Diet plan to lower a1c is a positive action that can give you relief from the problem of diabetes, heart disease and strokes – not only in the short term but also in the long term.
A1c is not the best indicator of your blood glucose control, it is good but needs to be confirmed by finger prick tests. A1c level less than 5.5 is normal, levels from 5.5 to 6.5 are prediabetes, from 6.5 to 7 high risk for diabetes and over 7 are diabetic with complications and levels over 10 are refractory periods
How can you lower your A1C levels?
An A1C blood test measures average blood sugar levels over the past 2–3 months.
The A1C test, which some people may also call the hemoglobin A1C, HbA1C, glycated hemoglobin, or glycohemoglobin test, measures the amount of sugar attached to hemoglobin in the blood. A doctor can use it to monitor diabetes and as a diagnostic tool for the condition.
If a person’s A1C levels are too high, it suggests their blood sugar levels are too high. When blood sugar levels are too high for a long period of time, this can result in health complications.
By incorporating lifestyle behaviors, such as regular exercise, a varied eating plan, and following their diabetes treatment plan, a person may lower their blood sugar. This will lower their A1C percentage and reduce the likelihood of potential health problems.
In this article, we will discuss why it is important to maintain healthy A1C levels.
What is an A1C test?
The A1C test refers to a blood test that measures a person’s average blood glucose levels over the past 3 months. It shows the average percentage of sugar-bound hemoglobin in a blood sample.
A doctor can use the A1C test to not only help diagnose diabetes but also to determine how well a person with diabetes is managing the condition.
When glucose enters the blood, it binds to a red blood cell (RBC) protein called hemoglobin. This protein is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. The resulting compound is known as glycosylated hemoglobin.
Doctors call the test an A1C test because roughly 95–98% of the hemoglobin present in the body is type A1. Type A1 hemoglobin has subtypes, such as A1C. As this is the most abundant subtype, a doctor can use it as a good marker for glucose control.
How does a doctor calculate A1C?
The A1C test estimates the average blood glucose level over the past 3 months. The test can measure this by identifying the percentage of glycosylated hemoglobin in the blood. The test measures this period because RBCs typically live for about 3 months.
As such, this timeframe can reflect how much sugar the RBCs had exposure to during that period.
If more glucose is present in the blood, that means more is available to attach to hemoglobin. A high percentage of glycosylated hemoglobin indicates a person had high blood sugar during the past 3 months. This can suggest that the individual is not effectively managing their blood sugar.
Why reduce levels?
Many studies have shown that lowering A1C levels can help slow the progression of diabetes and reduce the risk of complications — such as nerve damage and cardiovascular disease — in both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
When it comes to an A1C target range, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Many factors, including the type of diabetes and general health, can impact an A1C goal. A person can discuss a suitable target with their diabetes healthcare team.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) notes that the goal for most adults living with diabetes is an A1C of less than 7%. Many strategies, such as physical activity, diet, and medication, can help manage blood glucose levels and, therefore, also A1C levels.
Exercise and lifestyle tips to help lower A1C levels include:
- Physical activity: Current guidelinesTrusted Source recommend that adults perform a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical exercise each week. People who use insulin or have special considerations should contact their doctor about a suitable exercise planTrusted Source.
- Routine activities: Housework, gardening, and other routine activities can all help keep a person moving.
- Monitoring blood glucose: This is crucial to ensure a person meets their targets and makes any necessary changes.
- Following the treatment plan: This includes the use of medications and lifestyle therapies.
- Weight management: The person may consider working with a healthcare professional to set realistic and achievable weight loss goals.
- Tracking progress: This is useful for self-motivation, monitoring changes, and identifying which strategies work for a person.
- Getting others involved: Lifestyle changes are often easier to adopt if other people can encourage and monitor progress.
Everyone, especially people with diabetes, can benefit from a healthful diet that includes plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and whole foods and is low in sugar, salt, and fat.
Monitoring carbohydrate intake can help a person manage their glucose levels.
General diet tips to lower A1C levels include:
- being mindful of portion sizes
- eating regularly, every 3–5 hours
- eating similar-sized portions at meals and snacks
- planning meals ahead of time
- keeping a journal of food, medication, and exercise
- spreading out carbohydrate-rich foods throughout the day
- choosing less-processed or whole foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts
- eating a balanced diet complete with healthy proteins, fats, and carbohydrates
- seeking out the help of a registered dietitian
Nutrition plays an essential role in managing blood sugar levels. Following a suitable eating plan can help a person keep their blood sugar and A1C levels in a healthy range.
Creating a meal planTrusted Source can be a useful tool to help a person manage their blood sugar. A dietitian can also help with recommending an eating plan. Additionally, people can try following the ADA’s Diabetes Plate Method.
For people living with diabetes, some important trends to incorporate into an eating plan include:
- eating sufficient fruits and vegetables
- eating lean protein
- choosing foods with less added sugar
- limiting trans fats
- eating fewer processed foods
Understanding A1C levels
A1C test results appear as a percentage. A higher A1C level means a greater risk of diabetes and its complications.
Physicians may also refer to average glucose, or eAG, when they talk about A1C levels. The eAG corresponds to A1C, but it appears as milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl), like blood sugar.
Both A1C results and eAG refer to a person’s average 3-month blood glucose levels. People can use a simple calculator to help them convert their results from one measurement to the other.
|A1C value||eAG value||ADA diagnosis|
|5.6% or less||114 mg/dl or less||Normal|
|6.5% or more||140 mg/dl||Diabetes|
A person with prediabetes has a good chance of reversingTrusted Source their high blood sugar levels and preventing diabetes from developing.
A1C level recommendations vary between individuals. People with more advanced diabetes will have higher A1C targets than healthy adults without diabetes. Factors such as life expectancy, treatment response, and medical history also have an impact.
|A1C value||eAG value||ADA recommended goal for:|
|5.6% or below||114 mg/dl or below||Healthy, adults without diabetes|
|6.5%||140 mg/dl||People with short-term diabetes, managed type 2 diabetes, no cardiovascular disease, long life expectancy|
|7% or less||154 mg/dl or less||Most nonpregnant adults with diabetes|
|8% or less||183 mg/dl or less||People with long-standing or severe diabetes, limited life expectancy, extensive additional health complications, or poor treatment response|
10 Delicious Recipes to Lower Your A1C Levels
If you live with diabetes, you probably tend to stick the same low-carb foods you know and love. They’re easy, safe, and have a lower impact on your blood sugar.
Monitoring your A1C levels gives you a bigger picture of how stable your sugars really are. If you’re looking to lower your levels, it might be time to add some new recipes to your weekly menu planning.
The following recipes offer delicious choices for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And these meals will help lower your A1C levels and keep you satisfied throughout your day. Let’s get cooking!
1. Homemade yogurt
Store-bought yogurt can be a complete sugar bomb. Instead, go for a cool and creamy treat that won’t leave your blood sugar skyrocketing by whipping up some homemade yogurt. You can make this version right on your stovetop, or use a pressure cooker to make it in a snap. Mix in some fruit or shredded coconut for a fun take on your morning meal. Get the recipe!
Note: If making yogurt isn’t something you see yourself doing, you can still purchase plain yogurt at the grocery store (that has no added sugar) and mix in your own fruit for taste.
2. Fruity quinoa porridge
With a lower glycemic index (GI) number than a normal bowl of oatmeal, quinoa is a hearty and satisfying way to fill up in the mornings. The nutty, chewy texture will mimic steel-cut oatmeal while contributing to lower A1C levels. You’ll also benefit from the extra protein that quinoa provides, which will help offset the spike in blood sugar.
3. Sweet onion and ham frittata
With only six carbs, you’ll be starting your day off right with this delicious frittata topped with gooey melted cheese. You can use either the egg substitute as listed in the recipe or 6 whole eggs.
4. Open-faced avocado sandwich
This open-faced sandwich cuts down on the carbs while still incorporating lots of healthy fats and protein to fill you up. A little fresh lemon juice and watercress really make this a refreshing and tasty lunch option.
5. Cinnamon chili
Cinnamon has been shown to be effective in lowering A1C levels, so it’s a great idea to experiment with different ways to incorporate the tasty spice into your diet. Try this surprising tasty twist on chili by using cinnamon for the perfect combination of sweet and spicy in your bowl. A bonus is this dish will provide you with lots of fiber. And it’s packed with vitamins and minerals. Get the recipe!
6. Fried “rice” with shrimp
If you haven’t tried cauliflower rice yet, get ready for a game changer! This fried “rice” will fast become a staple in your house. It’s easy to prepare and incredibly delectable. It’s also perfect for soaking up all the flavors of the soy, lime, and sesame.
7. Thai grilled chicken drumsticks with lime and cilantro
Lean protein is a great option for keeping blood sugar stable. Don’t expect bland chicken though. The lime and cilantro flavors in this dish really pack a punch. Use fresh spices whenever possible to get the most out of this dinner.
8. Skillet tortilla pizza
You don’t have to sacrifice your favorite dinner in order to lower those A1C levels. This lightened up version of pizza uses a spinach tortilla and lots of fresh vegetables to keep it healthy.
9. Eggplant parmesan
This cheesy one-pot dish is something the whole family will love. You won’t even notice that the noodles are missing!
10. Keto coconut macaroons
We couldn’t let this list go by without at least one dessert option for you, now could we? This keto-friendly dessert comes courtesy of Diabetic Daily and features refreshing coconut, cocoa, and all-natural honey for a touch of sweetness.
Reducing A1C With a High Protein-High Fat Breakfast
As is the case for most people, for those with type 2 diabetes, breakfast arguably is the most important meal of the day. Research suggests starting the day with a substantial meal that’s relatively high in fat and protein and low in carbohydrates can help to improve blood sugar control throughout the day and aid in weight loss.
In one randomized study, participants ate either a small, high-carb breakfast or a larger, high protein/high fat breakfast for three months that provided about 33% of total daily calories. The people who ate the high protein/high fat breakfast had greater reductions in hemoglobin A1C (a measure of blood glucose levels over three months) as well as in systolic blood pressure than those who ate high carb breakfasts
What’s more, nearly all of the people with type 2 diabetes who were overweight who were in the big-breakfast group were able to reduce their reliance on medications. Both groups lost about the same amount of weight (<1kg).1
What Can We Make of This?
While the group who ate the larger, lower carbohydrate, higher protein/higher fat breakfast achieved lower blood pressure and reduced their reliance on medications, it wasn’t because they lost more weight.
One possible reason their blood sugars improved is that blood sugars tend to be higher in the morning and, if you eat a large carbohydrate meal when your blood sugar is already elevated, blood sugars can remain high throughout the day. The liver produces sugar in the evening when you’re in a fasting state. Some people wake up with a higher morning blood sugar—this is called the dawn phenomenon. Also, people tend to be more insulin resistant in the morning; insulin is less effective at bringing sugar to the cells to use for energy.
Eating a lower carbohydrate meal means less sugar entering the bloodstream and less insulin needed. The end result is better blood sugars. Last, eating a high carbohydrate breakfast such as a bagel, or large bowl of cereal may actually cause more carbohydrate cravings throughout the day, resulting in higher blood sugars. These types of foods cause blood sugars to spike at a quick rate. The aftermath is a drop in blood sugars which can cause cravings.
Applying These Findings
It is hard to generalize when it comes to diabetes, but a lower carbohydrate, higher protein meal for breakfast is likely to be beneficial. It can help with morning insulin resistance and reduce cravings throughout the day. However, a lower carbohydrate meal does not mean no carbohydrates. You don’t want to avoid carbohydrates altogether, rather aim to eat about 30 grams of healthy-source carbohydrates for breakfast. As opposed to eating a high-fat breakfast, aim to eat modified fat especially if you are trying to lose weight. Fat is an important nutrient but has more than double the calories per gram than carbohydrate and protein.
What Kind of Carbohydrates Should I Eat?
Complex carbohydrates that are rich in fiber and minimally processed are your best choices – particularly for breakfast. Fiber helps to slow the rate at which glucose enters the bloodstream, which can help to achieve good blood sugar control. Fibrous foods keep you full and can aid in reducing bad cholesterol. Carbohydrates rich in fiber include fruits, vegetables, legumes (beans), and whole grains. The American Heart Association says that a diet rich in whole grains can help to reduce the risk of heart disease.2
Examples of High Protein, High Fiber, 30-gram Carbohydrate Breakfast:
Below are some examples of ideal breakfast options for people with diabetes, but be sure to consult with your Registered Dietitian or Physician before starting any new meal plan as individual needs do vary:
- 3 scrambled egg whites + 1 whole egg, with ½ cup cooked spinach, ¼ cup shredded low-fat cheese and 2 slices of whole grain bread (100% whole wheat, rye or oat bread)
- 1 non-fat Greek yogurt mixed with ½ cup low-fat cottage cheese, ¾ cup blueberries, and 2 Tbsp chopped almonds
- 1 whole grain English muffin with 2 Tbsp peanut butter and a few sliced strawberries, 2 slices low-sodium turkey
- ½ cup cooked oatmeal, with ½ cup sliced peaches, with 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed meal and 2 hard boiled egg whites