Are There Certain Foods That Lower Blood Sugar?
You know that a healthy diet comes with a host of health benefits. Eating the right foods can help people lose weight, clear their skin, and keep their immune system in check. But will eating certain foods lower your blood sugar?
The short answer is: not really. While sugar and high-carb foods causes blood sugar spikes, there is no food that directly lowers your blood sugar, just by eating it. But there are plenty of foods shown to improve insulin sensitivity, stabilize blood sugar (that is, prevent spikes and dips), and prevent diabetes.
Here’s what you can do:
Search for Foods With a Low Glycemic Index
To manage your blood sugar, choose foods low on the glycemic index as much as possible. The glycemic index (GI) is a measure for how much a particular food will raise your blood glucose level. The index ranks foods 0 to 100, with 0 having no impact on your blood glucose level and 100 raising it astronomically (1). Meat, cheese, and leafy greens carry a zero ranking on the GI because they do not impact your blood sugar level. Potatoes, rice, white bread, and table sugar rank above 90 (2).
Search for Nutrients Shown to Improve Insulin Levels
Studies show nutrients like B vitamins, magnesium, and omega–3 fatty acids help improve insulin sensitivity and manage glucose levels. Eating foods high in these nutrients is a natural way to help prevent Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.
Try adding these foods:
Nuts and Seeds
Replacing high-carb snacks like crackers and pretzels with nuts and seeds is a great way to control blood sugar levels. Choose nuts and seeds that are lowest in carbs, avoiding cashews, pistachios, and chestnuts.
Roasted pumpkin seeds have less than 4 grams of total carbohydrates per ounce, with 9 grams of protein and almost 12 grams of fat (3). Plus, pumpkin seeds contain 37% of your daily needs of magnesium, a mineral shown to help manage blood glucose levels. In fact, magnesium deficiencies are common in those with insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes (4).
Chia seeds contain 12.3 grams of total carbohydrates per ounce, but 10.6 of these come from fiber (5). Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is indigestible; unlike starch and sugar, it isn’t broken down into glucose during digestion (6). Better yet, the majority of this is soluble fiber, which can lead to reduced blood sugar levels (7)(8).
Leafy greens and other non-starchy vegetables are great side dishes for anyone trying to manage their blood sugar. Avoid high-carb vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and other starches.
Cooked broccoli ranks zero on the glycemic index, with only 3.6 grams of net carbs per serving per cup (2)(9). Broccoli is one of the best food sources for chromium, a mineral found in the body in trace amounts. Chromium is thought to help decrease insulin resistance, and can be found in beef, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, green beans, and other foods (10). Type 2 diabetics have been shown to have lower levels of chromium than those without the disease (11).
Leafy greens, like spinach, are notoriously low carb, packed with nutrients, and have the coveted zero ranking on the glycemic index. Plus, you can eat bowls of it — there’s only 7 calories in an entire cup (12). Spinach is a great source of alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), an omega–3 fatty acid, which lowers blood sugar and prevents diabetes (13). ALA is a common ingredient in multivitamins, but is also used in various diabetes medications (14).
Various pantry staples are connected to healthy blood sugar levels. Choose the options below, throwing out high-carb, high-sugar basics like flour, sugar, and cornstarch.
Cinnamon is used as a natural remedy for those with diabetes to help control blood sugar. Various observational studies have backed this claim, showing cinnamon helps lower fasting glucose levels, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels (15). You can add cinnamon to a variety of recipes for added spice, or sprinkle it in your morning coffee.
How can something as sweet as chocolate help lower blood sugar? First, recognize this applies to dark chocolate only (not milk chocolate or your favorite candy bar), with 80% or more coming from cocoa. There is a specific compound found in cocoa called flavonoids (typically found in fruits and vegetables) that received widespread attention for their ability to prevent diabetes (16)(17). Studies show cocoa flavonoids help improve insulin sensitivity and prevent inflammation associated with Type 2 diabetes.
Apple Cider Vinegar
The supposed health benefits of vinegar are endless, with the ability to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, improve skin health, relieve acid reflux, and even treat warts. As early as the 18th century, apple cider vinegar was used to treat diabetic patients. Recent studies show apple cider vinegar helps reduce blood glucose levels and improve insulin resistance, thereby helping to manage Type 2 diabetes (18).
Meat and Seafood
Red meat, poultry, fish, and eggs (especially the yolks!) are great meal options as they rank zero on the glycemic index. Always choose the best options you can afford, such as wild-caught seafood and grass-fed meat.
Omega–3 fatty acids and other healthy fats may help manage blood glucose levels, which could help manage diabetes (19). You can easily find omega–3 fatty acids in cod liver oil or fish oil tablets, or you can get them from foods like flaxseed, walnuts, and anchovies. Fatty fish is a great source of omega–3s, particularly mackerel, which has 2,991 milligrams per filet — more than salmon (20).
Organ meats, like liver, are some of the most nutrient-rich foods you can consume. Liver is an good source of biotin, a B vitamin found in foods and supplements. Biotin plays an important role in the blood glucose management because it increases the activity of the enzyme glucokinase. Glucokinase, in turn, helps manage blood glucose levels (21)(22). Studies show supplements of biotin help with blood sugar control (22).
Not only does steak contain zero carbohydrates, but it’s a great source of carnitine. Carnitine is derived from an amino acid and gives you energy and boosts your metabolism. Carnitine is believed to help burn fat, thereby increasing insulin sensitivity and lowering glucose levels (23). Carnitine is found in most animal products (poultry, red meat, and eggs) with the rule of thumb being the redder the meat, the higher the level of carnitine.
The Bottom Line: Build a Plate to Help Manage Blood Sugar
Maintaining a healthy diet of low-glycemic, nutrient-dense foods can help manage blood sugar, body weight, cholesterol levels, and other risk factors contributing to diabetes. Follow an eating plan filled with green, leafy vegetables, high-quality meat and seafood, and low-carb snacks. Avoid foods associated with an increased risk of blood sugar spikes, like starchy vegetables, grains (yes, even whole grains), sugar, and legumes.
If you’re serious about lowering your blood sugar, you might consider following a low-carb diet, like the keto diet. Download this FREE e-book to help you get started.
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