Foods That Can Help Manage Blood Sugar
We’re well-versed with the important diet and lifestyle strategies needed to keep blood sugar in check, including regular exercise, portion control, eliminating junk, watching the carbs (type and amount), increasing fiber and stress reduction. These strategies are imperative for anyone seeking overall wellbeing but especially if you’re trying to manage or prevent diabetes. Let’s now look at a few foods that could help. This is a guest blog post by nutrition student Shonali Soans.
Magnesium rich foods
Magnesium, the 4thmost abundant mineral in the body in involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions. Low magnesium levels are associated with many chronic diseases including insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes (1). Research suggests that magnesium plays a vital role in insulin signalling and regulation of glucose of uptake by the cells. A deficiency may therefore worsen insulin sensitivity and reduce glucose tolerance (2). Studies did in fact, find that improving magnesium levels can improve insulin sensitivity and consequently lower blood sugar levels(3, 4).Include some magnesium rich foods into your diet- Almonds, cashews, spinach and Cacao are great sources. See Martha’s previous post on Magnesium.
Besides the magnesium, the main antioxidants in cacao known as flavanols have been
shown to have positive effects on blood sugar (5). These compounds have been shown to regulate insulin secretion by pancreatic cells, make tissues more sensitive to insulin and regulate glucose uptake(5). However, most of the commercially available cocoa or chocolate likely has very little flavanols and lot of sugar and calories which may worsen glycemic control. Include 100% cacao powder or a piece of >80% cacao dark chocolate.
Vinegar has been used as a remedy for several health issues since ancient times. Recently, apple cider vinegar has been gaining plenty of attention, particularly for glycemic control. Studies have
shown that even a small amount of vinegar with meals helps lower post meal blood sugar levels (6). Researchers suggest that vinegar slows down carbohydrate absorption(7), improves insulin sensitivity and possibly decreases glucose production by the liver(8, 9). Apple cider vinegar may have some added benefits due its probiotic content. To incorporate apple cider vinegar into your diet, add it to salad dressings or mix 2 teaspoons in 8 ounces of water. See Shonali’s previous post on apple cider vinegar.
This sweet, spicy, delicious and amazing bark has been shown to improve blood glucose levels by slowing down carbohydrate absorption, decreasing insulin resistance by the cells, increasing glucose uptake by cells and decreasing glucose production by the liver (10). It also has anti-inflammatory properties which may play a role in preventing or reducing the progression of diabetes (10)It has even been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL – a bonus for diabetics with poor lipid parameters (10). Even as little as <1-6g (0.5-2tsp) of cinnamon can be a safe an effective amount per day (11).
Fenugreek (aka Methi)
While fenugreek may not be so popular in the western world, the leaves and seeds of this medicinal plant are common ingredients in south Asian cooking. One of the many benefits of fenugreek is its impact on blood sugar. Studies have found that in type 2 diabetes patients, consuming 10- 15 g Fenugreek seed powder soaked in water can reduce post meal glucose levels in type 2 diabetic patients(12). Compounds in fenugreek improve insulin resistance, reduce fasting glucose and improve glucose tolerance (13, 14). A few easy ways to incorporate Fenugreek – the seeds could be ground and added to bread/roti’s. They can also be soaked in water or brewed as a tea. There are plenty of delicious, healthy south Asian recipes available online that use fenugreek.
Okra, ochro, bhindi or ladies’ fingers is a popular vegetable in Ethiopian, African and south
Asian cuisine. Several studies have shown that okra can be a useful remedy in blood sugar control. It has a hypoglycemic effect and inhibits cholesterol absorption as well(15).
Note- if you are already on blood sugar lowering medications, please consult with a health professional before including any of the following foods into your diet. This is just a disclaimer – as it’s highly unlikely these foods will have an impact of lowering blood sugar dramatically!
I’d like to thank Shonali Soans for this excellent blog post. Stay tuned for more of her posts!
Shonali is an international MS student and dietetic intern at Brooklyn College School of Health and Nutrition Science. She is an aspiring functional/integrative RDN with experience working in various environments, from impoverished communities in urban India to a nutrition clinic at Brooklyn College. Her own diagnosis of PCOS planted her growing passion in the field, particularly in endocrine health, GI health, diabetes, cancer and sustainable agriculture as nutrition begins from the soil.
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