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Normal Blood Glucose Levels: What They Are and How to Monitor Them

March 16, 2022
Written by
Team NutriSense
Brooke McKelvey
Reviewed by
Cheri B.
RD

Everyone’s talking about blood glucose levels (or blood sugar levels), but do you know enough about what they are and why they’re essential to focus on? And even with all the information available about them, do you know what “normal” blood sugar levels mean?

If not, don’t worry. It can be challenging to sift through everything to figure out precisely what a good range is for your blood sugar levels, why you should focus on them, and how to monitor them. Luckily, we’re here to help!

First, you should know that glucose is the main sugar found in your blood. The simple carbohydrate is your body's primary energy source and comes from many foods, such as bread, fruits, and vegetables. A target range for blood glucose levels is important because the amount of glucose in your blood changes throughout the day. 

Here’s more about blood glucose and what normal blood glucose levels look like. 

What is Blood Glucose (aka Blood Sugar)?

a person using finger prick method to test their glucose level

Glucose (C6H12O6 if you’re ever on Jeopardy!) is a simple sugar—the most basic of all carbohydrates. Blood sugar, or blood glucose, is the sugar that circulates in your bloodstream and provides your body with energy.

Your body constantly regulates your blood sugar levels to keep them within a normal range. Glucose levels, in particular, are regulated by the hormone insulin released from the pancreas. While insulin can help reduce blood sugar levels, hormones like glucagon and cortisol can raise blood sugar.

When your blood glucose levels are too high, your body releases insulin to bring them back down. When your blood glucose levels are low, your body releases glucagon to raise them. 

Here’s a fun fact: the average person has about one teaspoon of sugar in their bloodstream at any given time. If your blood sugar levels rise too far above or below that one teaspoon, your pancreas releases hormones to keep the balance. 

When you have too much sugar in your blood, it leads to elevated blood glucose levels, also known as hyperglycemia. It can happen after a meal or if someone has diabetes. Things like excessive thirst, fatigue, and blurred vision are often symptoms, leading to severe complications like ketoacidosis if left untreated.

What are Normal Blood Glucose Levels for People without Diabetes?

Blood glucose levels vary from person to person and depend on various factors, including medical conditions like diabetes. For those who don’t have diabetes, a normal range can vary according to whether you have a healthy diet and lifestyle factors like sleep hygiene and blood pressure.

It’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Typical blood glucose levels can vary depending on age, weight, and activity level. Stress, illness, and certain medications can also affect your blood sugar levels—everything from a heart attack to a new weight loss goal can impact them. So if you're wondering what average blood glucose levels look like for you, it's best to talk to a healthcare provider. 

The NutriSense Nutrition Team recommends a daily average glucose of  <105 mg/dL for a healthy individual, with fasting values between 70-90 mg/dL. It’s also best to avoid repeated spikes of  >140 mg/dL. 

Here are some general guidelines for average blood glucose readings.

Fasting Blood Sugar Levels

a diagram showing risk of type 2 diabetes in person with normal fasting blood glucose levels

The medical definition of a “fast” is when you go more than eight hours without food and drink only water. So, first thing in the morning after eight hours of rest, for example. It's why fasting blood glucose levels are usually recorded just before breakfast. 

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) describes average fasting blood glucose as anything under 100 mg/dL. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides a similar fasting range of 70-100 mg/dL.

But a fasting blood glucose level near 100 mg/dL isn’t always ideal. Research shows that people with fasting blood glucose levels consistently between 91-99 mg/dL are more likely to develop diabetes.

The ADA recommends seeing your healthcare provider if you get two consecutive results above 100 or below 70 mg/dL.

Blood Sugar Levels Two Hours After Eating

a graphic showing two-hour nondiabetic PPG

It’s also important to know how your body responds to the foods you eat. Glucose is a simple carbohydrate, so the carbs in your diet like bread, beer, and potatoes can cause higher spikes in your blood glucose.

Balancing your meals with proteins and fiber-filled foods is a great way to balance those carbohydrates out and keep your levels stable. It’s also an excellent way to nurture a healthy diet to optimize your health.

The scientific term for this post-meal test is a postprandial glucose test (PPG). The ADA says that for those without diabetes, a two-hour postprandial glucose test should show blood sugar levels between 70-140 mg/dL.

Some research suggests the sweet spot for PPG two hours after eating should be under 100 mg/dL.

Maximum or Peak Glucose Levels

a graphic showing normal maximum glucose levels

Eating provides your body with the energy it needs for the next five to six hours of your day. So, it’s not surprising that your blood glucose levels spike immediately after a meal.

As a healthy adult, your readings directly after a meal should be <140 mg/dL. Remember, keeping your blood sugar levels below this threshold can also help minimize the risk factors for medical conditions like prediabetes.

Regardless of mitigating factors like eating patterns, any two tests (taken two hours apart) that show blood sugar levels over 200 mg/dL can be concerning. And, if you have readings over 200 mg/dL, it’s a good idea to contact a healthcare provider without delay.

a determination of normal blood glucose levels

What are Normal Blood Glucose Levels for People with Diabetes?

While everyone should focus on optimizing their blood glucose levels, it’s often part and parcel of the treatment plan for those with diabetes. Diabetes, known medically as diabetes mellitus, is a group of disorders related to an abundance of glucose in the blood. 

If your body cannot produce enough insulin, your healthcare provider will likely diagnose you with type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body cannot properly regulate and use blood glucose due to issues like insulin resistance.

a difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes

The average blood sugar levels for those living with diabetes are slightly different from those without diabetes. And pregnant women who may develop gestational diabetes have different ranges too.

Individual factors such as age and medical history can also change what an average level looks like for you.

It’s always best to find your ideal range from a doctor, but if you’re curious about what average blood glucose ranges look like for those with diabetes, read on.

Fasting Blood Glucose Levels

Proper diabetes management requires regular testing. For many people with diabetes, that means taking a fasting blood glucose test before breakfast. 

According to the ADA, fasting blood sugar levels of 99 mg/dL are normal, 100 to 125 mg/dL indicate the possibility of prediabetes, and 126 mg/dL or higher indicates diabetes.  

Two-Hour Postprandial Blood Glucose Levels

a graphic showing two-hour diabetic PPG

The two-hour PPG test is another benchmark for those managing diabetes. The ADA says a two-hour PPG blood sugar level of 140 mg/dL or lower is considered normal.

Much like the blood sugar guidelines for those without diabetes, the ADA’s postprandial blood glucose level recommendation should serve as the upper limit. 

Our dietitian, Cheri Bantilan adds, “For healthy individuals striving for optimal levels, we like to see two-hour postprandial blood glucose values  <100 mg/dL, and/or a return to preprandial values. A good response would be <120 and/or a return to preprandial values.” 

Peak Glucose Value

With or without diabetes, blood glucose levels usually peak around 30 to 60 minutes after eating. For those with diabetes, a good target range is blood sugar levels less than 80 mg/dL higher than a test taken before the meal.

The closer your post-meal and pre-meal blood sugar readings, the better. Readings over 240 mg/dL can be dangerous, so it’s best to consult a doctor if you see those.

A1C or Average Glucose Readings

The Glycated hemoglobin, or A1C test, is a medical blood test result used to gauge how much glucose has been in a person’s blood over three months. It reflects an average of the ups and downs of blood glucose levels over a longer time.

Most people with diabetes can expect an A1C test anywhere between twice and six times a year and aim for levels below 7 percent. A1C test results are also known as Estimated Average Glucose (eAG) Level tests. An A1C level of 7 percent correlates to an eAG of 154 mg/dL.

a meaning of mg/dL

How to Check Your Blood Glucose Levels

Blood sugar levels can vary, but the guidelines and resources in this article can help you determine if you’re within a healthy target range. If you're still confused by all the numbers, here's a handy list of blood sugar charts by age!

And if you're struggling with unstable blood glucose levels or want a deeper understanding of your body’s metabolic health, try these tools.

Glucometer

a person using finger prick method to test their glucose level

A glucometer is a medical device with which you can measure the sugar level in your blood. Small, portable, and easy-to-use, it involves pricking your finger, touching a drop of blood to the test strip, and letting the machine do the rest. 

The most obvious drawback of this blood sugar meter is the finger prick. Glucometers also need a constant supply of testing strips, and while some come equipped with onboard memory, most do not. You'd need to keep a journal to write down the time of each test and the corresponding blood sugar level.

Continuous Glucose Monitors

 hands holding a smartphone checking glucose response

CGMs continuously measure and record a person's blood sugar levels. They are a sensor placed on the skin, usually on the “fatty” part of your upper arm. They have a small filament that gets inserted under the skin and are an excellent option for those looking to get real-time readings to understand their blood glucose trends.

a list of benefits of CGMs

Hemoglobin A1C Test

a test tube for Haemoglobin A1C Test

The A1C hemoglobin test is a physician-ordered test that involves a blood sample. Because A1C levels aren’t as dependent on immediate external factors such as recent diet and exercise. These tests provide a bigger-picture look. A1C tests are a helpful way to see how dietary and lifestyle changes have affected blood glucose levels over time.

Pros of A1C Tests

  • Provides a big-picture by capturing a three-month average blood sugar level
  • Better at diagnosing hyperglycemia than fasting glucose
  • Better marker for side effects of diabetes like kidney disease 
  • No fasting is necessary  
  • Less prone to individual genetics

Con of A1C Tests

  • Misses spikes and valleys in blood sugar and only captures the average
  • Often fails to diagnose asymptomatic diabetes
  • It can be a lagging metric for catching early deviations in glucose levels
  • Red blood cells often vary in length, making standards for A1C tests unreliable
  • Poor predictor of cardiovascular risk

Fructosamine

Fructosamine is a compound produced in the body when glucose combines with protein. Like A1C hemoglobin, measuring fructosamine levels provides another stable benchmark. For those diagnosed with diabetes, the doctor-administered test can reveal how diet and lifestyle changes affect blood sugar in as little as two weeks. Because fructosamine testing does not rely on hemoglobin, it can provide more accurate results for those with atypical blood cells.

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test

red blood cells under microscope

The oral glucose tolerance test is a doctor-prescribed test that gauges how your body reacts to an influx of glucose. They are a standard test during pregnancy to check for gestational diabetes. The test begins with a blood draw to determine a baseline blood sugar level. Then, the patient drinks eight ounces of liquid glucose—usually a total of 75 grams of carbohydrates. After a few hours, the test requires another blood draw to see how your body handles the influx of glucose.

A Note on Hypoglycemia and Diabetes

With all the talk of high blood sugar, it’s easy to forget that low blood sugar can also be an issue—especially for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. Too much insulin can lead to hypoglycemia or unhealthily low blood sugar levels. For those with diabetes, blood sugar levels below 70 mg/dL are hypoglycemic levels.

a list of mild symptoms of hypoglycaemia: sweating, tingles, a racing heartbeat, anger. A list of severe symptoms of hypoglycaemia: severe drowsiness, seizure, loss of consciousness, slurred speech

Learn more about very low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia) and high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) here.

Engage with Your Blood Glucose Levels with Nutrisense

Your blood sugar levels can significantly impact how your body feels and functions. That’s why stable blood glucose levels can be an important factor in supporting overall wellbeing.

With Nutrisense, you’ll be able to track your blood glucose levels over time using a CGM, so you can make lifestyle choices that support healthy living.

When you join the program, our team of credentialed dietitians and nutritionists are available for additional support and guidance to help you reach your goals.

Ready to take the first step? Start with our quiz to see how Nutrisense can support your health.

Click here to listen to the podcast.
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Normal Blood Glucose Levels: What They Are and How to Monitor Them
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Understanding The Effects of Sugar on the Brain According to Research
Understanding The Effects of Sugar on the Brain According to Research

What really happens to your brain when you consume sugar? Review how interesting the relationship between the brain and sugar is, and why it’s important to control your blood sugar.

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9
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Understanding the Causes and Symptoms of Endometriosis
Understanding the Causes and Symptoms of Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a common yet often ignored condition. Learn more about the symptoms to watch out for, how you can seek treatment, and read first-hand accounts from two women who have dealt with endometriosis.

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6
min
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Understanding Hyperglycemia vs. Hypoglycemia and How to Recognize the Differences
Understanding Hyperglycemia vs. Hypoglycemia and How to Recognize the Differences

Quickly understand the differences between hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, how to recognize the signs, and key prevention tips.

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6
min
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Triglycerides and Blood Glucose [+Tips to Lower Triglyceride Levels]
Triglycerides and Blood Glucose [+Tips to Lower Triglyceride Levels]

Learn everything you need to know about the relationship between triglycerides levels and blood glucose.


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7
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Tips and Tricks for Staying Healthy in the Summer
Tips and Tricks for Staying Healthy in the Summer

If you're gearing up to travel or spend more time outdoors this summer, here are a few tips to help you stay safe and hydrated in the sun.

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7
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Tips for a Healthy, Happy Purim
Tips for a Healthy, Happy Purim

Purim, a joyous occasion celebrated around March or April every year, is just around the corner! Read on to learn more about the holiday and the delicious foods that accompany it.

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5
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Thoughtful Valentine's Day Gift Ideas from NutriSense Dietitians
Thoughtful Valentine's Day Gift Ideas from NutriSense Dietitians

Still haven't settled on the perfect gift for your Valentine this year? Take a look at our Nutrition Team's favorites for some thoughtful ideas.

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10
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The Warning Signs of Nerve Damage You Should Watch Out For
The Warning Signs of Nerve Damage You Should Watch Out For

Because nerve damage can have many silent symptoms, it often goes undiagnosed in the early stages. Read on to learn more about what causes nerve damage and some warning signs to watch out for.

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7
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The Ultimate Guide to Fiber and its Effect on Metabolic Health
The Ultimate Guide to Fiber and its Effect on Metabolic Health

Ready to learn all about fiber beyond just the basics? In this post, we dive deep into the different kinds of fiber and health benefits of each. From functional fiber to fermentation, we break down all the jargon into a layman's language.

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8
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The Relationship Between Cardio and Blood Sugar
The Relationship Between Cardio and Blood Sugar

Did you know that cardio can help you lose weight as well as optimize your health and blood glucose? Here's everything you need to know about cardio and its relationship with blood sugar.

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7
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The Side Effects of Unhealthy Weight Loss
The Side Effects of Unhealthy Weight Loss

Find out what unhealthy weight loss is and learn more about its side effects and what you can do to prevent them.

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6
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The Relationship Between Low Blood Sugar and High Blood Pressure
The Relationship Between Low Blood Sugar and High Blood Pressure

Learn about the warning signs of low blood sugar and the relationship it has on blood pressure.

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10
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The Positive Impact Weight Lifting Has on Blood Sugar
The Positive Impact Weight Lifting Has on Blood Sugar

Here is everything you need to know about the relationship between weight lifting and blood sugar.

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7
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The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar
The Relationship Between Cholesterol and Blood Sugar

Cholesterol plays a very important role in the human body, contributing to the structure of the cells, helping with vitamin D synthesis, and also promoting the production of steroid and sex hormones, like cortisol, aldosterone, testosterone, and estrogen. But how exactly is cholesterol connected to blood glucose levels?

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8
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The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Diabetes
The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Diabetes

NutriSense dietitian Katrina Larsen, MS, RD,N, LD, CDCES discusses the risk factors for sleep apnea and how this disorder is linked to other health conditions.

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5
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The Paleo Diet and Blood Glucose Levels
The Paleo Diet and Blood Glucose Levels

The premise of the paleo diet is that the body can handle a mix of meats, fruits and vegetables, eggs, fish, and complex carbohydrates better than processed meats, refined fats, grains and simple carbohydrates because it evolved to eat the first category as hunter-gatherers.

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8
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The Health Benefits of Winter Squash
The Health Benefits of Winter Squash

A common ingredient in cozy winter recipes, winter squash is one of our favorite foods this time of year. Read on to learn more about how it can benefit your health.

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6
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The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers We Love
The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Stocking Stuffers We Love

Haven't finished your holiday shopping yet? Pick from this list of NutriSense-approved holiday gifts to find some great last-minute stocking stuffers for everyone on your list!

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8
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The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Health-Focused Gifts They’ll Love
The NutriSense Holiday Gift Guide: Health-Focused Gifts They’ll Love

Still haven't bought all your holiday gifts this year? Don't worry—there's still time to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Read our guide for some great ideas!

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9
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The Link Between Inflammation and Blood Glucose
The Link Between Inflammation and Blood Glucose

Learn more about inflammation, how it affects blood glucose levels and what you can do to prevent and manage it.

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9
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The Health Benefits of Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet
The Health Benefits of Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet

Fermented foods have a range of health benefits. Read on to learn more about what they are and why you should be adding them to your diet.

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9
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The Health Benefits of Potatoes, Yams, and Sweet Potatoes
The Health Benefits of Potatoes, Yams, and Sweet Potatoes

Potatoes, yams, and sweet potatoes are similar in usage, but pretty distinct in taste, texture, appearance, and even nutritional content! Read on to find out more about each one.

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8
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The Health Benefits of Living With Pets
The Health Benefits of Living With Pets

Did you know that living with a pet can do more than just put a smile on your face? Read on to learn all the ways living with pets improves your wellbeing.

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7
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The Health Benefits of Cooking With Herbs and Spices
The Health Benefits of Cooking With Herbs and Spices

Herbs and spices are a great way to add flavor to dishes, and also have a range of health benefits. Learn more about a few of our favorites.

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12
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The Health Benefits of Beans
The Health Benefits of Beans

Learn about the health benefits of beans and how they can help you live a healthier, longer life.

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6
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The Guide to Metabolic Diets: What Are They, Do They Work, And Who Should Try Them?
The Guide to Metabolic Diets: What Are They, Do They Work, And Who Should Try Them?

Review our guide to metabolic diets to help get a better understanding of what they are and whether they might be right for you.

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The Foods and Traditions of Kwanzaa
The Foods and Traditions of Kwanzaa

Learn about the traditions and nutrient-dense food commonly enjoyed during Kwanzaa. 

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9
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The Blood Sugar and Joint Pain Connection
The Blood Sugar and Joint Pain Connection

Have you ever wondered how your glucose levels might be connected to joint pain? We'll take a deep dive into this connection and share tips for reducing pain.

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10
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The Best Diet for Non-Diabetic Hypoglycemia
The Best Diet for Non-Diabetic Hypoglycemia

This article explores hypoglycemia in non-diabetics, how to manage symptoms through diet, and the advantages of glucose monitoring.

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6
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The Effect of Aging on Your Blood Glucose Levels
The Effect of Aging on Your Blood Glucose Levels

Take a look at how aging can affect your blood glucose levels.

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9
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The Best Diet to Increase Your Vitamin D Levels
The Best Diet to Increase Your Vitamin D Levels

Read on to learn more about vitamin D-rich foods and what you should include in your diet to make the most of this vitamin’s health benefits.

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10
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The Best Diet for Menstruation
The Best Diet for Menstruation

When it comes to your menstrual cycle, what you eat can significantly impact how you feel. Read on to learn more about the best foods to add to your diet to help during that time of the month.

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8
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The Benefits and Risks of Popular Ayurvedic Herbs and Spices
The Benefits and Risks of Popular Ayurvedic Herbs and Spices

Ayurveda is an ancient Indian holistic healing system that dates back over 5,000 years. In the second installment of our series on the practice, review the benefits and risks associated with popular Ayurvedic herbs and spices.

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9
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The Beginner’s Guide to the Low FODMAP Diet
The Beginner’s Guide to the Low FODMAP Diet

In this article, we break down what a low FODMAP diet looks like for beginners, and its potential benefits and drawbacks for gastrointestinal health.

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8
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The 6 Worst Foods for Osteoporosis
The 6 Worst Foods for Osteoporosis

When it comes to bone health, good nutrition is absolutely critical. Read on to learn what osteoporosis is and why some foods may increase your risk of or worsen the condition.