If you’ve dealt with diabetes before, whether as an individual or through a family member or a friend, you probably know how important keeping blood glucose low and well regulated is. Yes, it can be challenging, but paying attention to what you eat can significantly regulate your blood glucose levels and keep them low. Let’s explore the best foods to lower and regulate blood sugar.
Why Is It Essential to Control Blood Glucose?
High blood glucose is not only a problem in diabetes but a threat to overall health and wellbeing. It has been shown to trigger inflammation, cause weight gain, obesity, high cholesterol, heart disease, autoimmune conditions, and even cancer.
The body only requires 4 grams (a teaspoon) of sugar to circulate in the blood at any given point. Anything more gets converted into fat and stored in the body, especially around your midsection or internal organs. This increases your risk of various chronic conditions.
For this reason, it’s essential to keep your glucose levels low, and the best place to begin is in your diet- the food you eat!
According to Dr. Robert Lustig a pediatric endocrinologist who is best known for his work promoting an anti-sugar diet, ‘sugar in the form of sucrose and fructose is like poison’ due to its negative effects on the neurotransmitters of the body. This addiction can be explained as a cycle that gets more potent every time we eat sugar.
When sugar is eaten, it leads to a spike in blood sugar levels, this action releases high levels of dopamine and opioids in the brain which makes you feel high and satisfied. This process is referred to as a reward. In the meantime, another neurotransmitter called acetylcholine levels is lowered.
Acetylcholine is important for the proper function of the brain such as memory, learning, and thinking.
Lower levels of acetylcholine have been linked to memory and learning impairments, also brain disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.
After this high levels of insulin are produced by the pancreas to decrease the high blood sugar levels, resulting in a sharp fall, causing the cells to immediately store fats.
The cycle continues where the body craves more sugar to replenish its loss, also there is an emotional low.
Over time the body will increase the amount of sugar you consume, in order to increase the number of opioids and dopamine levels that are giving you the pleasurable sensations you crave.
The cycle leads to compulsive eating, binge eating, and constant snacking, causing this addiction very difficult to overcome.
This is why chronic addiction to sugar leads to many chronic diseases, type 2 diabetes is one of the best examples
Eating high amounts of sugar leads to the pancreas producing a high amount of insulin. After years and years of overconsumption of sugar/overproducing insulin, the pancreas is overworked resulting in its ability to function as it used to. The levels of insulin it releases are lowered, therefore there will be higher levels of sugar in the blood leading to type 2 diabetes and the resulting complications.
Under normal circumstances, the liver turns sugar into fat and stores it, however with this condition the excess sugar is stored leading to a disease called fatty liver, resulting in the disruption of the function of the liver.
Over time, high amounts of sugar in the blood will affect the vascular system leading to diabetic neuropathy a common condition with diabetes that causes damage to the blood vessels that nourish the nerves, affects the circulation of blood to the extremities, hypertension, and heart disease.
High levels of sugar consumption also affect the mind, when high levels of dopamine and opioids are stored by the cells, their levels fall resulting in you feeling depressed, tired, unable to focus, feeling hopeless, having mood swings, anxiety, and not excited about life.
This feeling makes your craving for higher amounts of sugar in form of comfort foods increase.
Sugar is in almost everything we eat, but we can do well if we do it without consuming sugar. We will have to start reading our labels more because sugar is added to many grocery items. 74% of products in the grocery store contain added sugar
Labels such as low fat, and free from artificial flavors can be misleading because they are covering up products that are high in sugar as being healthy.
Best Foods to Control and Regulate Blood Sugar
Foods rich in fiber and low on the Glycemic index will help you regulate your energy levels without causing a spike in blood sugar. Some of the best choices include
Kale is a green leafy cruciferous vegetable.
It’s considered one of the best leafy greens for controlling blood glucose. This is because kale is rich in flavonoid antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol, which have been shown to increase insulin sensitivity and lower blood glucose.
One study found that consuming 7-14 grams of kale with a high carbohydrate meal may significantly decrease postprandial blood sugar levels.
Other leafy greens such as spinach, lettuce, collards, Swiss chard, and turnip greens may also help regulate glucose. In fact, half a serving of leafy greens each day may lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a condition associated with high blood glucose levels.
Kale is better eaten cooked in salads or smoothies. It can also be enjoyed boiled, sautéed, or baked with other foods.
Nuts, especially almonds, are good at regulating glucose levels after a meal. They are high in fiber with a low Glycemic index of 0, making them suitable for blood glucose regulation.
One study found that consuming 2 ounces of almonds each day could lower insulin, increase insulin sensitivity, and reduce fasting blood sugar.
Almonds can be eaten raw or roasted as a snack or added to smoothies and sweet or savory dishes. See Incredible Health Benefits Of Almonds.
3. Chia seeds
Chia seeds are a great addition to anyone with diabetes or insulin resistance or anyone looking to maintain their glucose levels as low as possible.
They are high in soluble fiber, which absorbs water to form a gel-like consistency during digestion. This slows digestion and absorption of glucose into the blood, thus keeping your sugar levels stable.
Chia seeds are also high in omega 3 fatty acids, calcium, and antioxidants that the body requires to function correctly. Health Benefits Of Chia Seeds
Include chia seeds in smoothies, salad dressings, puddings, baked goods, oatmeal, or chia drinks.
4. Flax seeds
Like chia seeds, flax seeds are a low glycemic food rich in soluble fiber, which slows digestion and the absorption of glucose, causing blood sugar to remain steady and well-controlled.
In a 12 week study, daily flaxseed consumption increased insulin sensitivity and reduced both insulin and glucose levels in overweight individuals with prediabetes.
In another study, the daily consumption of 10 grams of ground flaxseeds reduced fasting blood sugar by 19.7 percent in people with type 2 diabetes.
You can easily incorporate flaxseeds into baked goods or use its ground version to make muffins, bread, and cookies. You can also add ground flax into breakfast cereals. Healthy Fats To Consume.
Avocados are generally low on the Glycemic index, making them suitable for a low sugar diet.
They are high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), and fiber which has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, improve blood glucose levels, lower cholesterol, and triglycerides and maintain a healthy heart.
They are also rich in antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins, which may lower blood pressure, fight inflammation, promote eye health, improve digestion, improve skin health, and increase nutrient absorption by the body.
Besides guacamole, you can season your avocado with salt and eat it directly or add it on toast, as a substitute for mayo, or in salads.
6. Fenugreek seeds
Fenugreek seeds are high in soluble fiber, which helps reduce blood glucose by slowing digestion and absorption of carbohydrates.
Research shows that 10 grams of fenugreek consumed daily, after the seeds are soaked in preferably hot water or added to yogurt appears to help control blood glucose.
Another study found that baked goods made from fenugreek flour may reduce insulin resistance and increase glucose uptake from the bloodstream, thus regulating blood sugar.
Cinnamon has been shown to reduce cellular insulin resistance and promote glucose uptake by the cells. It also works by slowing down the breakdown of carbohydrates in the gut, which regulates the release of glucose into the bloodstream.
Your choice of food plays an important role in keeping your blood glucose low and stable. While some foods may drastically elevate your blood glucose levels, some may ensure a slow release into the blood, thus promoting a slow but more steady glucose level.
Some foods you can eat to regulate glucose include kale, flaxseed, almonds, fenugreek seeds, avocados, cinnamon, and chia seeds.
As much as these foods can help regulate your glucose levels, ensure you are keeping off processed foods, especially refined carbohydrates, as they will without a doubt raise your blood sugar.
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