Every time you push a shopping cart in the grocery store, you’re making a decision that goes far beyond what you’re going to have for dinner. You’re actually choosing between being healthy or unhealthy.
According to the American Diabetes Association, Diabetes is an epidemic in America, as 25.8 million Americans have diabetes, and 79 million have prediabetes, which is a stage where blood sugar levels are high but not high enough to be classified as diabetes. This is definitely a crisis.
Unfortunately, this epidemic shows no signs of slowing, and it is predicted that more than half of Americans will be diabetic or prediabetic by 2020. Diabetes is so scary because it brings a host of complications along with it including heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, nerve damage, poor circulation, hearing loss, erectile dysfunction, periodontal disease, and diabetic retinopathy.
Studies also show that diabetes increases the risk of Alzheimer’s, and a recent study from the University of Washington in Seattle found that high blood sugar levels that fall far short of high enough to be diagnosed as being diabetes increased the risk for dementia.
Diabetes is classified as either Type 1 or Type 2. With Type 1, the body fails to produce the insulin necessary to convert sugar and starches to energy, while Type 2 diabetics don’t properly use the insulin the body produces.
Foods That Fight Diabetes
A healthy diet is a proven key in the fight against diabetes, and studies have shown that some foods are particularly effective at lowering blood sugar.
This common spice contains a substance called MHCP which has been shown to renew the capacity of fat cells to respond to insulin and remove glucose. One, three, or six grams of cinnamon daily (as little as a quarter of a teaspoon) can lower glucose levels by up to 29%.
Blueberries & Other Berries
Diabetics can reap special benefits from berries. Unlike some fruits like pineapple and raisins, berries are low GI fruits, according to the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics. They also offer vision-protecting vitamin C, fiber, and are antioxidant powerhouses. Other good-for-you berries include strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. Researchers at the University of Illinois found that blueberry and blackberry wines may be effective in helping people with diabetes control their blood sugar.
These have many health benefits running the gamut from arthritis prevention to protection against prostate cancer. Israeli researchers say it also has important benefits for diabetics, showing that drinking six ounces of the juice daily for three months lowered the risk for atherosclerosis, which causes 80% of deaths in diabetics. Surprisingly, the researchers found the sugars in the juice did not seem to affect blood sugar levels.
A recent study from Harvard University found that eating two servings of whole fruits a week, particularly apples, blueberries, and grapes decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes by 23%. The foods like apples, onions, tomatoes, berries, and green vegetables decrease the risk of diabetes by 20%.
A Finnish study found that men who ate foods high in quercetin, such as apples, reduced their risk of diabetes by 20 percent. Other sources of quercetin include onions, tomatoes, berries, and green leafy vegetables.
Oranges & Other Citrus
According to Harvard Medical School, the average orange has a GI score of only 40. Other citrus fruits, such as the grapefruit, have even lower GI scores: a 120-gram grapefruit GI score is a rock-bottom 25. The pulp in oranges and grapefruit provide a great source of fiber, so eat the whole fruit rather than only drinking the juice for the maximum benefit.
This vegetable variety doesn’t cause a spike in blood sugar, they go a long way in satisfying your appetite and boosting your intake of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. These vegetables are low in calories and carbs, making them some of the few foods that people with diabetes can enjoy almost with abandon.
In fact, the American Diabetes Association identifies most non-starchy vegetables as low glycemic index (GI) foods with a ranking of 55 or less. What’s more, research conducted by Newcastle University found that a low-calorie diet consisting of non-starchy vegetables successfully reversed type 2 diabetes in patients. Some good non-starchy vegetables include:
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Artichoke hearts
- Beans: Italian, green, yellow, wax
- Bean sprouts
- Brussels sprouts
- Cabbage/Chinese cabbage
- Green onions or scallions
- Greens: beet, collard, dandelion, kale, mustard, turnip
- Lettuce: endive, escarole, leaf, Romaine, iceberg
- Peppers, all varieties
- Rhubarb, fresh
- Snow peas or pea pods
- Summer squash
- Swiss chard
- Tomato/Tomato paste
- Water chestnuts
Rich, creamy, and packed with beneficial monounsaturated fat, they slow digestion and help keep blood sugar from spiking after a meal. A diet high in good fats can help reverse insulin resistance, which translates to steadier blood sugar long-term.
Choosing this grain instead of white rice can reduce the rise in blood sugar after a meal by almost 70% and keep your blood sugar lower and steady for hours. The soluble fiber and other compounds in barley dramatically slow the digestion and absorption of the carbohydrate. Add barley to soups, serve it as a side dish, or make it the basis for a stir-fry or casserole.
When planning your weekly menu, try to eat beans at least twice a week. The soluble fiber in all types of beans puts a lid on high blood sugar. Because they are also rich in protein, they can stand in for meat in main dishes.
Nuts & Seeds
Because of their high fiber and protein content, nuts are “slow burning” foods that are friendly to blood sugar. And even though they contain a lot of fat, it’s the healthy kind.
Like nuts, seeds of all types like pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, chia are filled with good fats, protein, and fiber that work together to keep blood sugar low. Hold the croutons on your salad and substitute pumpkin or sunflower seeds instead.
Oatmeal is loaded with soluble fiber which forms a paste when mixed with water. Just as it sticks to your bowl, it also forms a gummy barrier between the digestive enzymes in your stomach and the starch molecules in your meal. You can also add ground oatmeal to muffin, pancake, or waffle batters.
Lean Forms of Protein
The right amount of protein helps manage diabetes in a few ways. First, it will help take the edge off hunger and can speed up weight loss, which lowers blood sugar levels. Plus, pairing protein-rich foods with carbohydrates slows the rise in blood sugar. Topping pasta with grilled chicken will cause blood sugar levels to take longer to peak. This is because protein stimulates insulin release (in those who still produce insulin). Protein also causes your stomach to empty more slowly. This delays the starch from reaching your gut, where it’s turned into glucose before entering your bloodstream. This delayed gastric emptying helps prevent sharp spikes in blood sugar. Some top forms of lean proteins are:
- Chicken or Turkey
- Cottage cheese
- Lean Beef
- Peanut Butter
Wild Salmon & Other Fish
The GI index only ranks foods containing carbohydrates, so you won’t find a GI number associated with fish. Wild salmon is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which lower risk of heart disease if you eat it regularly. It’s also full of vitamin D and selenium for healthy hair, skin, nails, and bones. If you don’t prefer salmon, similarly nutrient-dense fish include herring, sardines, and mackerel.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar is often touted as a remedy for many things, but researchers at Arizona State University East found that two tablespoons of ACV before meals cut sugar levels in prediabetics by 50%, and by 25% in diabetics. In addition, a study published in the journal Diabetes Care found that drinking apple cider vinegar after eating a high-carb breakfast lowered blood sugar levels by 34% in patients with prediabetes, and by 19% in those who had Type 2 diabetes.
This super healthy drink is simple, inexpensive and excellent for preventing diabetes, as it regulates the blood sugar levels. Expert suggest drinking 2-3 cups of green tea every day.
Flavonoids in dark chocolate help prevent against insulin insensitivity, a condition that stops body to use insulin effectively in type 2 diabetes. Experts say that consumption of 100 grams of dark chocolate per day improves the body’s metabolism of glucose.
If you choose a baked sweet potato instead of a baked white potato, your blood sugar will rise about 30% less. Sweet potatoes are packed with nutrients and disease-fighting fiber, with almost 40% of the soluble type that lowers cholesterol and slows digestion. They’re also extra rich in carotenoids, that play a role in helping the body respond to insulin. Plus, they’re full of the natural plant compound chlorogenic acid, which may help reduce insulin resistance.
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