When it comes to improving your blood glucose, nothing beats the effectiveness of a nutritionally dense, whole food diet and a consistent exercise routine.
However, research indicates there are specific foods that can help manage blood glucose levels. Here's a list of these foods and how to include them as part of a healthy diet.
Adding ginger to your diet can improve fasting blood glucose, insulin sensitivity, and hemoglobin A1c. Two randomized control studies evaluated the impact of ginger intake on diabetes. In the first study, diabetics received one teaspoon of ground ginger every day for two months. By the end of the experiment, they had significantly improved insulin sensitivity. (1)
In the second study, people with diabetes consumed even more ginger (1.5 teaspoons) but over a shorter span period. After eight weeks, the results revealed a significant decrease in both fasting blood glucose and A1c. (2) Additional studies show similar results indicating ginger can be a safe and effective way to help control blood sugar. (3)
How to include it in your diet: make a morning cup of tea with hot water and 1.5 tsp of ground ginger.
Flax seeds are a nutritionally dense food full of fiber, protein, and omega-3s. And according to two studies, they can also help manage blood glucose. In an open-label study, people with diabetes received a tablespoon of ground flax seeds daily for a month. The participants experienced a significant drop in fasting blood glucose and A1c levels (as well as a drop in triglycerides and cholesterol levels). In the second study, obese subjects took 40g of flaxseed supplementation (a little over 2.5 tbsp). After 12 weeks, results showed significant improvement in insulin sensitivity. (5)
How to include it in your diet: Add 2 tbsp of ground flax seeds to your oatmeal, smoothies, soups, or even salads.
Incorporating vinegar with meals can decrease postprandial spikes in blood sugar, insulin, and triglycerides in people with diabetes. (6) Of note, adding only two teaspoons of vinegar to a meal (i.e., a side salad with balsamic vinegar) can be effective. (7)
In one study, researchers examined blood sugar levels in prediabetics. One group drank an apple cider vinegar (ACV) beverage consisting of 2 tbsp of vinegar, while the control group consumed a minimal amount of ACV in the form of a tablet. After one week, fasting blood sugars dropped 16 points in the ACV beverage group. (8) Furthermore, another study randomized diabetics into three groups. Each group received either 2 tbsp of vinegar twice a day, two dill pickles, or a small vinegar pill. The vinegar group experienced a significant drop in A1c levels. (9)
How to include it in your diet: Add red wine or balsamic vinegar to meals or try apple cider vinegar diluted in 32 oz of water. Aim for no more than 2 tbsp a day. Avoid supplements.
Green tea, a naturally low-calorie, low-sugar drink, is an excellent beverage for people with diabetes. Research indicates drinking green tea can also improve biomarkers associated with diabetes. Most noteworthy, a meta-analysis (a study that examines multiple studies) found that green tea decreased both fasting blood glucose and HbA1c concentrations in individuals. (10)
How to include it in your diet: Sip on 1-2 cups of warm green tea daily.
Curcumin is the active ingredient of the spice turmeric. A randomized, double-blind control trial examined the effects of curcumin in people with prediabetes. The experimental group received curcumin supplements (about 1/4 cup of curcumin each day) while the control group received a placebo. At the end of the study, the curcumin group experienced significant improvement in fasting blood sugars, glucose tolerance, A1C, and insulin sensitivity. As a result, 16% of the placebo group went on to develop type 2 diabetes while none of the experimental group did. (11) Likewise, another randomized control trial in diabetics showed comparable results but with only a teaspoon worth of curcumin. (12)
How to include it in your diet: add 1-2 tsp of turmeric to tea or your favorite dishes.
Adding these foods to your diet may help improve your blood glucose and insulin sensitivity but nothing beats the effectiveness of making lasting diet and lifestyle changes.
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(2) Mozaffari-khosravi H, Talaei B, Jalali BA, Najarzadeh A, Mozayan MR. The effect of ginger powder supplementation on insulin resistance and glycemic indices in patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Complement Ther Med. 2014;22(1):9-16.
(3) Daily JW, Yang M, Kim DS, Park S. Efficacy of ginger for treating Type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Journal of Ethnic Foods. 2015;2(1):36-43.
(4) U. V. Mani, I. Mani, M. Biswas, S. N. Kumar. An open-label study on the effect of flax seed powder (Linum usitatissimum) supplementation in the management of diabetes mellitus. J Diet Suppl 2011 8(3):257 – 265
(5) Y. Rhee, A. Brunt. Flaxseed supplementation improved insulin resistance in obese glucose intolerant people: A randomized crossover design. Nutr J 2011 10(NA):44
(6) P Mitrou, E Petsiou, E Papakonstantinou, E Maratou, V Lambadiari, P Dimitriadis, F Spanoudi, S A Raptis, G Dimitriadis. Vinegar Consumption Increases Insulin-Stimulated Glucose Uptake by the Forearm Muscle in Humans with Type 2 Diabetes. J Diabetes Res. 2015;2015:175204.
(7) C S Johnston, I Steplewska, C A Long, L N Harris, R H Ryals. Examination of the antiglycemic properties of vinegar in healthy adults. Ann Nutr Metab. 2010;56(1):74-9.
(8) C Johnston, S Quagliano, S White. Vinegar ingestion at mealtime reduced fasting blood glucose concentrations in healthy adults at risk for type 2 diabetes. Journal of Functional Foods. 2013 Oct;5(4):2007-2011.
(9) C S Johnston, A M White, S M Kent. Preliminary evidence that regular vinegar ingestion favorably influences hemoglobin A1c values in individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2009 May;84(2):e15-7.
(11) S Chuengsamarn, S Rattanamongkolgul, R Luechapudiporn, C Phisalaphong, S Jirawatnotai. Curcumin extract for prevention of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2012 Nov;35(11):2121-7.
(12) L X Na, Y Li, H Z Pan, X L Zhou, D J Sun, M Meng, X X Li, C H Sun. Curcuminoids exert glucose-lowering effect in type 2 diabetes by decreasing serum free fatty acids: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2013 Sep;57(9):1569-77.