Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD

Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD

Mary Ellen Phipps, MPH, RDN, LD, the founder of Milk & Honey Nutrition, is a diabetes dietitian (Registered Dietitian Nutritionist) renowned for combining her knowledge of diabetes and culinary expertise into easy-to-follow recipes and articles!

How to Reduce Blood Sugar Level Immediately (+ Foods to Eat)

what foods lower blood sugar immediately

Here are my dietitian tips for how to reduce blood sugar level immediately and what foods help lower blood sugar over time.

There isn’t one food that will magically protect your body from developing diabetes. But research has found that some foods can help promote healthy blood sugar levels over time. Plus, there are key things to keep in mind for how to reduce blood sugar level immediately. Keep reading to learn:

  1. how to reduce blood sugar level immediately,
  2. foods that lower blood sugars,
  3. and which foods to eat in the moment when your blood sugar is higher than you’d like.

*This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services. The article and the links contained in it provide general information for educational purposes only. The information provided in this article is not a substitute for medical care. Do not use it in place of the advice of your physician or registered dietitian.*

As a diabetes dietitian who also has diabetes myself, I know how frustrating it can be when your blood sugar is high. While there isn’t a one size fits all answer for lowering blood sugar immediately, I have used certain strategies over the years with clients (and myself) to help lower blood sugars both immediately and over time. We will discuss these below.

What are normal blood sugar levels?

Here are some definitions of what “normal blood sugar” means for people without diabetes:

Type of TestWhen It’s TakenBlood Sugar Level
A normal “fasting” blood glucosefirst thing in the morning after waking up99 mg/dL or lower
A random blood glucose testany time of the day without regard to the last time you’ve eatenshould be under 200 mg/dL

If you have diabetes (any type), your doctor will discuss specific blood sugar goals with you. These goals can vary based on a variety of factors. 

Diabetes blood sugar levels for diagnosis

Diabetes is often diagnosed with blood glucose tests in any of the following levels:

Type of TestBlood Glucose Levels to Diagnose Diabetes
Fasting blood glucose126 mg/dL or higher (100-125 mg/dL is considered pre-diabetes)
Random blood glucose200 mg/dL or higher
testing blood sugar levels how to lower blood sugar

What is high blood sugar for people with diabetes?

If you live have diabetes, and your blood sugar is above the following levels, it’s time to take action based on what your diabetes care team has told you. These levels are considered hyperglycemia in diabetes and should be discussed with your doctor or diabetes educator.

Type of testBlood glucose level
1-2 hours after eating>180 mg/dL
Fasting>126 mg/dL

How to reduce blood sugar level immediately

How to lower blood sugar immediately can depend on a variety of factors. The following strategies are almost always helpful and are explained further below:*

  1. Go for a walk**
  2. Drink a large glass of water
  3. Take rapid-acting insulin if directed by your doctor

1. Go for a walk

Light to moderate activity when your blood sugar is high may be helpful in bringing it down immediately. A moderate paced 15-30 minute walk (faster than a stroll, but not speed walking) can be helpful in reducing blood sugar. You can also try other light activities, such as gardening or swimming.

2. Drink a large glass of water

Sometimes, your blood sugar may be elevated because of dehydration. Less water in your blood stream means the sugar in your blood is more concentrated. Staying properly hydrated or drinking water when your are dehydrated can help to increase the liquid in your blood stream, and thus lower blood sugar.

3. Take rapid acting insulin as directed by your doctor

If you have type 1 diabetes or insulin dependent type 2 diabetes, your doctor has likely given you an insulin dosing plan for when your blood sugar is high. Taking rapid acting insulin as directed can lower blood sugar immediately.

This is often done with something called a sensitivity factor or correction factor. A correction factor is a number given to you by your doctor that you use to determine how much insulin to take when your blood sugar is high. Let’s look at a hypothetical example…

  • Blood glucose value: 200mg/dL
  • Target blood glucose value: 120 mg/dL
  • Correction factor: 40

In this scenario, the blood sugar is 80 points above target. We divide the difference between our high blood sugar (200mg/dL) and the target blood sugar (120mg/dL) by the correction factor (40). In this case, it would be 80 divided by 40 which equals 2. So, this person would take 2 units of insulin to correct their high blood sugar.

Speak with your doctor and care team to learn what your correction factor should be.

How to reduce blood sugar level immediately for extremely high blood sugar

*Extremely high blood sugar (>250mg/dL) can be a life-threatening situation if ketones are also present. Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) can develop when blood sugars reach this level. Discuss your plan of action with your doctor if/when this happens. Know when to stay home and manage your blood sugar, and when to go to the emergency room.

**Exercise may not be appropriate if blood sugars are >250mg/dL. Discuss this with your doctor before trying to exercise when your blood sugar is this high. 

When to go to the emergency room with high blood sugar

You should seek emergency help if ketones become too high in your blood stream to avoid DKA. There is no set number of high blood sugar that leads to ketones, but you are at a greater risk when blood sugars are >250mg/dL for an extended period of time. Monitor ketones at home every few hours when blood sugars are high and seek emergency help in the following situations:

  • Urine ketone test strips show moderate or large ketones
  • Blood ketone meter registers 1.6mmol/L or higher

Ketone Levels and DKA Symptoms

These levels of ketones can lead to DKA (diabetic ketoacidosis). Symptoms of DKA include:

  • Excessive thirst or dry mouth
  • Frequent urination
  • Flushed red skin
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • A fruity smell on the breath

Speak with your doctor about when they want you to seek emergency help.

Lowering blood sugar immediately vs. over time

What you should do with elevated blood sugars in the moment is different than discussing what foods help lower blood sugar over time. This discussion is often more relevant to people on insulin (type 1 diabetes and insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes) but can apply to all forms of diabetes. 

What to eat when your blood sugar is high

When your blood sugar is high, you can usually still eat all the regular fat, fiber, and protein-rich foods you’d typically eat. There is no need to restrict food or eliminate carbohydrates in these moments.

However, it does warrant being more aware of the foods you’re eating. It is key to fill your plate with complex carbohydrates and nutrient-rich protein.

Most people assume that lowering blood sugar levels is only related to the food you eat. But, there are many other things that can impact blood sugar levels. These include: activity level, stress levels, hormones, and more. The following strategies have been proven to help reduce blood sugar levels over time:

  • Be physically active on a regular basis.
  • Consistently eat fiber rich carbohydrates.
  • Drink water throughout the day.
  • Manage stress levels.
  • Monitor blood sugar levels regularly.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Eat a nutrient-rich diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables.
how to reduce blood sugar level immediately testing blood sugar

List of foods that lower blood sugar levels over time

There are no foods that will immediately lower your blood sugar in the moment. But if consistently eaten over time, some foods have been proven to help promote stable blood sugars and lower average blood glucose levels over time. 

So, what foods help lower blood sugar?

  1. Oats
  2. Beans and lentils
  3. Salmon and other fatty fish
  4. Eggs
  5. Nuts and nut butters
  6. Seeds and seed butters
  7. Unsweetened yogurt and kefir
  8. Fermented vegetables
  9. Leafy greens
  10. Grapes
  11. Blueberries
  12. Apples
  13. Citrus fruit
  14. Avocados

Let’s take a closer look at each of these foods that lower blood sugar…

rolled oats

1. Oats

I use oats in a lot of recipes because they are a higher fiber and higher protein grain option compared to traditional flours. Oats are rich in soluble fiber which is known to help promote healthy blood sugar levels. 

what foods help lower blood sugar dry beans and lentils

2. Beans and lentils

Similar to oats, beans are rich in fiber and protein. These are two nutrients we know help promote blood sugar balance. And more specifically, they offer a good amount of soluble fiber (like oats) and resistant starch.

Both of these types of carbohydrate take longer for our bodies to digest and thus help promote more stable blood sugars. 

what foods help lower blood sugar salmon and eggs

3 & 4. Animal proteins: Salmon, other fatty fish, and eggs

Fatty fish (like salmon) and eggs are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They also offer a quality source of protein and fat. Protein and fat both help buffer your body’s blood sugar response after eating and encourage stable blood sugars.

nuts and seeds to lower blood sugar

5 & 6. Nuts, seeds, and nut/seed butters

Nuts, seeds, and their respective butters offer quality sources of protein, plant based fat, and fiber. All three are blood sugar balancing nutrients we look for! These foods have been shown to not only help promote healthy blood sugar levels, but also keep you more satisfied and full for longer. 

fermented foods for lowering blood sugar

7 & 8. Fermented foods: yogurt, kefir, vegetables

Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and others contain probiotics. A diet rich in probiotics can lower blood glucose levels. It can also blood insulin levels according to some studies. 

leafy greens what foods help lower blood sugar

9. Leafy greens

Leafy greens are a rich source of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and fiber, and can be easily added to everything – from smoothies to omelettes to salads. And as we discussed before, foods higher in fiber help promote healthy blood sugar levels. 

foods that help lower blood sugar blueberries apples grapes

10-12. Grapes, blueberries, and apples

One of the biggest myths that still exists about blood sugar management is that people looking to balance blood sugar shouldn’t eat fruit. But, the truth is, we have so much data to show the opposite. A diet that includes fruit is protective against developing pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes and can also help manage existing diabetes.

Research has shown higher consumption of grapes, blueberries, and/or apples is associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

citrus fruit lower blood sugar

13. Citrus fruit

Eating whole citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruit, may help promote healthy blood sugars and other related markers like insulin levels and hemoglobin A1c

sliced avocados with pit

14. Avocados

Avocados are delicious and are high in plant based fats and fiber. Both of these nutrients slow down the absorption process and promote a steady supply of energy to the blood stream… aka, blood sugar balance!

There are many other foods that can also help lower blood sugars over time in addition to the foods I’ve listed above. 

Meals to Lower Blood Sugar

Try one of these meals next time your blood sugar is high. You no longer need to wonder what foods lower blood sugar immediately or what to eat for your next meal!

For more resources on managing diabetes and balancing blood sugars, check out the Diabetes 101 section of my website. We cover a variety of topics all related to balancing blood sugars!

More to explore...

43 Responses

  1. My husband is actually under weight with diabetes (just diagnosed). Wondering what foods will help him gain weight

    1. My husband is in the same boat as yours. Oatmeal every morning, 1/2 banana or 1 small banana, 1 small yogurt (plain, preferably) or Activia. Coffee (black or with Half&Half/cream and sugar free sweetener of choice: hubby likes Splenda). Lunch: 2 eggs over easy, 2 slices of toasted bread with butter, 1 meat (ham, bacon, steak), 1/2 banana or apple/grapes/melon fruit bowl.
      Unsweetened ice tea or sweetened with no sugar sweetener (Splenda, for example), drink coffee, water (lots), dinner: baked salmon with roasted veggies or broccoli, or baked chicken with rice and corn/peas/green beans/snap pod peas; or stir fry veggies with shrimp/chicken/steak (all or one of the meats). Stay away from processed foods like sausages, bologna, no high concentrated sugar foods like cakes, cookies, pies. Limit pasta or substitute for zoodles (zucchini noodles). Nuts and seeds are always good snacks, as are fresh fruit and vegetables. Reduce high sugar fruit like strawberries. Make sure your husband gets enough rest/sleep.
      Good luck!?

      1. Red raspberry tea (no sweetener) will lower blood sugar. I put one tea bag in a glass of lukewarm water and let it steep for a few minutes and drink at breakfast. I also put a teabag or two in my water bottle with cold water and drink it through out the day. Also, astragalus tincture under the tongue will lower blood sugar levels fairly quickly.

      1. Hi Joanna. Please consult with your doctor for personal medical questions. Unfortunately, as we discuss in the article, many foods can help with lowering blood sugar levels over time, but with a blood sugar that high you should call your physician immediately.

  2. Love this information! Finally a site that is NOT trying to sell anything, but giving self help and strategies to help us with this illness. Thank you and God bless,

  3. I just got out of the hospital for DKA. Worst experience ever. I never want to go thru that again. Im now into researching avoiding that at all costs. Thank you for this article it helped a great deal.

    1. Berberine will help both problems. Research the benefits of berberine and the B vitamins. My doctor recommended benfotiamine, biotin, niacinamide or a B-complex. Good research on all these vitamins.

  4. My HBA1C is 7.7 and estimated average glucose is 174.3.I am an angioplast performed patient. I don’t take any carbs nor sugary items., still my HBA1C on the higher side totally confused. Don’t know what to do, how will I face my doctor?

  5. I don’t see one reply to any of the comments on here. I’m wondering if there is anyone around to even answer questions?? Kind of discouraging.

    1. Hi Caryn, I cannot answer individual/personal health or nutrition questions so that may be why you’re not seeing responses. There’s also only one of me replying to all of these so I go through them in batches rather than as. they come in 🙂

  6. Thank you for all this info. Very frustrated that since almost a week my sugar is going up, don’t understand why? Week before had kidney stone pain, introduced new medication for my bones. Boniva and since then too much stress about my sugar, I am on metformin and Doctor is prescribing Jardin. Dontwant to lose weight.

  7. I’m border line of being healthy weight and under weight. I was in the hospital with DKA 9 months ago and I believe I go in and out of acidosis even though the the NP at our one and only clinic says its impossible and their solution is to prescribe more and more meds. Levemier, Metformin, Trulicity and Glipizide are what I currently take. Months of feeling dysfunctional. I am 54 but feel and now look like I’m in my late 60s. I am trying to research and do this on my own. I’m understanding what foods I can and cannot eat but not understanding why the ones I should still spike me. I’m thinking I’m not getting the glycemic load vs index, portion size, eating the foods in a certain order? I’m not big on processed foods, have a garden and make my own food. Make my own hummus, mayo, ect..I don’t exercise much anymore because I don’t have the muscle or get up and go. I went from working 50 to 60 hrs a week to losing my job and napping most of my days away or walking around in a confused fog. When reading on most sites it’s all about losing weight, where as I need to gain weight. Split pea soup or bean soup and hard boiled eggs are my go tos but I can’t live on..or should I say tolerate…on soup alone. Is there a ratio or an equation you could provide that would help me out on weight a healthy way. I have eliminated all bread since even a half a piece of whole wheat toast shot my levels up. So I’m fine without it and I’m not a picky eater. Sorry for the long comment, im new at this. I didn’t have (or know) diabetes until after I was sick with Covid last year.

    1. I’d like to say you can make a thing called a chaffle. It’s like bread but hardly no carbs. You use mayo, almond flour, baking powder and am egg. You can Google it to find a good recipe but you cook it in a waffle iron and can use it for burgers or anything. Or you can add some cinnamon and confectioners swerve and eat with low car/sugar free syrup. It’s a life changer for me.

  8. Yeah…One “supposed” Doctor on YouTube uploaded a video saying to stay away from any raw fruit because of the sugar content. That didn’t sit too well with me. ? It’s good to see this info about how fruit can actually keep your blood sugar levels in check. ?

  9. It just seems like I have to eat all the time if I go past 2 1/2 hours I’m in trouble. Any suggestions? says:

    My A1c is 6.1 . It seems that everything I read or study contradicts the previous thing. Some say eat eggs some say don’t eat eggs it’s so confusing with the mixed messaging. I went to my endocrinologist who sent me to a nutritionist she thought I needed to have more carbs the next person said I shouldn’t hardly have any carbs etc. I am fighting myself having huge fluctuations in my blood glucose testings. My average is around 129 but then I will have extreme fluctuations up to 220. I feel as if I’m going to die my vision gets blurry I can’t think I’ve tried drinking lots of water light exercising and sometimes it will come back down but it leaves me completely frightened. I have never been able to eat fruit as I’ve always shaped even as a kid. Have you heard of the book mastering diabetes Bucyrus homebody and Robby Barbaro? They seem to feel that the basic teachings are all wrong that we have learned as diabetics. How can I control these extreme surges in blood glucose I don’t know if I’m hypoglycemic I don’t know if I have diabetic keto acidosis.It just seems like I have to eat all the time if I go past 2 1/2 hours I’m in trouble. Any suggestions? I’m always shaky in my hands and heart racing.

  10. I had a Cortizone shot in my right shoulder today and my sugar levels at night. We’re off the chart so I started eating nuts avocados drinking lots of water and I’ve got it under control scared me for a minute and also the stress level comment and what I was reading that you had listed. I’ve had a lot going on and I think that added to it

  11. I went for a Cortizone shot today and the doctor told me that it would raise my blood sugar so I had to be careful when doing nut butter, avocados eating apples, drinking lots of water. Just kind of scared me for a while. Got it under control. Lots of helpful tips that were mentioned in your article. Thank you so much.

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