taking 1,000 milligrams to 1,500 milligrams of GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) daily, suggests UCLA research. This amino acid dampens inflammation in the pancreas, a key step in helping that organ produce insulin and keep blood sugar under control, the study authors say. One we like: NOW GABA 750mg ($10 for 100 capsules at Amazon.com). Bonus: GABA is a natural tranquilizer that can soothe anxiety, chronic stress and stubborn sleep problems in as little as six weeks, says Daniel G. Amen, MD, a neurologist at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine. Important: As always, check with your doctor before starting a new supplement.
Get help from your doctor.
Harvard researchers found that folks with diabetes can get their blood sugar under control within four months if they check in with their doctor every month or so for follow-up advice. (People who tried to fix the problem alone took two years to achieve the same progress.) Also smart: Ask for a referral to a nutritionist. Follow-up research shows getting some expert advice on how to tweak your diet significantly improves blood-sugar control!
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.