Diabetes is the fastest growing disease in the US, affecting an estimated 30 million people. What’s even more alarming is that there are an estimated 84 million people in a pre-diabetic stage. If you do the maths, this means that 45% of the population could be diabetic in the next few years!1
What happened to make diabetes grow from affecting an estimated 1% of the population in 1940 to a possible 45% today? The simple answer is that our diet has been radically changed, by modern milling methods and the introduction of thousands of chemicals into our foods.
The good news is that, by changing our diets, we can reduce our risk of diabetes significantly, and even reverse it. The important thing to realize is that our health is our responsibility and what we put into our mouths has a direct impact, negative or positive. Changing to eating low GI, fresh, chemical-free foods and eliminating processed, fast and junk foods will make a huge difference.
Here are 9 foods that will help lower your blood sugar.
Oats contain both soluble and insoluble fibers, especially beta-glucan, which help slow the absorption of sugars into the bloodstream. A 2005 study showed that the addition of oat bran significantly decreased the uptake of glucose and prevented blood sugar spikes after meals.2 Another large scale review of studies in 2015 confirmed the beneficial effect of oats intake on glucose control and lipid profiles in Type 2 diabetic patients.3 However, precooked, instant oats are so processed that they offer little or no benefit. The best option is rolled or steel cut oats (preferably organic). Adding chopped fruits, nuts, seeds and plain, unsweetened yogurt makes a tasty, diabetic friendly breakfast.
Avocados are a great source of good fats, dietary fiber and vitamins, making them a delicious addition to any meal. In addition, they contain no cholesterol, salt or sugar. Because they are rich in good fats, they help to regulate appetite and as a result we eat less, making them a good option for weight loss too. A 2013 study showed that they helped slow sugar uptake and helped stabilize blood sugar levels after meals.4 Adding half an avo to meals is a great idea for diabetics. However, as they are relatively high in calories, it would not be advisable to do this every meal!
An apple a day keeps the doctor away – according to grandma. Well, she was right! Studies today are confirming their health benefits. Apples are rich in dietary fiber which slows down carbohydrate digestion, and so helps to regulate blood sugar. They also contain pectin, a water-soluble fiber, which is known to create a feeling of satiety. An analysis of studies concluded that consumption of apples was associated with 18% reduction in Type 2 Diabetes risk.5 Look for in season, organic apples for the best results.
Legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, soy beans, etc.) are great sources of protein and dietary fiber, making them an excellent choice for diabetics. In addition, they are low in saturated fats, contain many minerals and vitamins and aren’t contaminated with antibiotics and growth hormones, like so many red meats and chicken. They are tasty, versatile, inexpensive and can be used in stews, casseroles, wraps, salads and turned into spreads like hummus. A study in 2008 of over 64 000 women showed that they were effective in reducing the risk of diabetes by an average of 60%.6
We all know that salad greens are great additions to weight loss programs, but did you know that they are great for reducing blood sugar levels? Greens are all rich in dietary fiber which helps slow the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream. In addition, they contain carotenoids, like lutein, that are especially beneficial for the eyes. Many diabetics develop debilitating eye problems and even lose their sight altogether. Greens are also good sources of vitamins and minerals, in particular the B vitamins, Vitamin C, iron and calcium. One study which gave participants a vegan diet high in greens, showed remarkable results: in just two weeks half were able to stop insulin injections, and overall insulin requirements were cut by about 60%.7
Berries have long been known to be healthy. They are high in antioxidant flavonoids, polyphenols, vitamins and minerals and dietary fiber. They are tasty additions to salads, breakfast cereals and smoothies. Berries have been extensively studied in the last few years and shown to have a host of health benefits, including lowered blood sugar levels8, 9 and reduced insulin resistance in cells.10,11
Cinnamon has been prized for millennia because of its medicinal and flavoring properties. When it comes to blood sugar, just a teaspoon a day can help lower levels significantly. Simply add it to tea or coffee, sprinkle it on cereals, salads or wholemeal toast and add it to casseroles and pasta. It works by slowing the rate the stomach empties after eating, reducing the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.14 It has also been shown to help reduce insulin resistance by improving the cells’ ability to respond to insulin.15
Ginger is another spice that has a long history of medicinal use. In one study subjects were given ginger and another group a placebo. After eight weeks those receiving the ginger had reduced their fasting blood sugar levels by 10.5%. The levels of the placebo group had increased by 21%, so the ginger actually caused a +30% improvement.16 In another study, researchers showed that ginger improves eight diabetes markers, including insulin sensitivity.17
Curcumin, a substance found in turmeric, has been used in Indian and Asian medicine for decades because of its many health benefits. Recently it has been extensively studied in the West and the results are astounding. It has powerful anti-cancer properties and is helpful for heart health and diabetes. In one study it was shown to be between 500 and 10,000 times more effective than one of the world’s top diabetes drugs.12 In another study,13 curcumin and a placebo were given to prediabetic patients. After nine months, none of the test subjects given curcumin had developed diabetes, while 16.4% of the subjects given the placebo did. Curcumin proved to be 100% effective in preventing diabetes!