How Can I Lower A1C?

Lifestyle changes are often enough - learn which ones matter most

Weight Loss and Diet to Lower A1C

Losing extra weight is a top priority for reducing A1C. Extra body weight is a risk factor for diabetes, and those extra pounds may be a cause of insulin resistance and high A1C. Losing extra pounds can be as beneficial as gaining them is harmful. In fact, one study found that each kilogram (2.2-lb.) reduction of body weight was linked to a decrease in A1C of 0.1%. [1] That is heartening news if you are far from a so-called “ideal” body weight, but losing a few pounds seems within reach.

You can aim for modest, sustained weight loss with small changes to your regular routine.

  • Use a smaller plate or bowl to make portion sizes smaller, naturally.

  • Eat another helping of vegetables before serving yourself seconds of anything else.

  • Drink water instead of beverages with calories.

  • Eat more filling foods, such as vegetables, fish, and beans.

  • Reduce portion sizes of sugary, starchy, and fatty foods.

  • Use a health coach to log your food and track your weight.

Along with losing weight, choosing healthier foods can lower A1C and prevent or delay type 2 diabetes or lower the risk for complications. The best diet for prediabetes and diabetes is full of foods that may increase insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar or A1C levels, or reduce the risk for diabetes comorbidities, such as high blood pressure. These foods include the following.

Fruit is a healthier option for those lowering their A1C level. Photo by Trang Doan from  Pexels
  • Fresh or frozen vegetables without added salt.

  • Fresh or frozen fruit without added sugar.

  • Small portions of foods rich in monounsaturated fats, such as avocados, olive oil, nuts, and peanuts.

  • Omega-3 fats, which are in fatty fish and flaxseed.

  • Legumes, such as beans, lentils, and split peas.

  • Tofu, eggs, fish, and other lean proteins.

  • Whole grains, such as whole-grain bread and pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, whole-grain breakfast cereal, and quinoa.

The worst foods for diabetes can drive up blood sugar and A1C levels. Some of the unhealthy foods to avoid can increase insulin resistance or raise your risk for related health problems. When you can, avoid or limit portions of foods such as the following.

  • Sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, coffee with sugar or syrup, and sweet tea.

  • Desserts and breakfast pastries, such as candy, ice cream, cake, pies, cookies, cinnamon rolls, muffins, danish, and custard.

  • Butter, shortening, and lard.

  • Processed meat, such as bologna, salami, hot dogs, sausages, ham, and pepperoni.

  • Fatty red meat, such as fatty steaks, regular ground beef, and ribs.

  • Sugar-sweetened processed foods, such as flavored oatmeal and yogurt, jam, and tomato sauce.

  • Refined grains, such as white bread, pasta, and rice, pretzels, crackers, and refined breakfast cereals.

  • Pizza, burgers, tacos, burritos, fried rice, macaroni and cheese, and other low-nutrient fast foods or prepared foods with refined grains and excess fat.

  • Dried fruit, fruit juice, and fruit canned in syrup or frozen with sugar.

The list may be long, but you can get help by using a digital smartphone app such as Lark DPP or Lark Diabetes. Your personal health coach guides you in making smarter choices, one step at a time, without making you overwhelmed.

Activity, Sleep, and Stress Reduction to Lower A1C Naturally

Diet and exercise are powerful for lowering A1C, and there are additional healthy changes you can make throughout the day and even all night.

Aerobic Exercise: Physical activity increases insulin sensitivity for about 24 hours after you work out, so that daily workout is a great idea. Hit the gym, walk, swim, garden, play tennis, or do whatever you love as long as you are moving. Aim for 150 minutes or more per week.

Pumping Iron: Strength exercises also raise insulin sensitivity. Do body weight exercises, such as squats, lunges, and push-ups, or use equipment such as weighted balls, dumbbells, resistance bands, and weight machines.

Stress plays an important role in A1c levels. Photo by from  Pexels

Sleep: Sleep deprivation lowers insulin sensitivity and raises blood glucose, not to mention increases carb cravings, reduces your ability to resist cravings, and makes you hungrier. No, thanks! Avoid being short on sleep by setting aside enough time for sleep each night, turning off your smartphone and other screens before bedtime, and improving sleep quality by sleeping in a quiet, dark room. You may be short on sleep if you have a morning headache, feel moody or unfocused, or need caffeine.

Stress Reduction: Stress comes from work, relationships, finances, health concerns, and life events. Stress is everywhere, and it can raise A1C if you let it be negative. You can reduce stress by letting go of what you cannot control and by not setting unrealistic expectations for yourself. You can better manage the rest of your stress by embracing it and focusing on what you can control.

Help with Controlling A1C

These healthy lifestyle changes can be a lot to think about, but there is no need to get overwhelmed. First, you can get results with small changes, so you can pick and choose which healthy changes to make as you are ready.

Second, help is available. Besides contacting your doctor and healthcare team for information and support, you can depend on Lark 24/7 to guide healthy choices, monitor your sleep, activity, and diet, and support you in your quest to lower A1C.

Need Help Controlling your A1C?

Lark Health Coaching App can help with that. See if you qualify in 1 minute.

[1] Gummesson A, Nyman E, Knutsson M, Karpefors M. Effect of weight reduction on glycated haemoglobin in weight loss trials in patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Obes Metab. 2017 Sep;19(9):1295-1305. doi: 10.1111/dom.12971. Epub 2017 May 22.