For patients with diabetes, monitoring blood sugar levels is a part of daily life.
Low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, can occur for many people with diabetes who are on certain medications, including insulin and sulfonylureas. It can occur for a variety of reasons including skipping a meal, exercising strenuously, taking too much insulin or consuming alcohol, especially on an empty stomach.
Low blood sugar can be as minor as a slight inconvenience or as serious as a life-threatening emergency. That’s why it is important to boost blood sugar before it becomes problematic.
Angela Norton, a diabetes educator at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, has diabetes herself, so she knows firsthand the tips and tricks of keeping blood sugar on track. Although blood glucose is considered normal if above 70 mg/dL, Norton says patients with diabetes should not wait until they reach below that threshold to take action.
“Treat when you feel the symptoms, even if your blood sugar is not below 70, because as long as it is less than 100, it may be dropping fast,” she says.
When it comes to treatment, Norton shares these five foods to help boost low blood sugar.
When hypoglycemia occurs, patients should follow the 15-15 rule. Consume 15 grams of carbohydrates to raise blood glucose and check your levels again after 15 minutes. When the numbers return to normal, eat a snack to stay on track.
Gummy candies contain carbohydrates, which have a large impact on blood sugar levels.
“Simple sugar-based foods absorb rapidly into the bloodstream after you eat them and can raise your blood sugar within five to 15 minutes,” says Norton.
She recommends eating between 15 and 30 grams of carbohydrates to help increase blood sugar. When it comes to candy, she suggests eating one of the following portions: 12 gummy bears, five ring-shaped candies, 15 hard-shelled fruit-flavored candies, four chewy fruit candies or six large jelly beans.
2. Fresh or dried fruit
Fruits that provide the appropriate amount of carbohydrates include half a banana, 15 grapes, two tablespoons of raisins or a small apple or orange.
3. Fruit juice
Fruit juice can also boost blood sugar levels. Norton suggests half a cup (4 ounces ) of your favorite fruit juice, such as apple, orange, pineapple or cranberry juice.
4. Fat-free milk
Milk contains vitamin D and carbohydrates, so Norton suggests drinking one cup of fat-free milk when your glucose levels start to drop.
“Having one tablespoon of honey or jam as a snack after your blood sugar dips is a good way to balance out blood glucose levels,” says Norton.
Norton says it’s important for patients to find the snacks that work best for them. “There are many other foods you can use, and each person finds their own favorite. Mine are little bags of organic fruity snacks that have 17 grams of fast-acting carbohydrates in each pouch,” she says.
Sharp HealthCare offers diabetes education classes that cover a wide range of topics — including nutrition, exercise and medications — that empower people with diabetes to improve their overall wellness.