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THESE Foods Can Help Lower Blood Sugar
Diet is an important part of diabetes therapy. In fact, dietary changes are usually among the first recommendations that doctors give newly diagnosed diabetics. This article discusses the most healthful foods for diabetics and also how these foods can help lower blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of diabetes complications.
by Brad Chase
The right diet for diabetics must be rich in fruits, nuts, whole grains and vegetables.
A diabetes diet or MNT (medical nutrition therapy) for diabetes should also be low in fats and calories even as it packs natural nutrients.
The chief aim of a diabetes diet is to help control blood sugar levels. This is done to prevent large fluctuations in blood sugar levels and also to manage body weight more effectively. Therefore, the right diabetes diet should significantly lower blood sugar and reduce the risks of cardiovascular, kidney and related diseases associated with diabetes.
A diabetes diet is not a restrictive diet. Rather, it is simply a selection of healthful foods that can help lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity. This means that the foods that make up a diabetes diet are highly recommended for diabetics and non-diabetics alike.
Nuts are excellent sources of essential nutrients like magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, copper, selenium, folate, vitamin E and vitamin B2. They are also rich in proteins, fibers and natural antioxidants.
Antioxidants like vitamin E and selenium can protect the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas from oxidative destruction. However, the most important reason for including nuts in a diabetes diet is their low glycemic index.
With their high-fiber content and low glycemic index, nuts can reduce insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes patients.
In addition, nuts contain unsaturated fats, essential fatty acids such as linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids. Because of the type of fats and fatty acids they contain, nuts generally have hypolipidemic properties.
By improving the body’s lipid profile, nuts can reduce the risks of coronary heart diseases especially in diabetics. This protection has been confirmed by multiple clinical trials demonstrating that nuts can indeed lower serum LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol level.
Lastly, nuts improves satiety and reduces craving for carbohydrates. Therefore, it can help reduce caloric intake and prevent binge eating.
By reducing the intake of simple sugars and processed foods, nuts can help diabetics avoid spikes in blood sugar levels and allow the body to efficiently use insulin.
Vegetables make a wide class of edible plant parts with varying nutritional value. Generally, vegetables are rich in minerals and vitamins especially vitamins A, B6 and K. In addition, vegetables also contain fiber, carbohydrates, proteins and fats.
Besides these nutrients, vegetables also contain a variety of phytochemicals with different medicinal properties.
Vegetables can help reduce the risks of type 2 diabetes and the cardiovascular problems associated with it. Therefore, they are recommended for diabetics to help achieve better blood sugar controls.
However, all vegetables are not equal. Some contain antinutrients and toxins like oxalic acid and cyanide. These are usually removed during cooking but food processing can also destroy some of the nutrients in vegetables.
Dietitians recommend non-starchy vegetables for better glycemic control.
Starchy vegetables (like potatoes, peas, corn and lima beans) can increase the glycemic loads of diets. Because they contain more carbohydrates than non-starchy vegetables, these vegetables can raise blood sugar level.
Dietary fiber is the term used to describe the edible parts of plants made up of non-digestible carbohydrates and lignins that reduce absorption in the gastrointestinal tract.
Fiber can be soluble or insoluble. Soluble fiber dissolves in water. Once dissolved it slows down the movement of food through the gut and it is readily fermented. The fermentation causes gas and bloating.
On the other hand, insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. Instead, it absorbs water and forms into a bulk. Insoluble fiber is inert and speeds the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract.
Sources of dietary fiber includes fruits, fruit skins and fruit juices; nuts and seeds; vegetables; whole grain foods and bran; and root tubers.
Dietary fibers act by 3 main mechanisms: bulking, viscosity and fermentation. Of these, the first 2 are of importance to blood sugar control.
Fibers bind to bile acid and reduce its absorption. This lowers cholesterol levels in the blood and can help reduce the complications of diabetes. However, fibers also have direct effects on blood sugar level. For example, soluble fibers can regulate the absorption of sugar, prevent spiking sugar levels and, therefore, control insulin response to high sugar levels.
Studies have shown that the consumption of insoluble fibers can reduce the risk of diabetes.
How these fibers protect against diabetes is unknown but one study showed that resistant starch (a type of insoluble fiber) can increase insulin sensitivity in non-diabetics, people with developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes patients.
Whole grains are recommended for diabetics in place of refined grains. Unlike refined grain that contains only endosperm, whole grain is also made up of cereal germ and bran.
While whole grain contains about the same amount of carbohydrate as refined grain, it has a smaller surface area. Therefore, the enzymes responsible for breaking down carbohydrate make lower amounts of simple sugars from whole grains.
In addition, whole grain contains a significant amount of dietary fiber. This means that whole grains are digested at slower rates. Therefore, they do not cause spikes and wide fluctuations in blood sugar and insulin levels.
Different studies have confirmed these benefits of whole grains and their superiority over refined grains.
In one study, whole grain consumption produced lower fasting insulin levels than refined grains. Furthermore, whole grains reduced insulin resistance especially in participants who were obese and those who suffered from type 2 diabetes.
Therefore, whole grains reduce the risks of type 2 diabetes. They also reduce the risks of cardiovascular complications because they lower the levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.
Examples of whole grains that can help lower blood sugar levels are oat, wheat, barley, rye, millet and brown rice.
Vinegar is a weak acid obtained from a variety of sources including fruits, honey, malt and rice.
Vinegar is commonly used in food preparation to pickle and flavor foods. Eating foods prepared with vinegar increases satiety. Therefore, vinegar can reduce caloric intake and the amount of foods consumed because it increases the feeling of fullness.
Vinegar also has a direct effect on blood glucose levels. In fact, before hypoglycemic drugs were introduced, diabetics used vinegar to reduce the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.
Different studies support the use of vinegar in this way. By adding a little vinegar to food, vinegar can reduce the amount of sugar released from carbohydrates. This effect has been demonstrated both in diabetics and non-diabetics.
Lastly, vinegar can also reduce the serum levels of triglycerides and cholesterol. Therefore, vinegar can reduce blood pressure and the cardiovascular complications associated with diabetes.
Lemon juice also shares most of the anti-diabetic effects of vinegar although it is not as effective. Like vinegar, lemon juice contains antioxidants that can protect the pancreas from oxidative damage.
Other fruits and fruit juices may provide similar benefits. However, care should be taken because fruits contain high sugar levels. However, if the acid content is high enough, a fruit may provide an overall positive benefit.
Therefore, fruits with high acid and high fiber contents are especially recommended for diabetics.
Besides lemon, other fruits that may help lower blood sugar levels include sour cherries, sour apples, strawberries, grapefruit, cranberries, pomegranate and kiwi.
Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids are good for the heart and can help reduce cholesterol levels.
Examples of such fish are cod, halibut and tuna. These fish have lower total fat than poultry and meat. However, lean meats have low fat contents too and are, therefore, recommended for diabetics.
The protein in lean meats can also reduce the absorption of carbohydrates. In addition, meat is an excellent source of chromium, a trace mineral proven to improve glycemic control.
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