As always, you should discuss any changes you plan to make with your doctor first. It's tempting to ignore this step but please don't - blood sugar levels and medication dosages need extra monitoring whenever something changes.
Test strips are a big expense, no doubt about it. But they give us a great tool in figuring out what foods, specifically, our individual bodies respond to and how they respond to them. They help to determine the 'trigger' foods that cause our blood sugar levels to spike. It's different for everyone; some people might find that bread causes the largest spike, others might find potatoes or even fruit cause the most dramatic glucose spikes.
Many people find that wheat flour causes blood glucose to spike. Not just refined white flour, but any type - whole wheat, whole grain, anything with wheat in them. That includes things like pasta, breads, and of course, the many types of pastries, cakes, and other sweets that are made with wheat flour.
Other common trigger foods include white rice, potatoes, and even oatmeal!
Many cultures consume a lot of foods made with wheat. Wheat is readily available, relatively cheap, and very versatile. You might be one of those people for whom a meal isn't complete unless there's a dinner roll or other type of bread to accompany the meal.
You can certainly limit (or even stop) eating bread or other wheat-based products entirely. Some people are successful at it. Even with diabetes, you can still consume pretty much anything - you just have to be more careful about it and think about portion sizes. But what if you could continue to enjoy breads and baked goods in moderation without having to worry so much about blood sugar spikes?
During one very stressful period, I found myself struggling to keep my blood sugar levels at the levels I wanted them to be (and the levels I had become accustomed to). Nothing I normally did seemed to work. So finally, I embarked on a journey to figure out what it was that was causing my blood sugar to get messed up. To make a long story short, eventually I narrowed it down to primarily one thing: wheat. White flour, whole wheat flour, whole grain flour, bread flours, pastry flours... they all spike my blood sugar, and pretty dramatically, too.
There was no way I wanted to eliminate breads. My husband loves bread, as do I, and I home-made about 4 loaves a week! To me, there is nothing quite like the smell of fresh-baked bread... and the taste of a fresh, hot, slice is pure heaven.
And so I started researching how to keep bread in my life without using wheat. That's when I found two wonderful substitutes in spelt and in coconut flour.
Spelt is a distant cousin to the modern version of wheat, and is considered an ancient grain. Highly nutritious, delicious, and easy to bake with, it also has the added benefit of not causing such dramatic spikes in blood sugar levels.
Having read all of this, I decided to test it out on my own body. Lo and behold, it was actually true for me - yes, my blood sugar rose, but nowhere near the way it did with regular wheat. Here is more information on baking with spelt along with a few favourite recipes.
Coconut flour isn't really a flour, but instead is dried, coconut that is ground into a powder-like substance. It is also gluten-free, low in carbohydrates, and extremely high in fiber. It is wonderful in baked goods ... but it cannot be used in the same way as regular flour.
Check out our information on baking with coconut flour to find out why and how it's different, and for some favourite recipes.
Coconut sugar is an alternative to the use of regular table sugar. It's thought to retain more nutrients and to have a lower glycemic index, although this has not been proven. As such, treat coconut sugar the same as regular sugar (if you're really interested, you can monitor the effects of coconut sugar vs. regular table sugar for yourself). But if you're going to enjoy sugar, you might as well enjoy a type that offers more nutrients!
Coconut oil is an alternative to the use of butter or vegetable oils commonly used in cooking and baking. It's reputed to have a host of health benefits but is also heavy on the saturated fats. All fats and oils are calorie-dense so use them judiciously.
Other nutritious 'add-ons' include flax seeds and chia seeds. Flax seeds need to be ground up to release their nutrients but chia seeds can be eaten as-is. I've used both, but prefer chia seeds since they're less hassle. I just throw a handful or two into baked goods, or I use chia seeds as a substitute for an egg or two: just combine one tablespoon of chia seeds with 3 tablespoons of hot water; let cool until it forms a gel. This mixture can be substituted for one whole egg.
You might also have heard about quinoa. This high-protein, nutritious superfood is a great substitute for rice. It's easy to make and easy to flavor. The extra protein makes you feel fuller for longer so the temptation to overeat or snack is much less.
These are just a few dietary substitutions that can help as a natural way to control blood sugar levels. Please remember that they are not a cure, but can help to keep blood glucose levels more stable. In addition to dietary changes, there's exercise as well - here's one way to naturally lower high blood sugar. With time, commitment, and education, some people have been very successful at controlling their diabetes without medication. Any changes to your routine should always be discussed with your doctor before proceeding.