When you have diabetes, monitoring your blood sugar is important. But it can be confusing. Here, we provide answers to common questions to help you make the best decisions.
When is the best time to check blood glucose after a meal?
Most of the food you consume will be digested and raise blood sugar (blood glucose) one to two hours after you start to eat. To capture the peak level of your blood glucose, check it during this window of time. The American Diabetes Association recommends a target of below 180 mg/dL one to two hours after a meal. The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists recommends a lower target: below 140 mg/dL two hours after a meal.
Ask your doctor or diabetes educator what target is right for you. Post-meal blood glucose monitoring (and record keeping) is important because it can help you learn how your body responds to the foods you eat and the medications you take.
Why do so many “healthy” recipes include fruits and vegetables, when they raise blood glucose?
All foods with carbohydrate (including fruits and vegetables) will raise blood glucose. That doesn’t mean you should avoid these foods, since they can be valuable sources of nutrients. But one way to keep your blood glucose under control is to make sure your portions of carbohydrate-containing foods aren’t too large. Carefully examine your meals and the portions you eat. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that all adults, on a 2,000 calorie diet, eat 2½ cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day. Fruits and vegetables are important parts of a healthful eating plan. They provide vitamins, minerals and fiber, and they’re relatively low in calories. One serving of a nonstarchy vegetable (½ cup cooked) has about 5 grams of carbohydrate. One serving of a starchy vegetable (½ cup cooked) has about 15 grams of carbohydrate. One serving of fruit (1 small piece or ½ large piece) has about 15 grams of carbohydrate.
I’ve heard cinnamon helps lower blood glucose. Is it true?
Cinnamon has been studied (in animals) to see if it could potentially have a beneficial effect on blood glucose. Results have been inconclusive, and the use of cinnamon has not become part of common clinical practice. More research is needed before conclusions can be made about cinnamon’s role in treating diabetes.
What does it mean when my blood sugar fluctuates?
It’s normal for blood sugar levels to fluctuate in people who have diabetes. Ask your doctor or diabetes educator for target ranges for fasting, before meals and two hours after meals. When you eat, it’s likely that your blood glucose will rise—but strive to follow the goals you’ve set with your doctor.
Eating, especially eating foods that contain carbohydrates, raises your blood glucose. Blood glucose peaks one to two hours after the first bite, then should drop to pre-meal levels. Diabetes medications work to lower the glucose level or prevent it from going too high. Physical activity also lowers blood sugar. Stress and illness typically raise blood glucose.
While you sleep, your liver releases stored glucose to keep the level from dropping too low. In people with diabetes, the liver tends to overcompensate, releasing more than you need. This can lead to a high morning blood glucose reading.