10 Foods that Balance Blood Sugar!
General Dietary Guidelines:
The following 10 foods help to stabilize and reduce blood sugar levels in combination with a whole foods plant-based diet.
In general, each meal should include 50-70% non-starchy vegetables, 25% protein, 0-25% starches or complex carbohydrates, and ~5-10% healthy fats (e.g., olive oil, avocado). Snacks should have a similar composition. Some examples include nuts with berries, vegetables or whole grain crackers with hummus, and apple slices with nut butter.
AVOID: Refined sugar and processed carbohydrates. This is anything that is white and processed including pasta, white rice, white bread, donuts, cookies, etc.
CHOOSE: Whole grains, protein, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
COMBINE: It is important to always combine carbohydrates with sources of protein, fibre, and/or healthy fats to slow the digestion of the carbohydrates and stabilize balanced blood sugar levels.
EXERCISE: The power of exercise cannot be over emphasized! Twenty minutes of walking daily can have as powerful an effect as each of these foods for glucose control and healthy cholesterol levels. If it’s been a while since you’ve been active, start slow and work at your own pace. If the time to recover is longer then the duration of exercise, reduce the intensity and duration. Your exercise tolerance will increase with time.
Foods for Balancing Blood Sugar!
1. Beta-glucans in Oats and Mushrooms
- Consuming sources of beta-glucans daily decreases glucose and insulin levels in individuals with type II diabetes. Beta-glucan rich foods include oats, oat bran, reishi, shiitake, chaga, and maitake mushrooms.
- Oatmeal is an excellent breakfast idea as it contains plenty of fibre (which also balances blood sugar and cholesterol levels) in addition to beta-glucans. If your prefer a smoother consistency, try oat bran. Overnight oat recipes are great for those of us that aren’t morning people!
- Daily cinnamon consumption lowers glucose and cholesterol in individuals with type II diabetes. Taking ½-1tsp daily can lower fasting blood glucose by 10%. Enjoy with oatmeal or oat bran!
3. Swap Honey or Stevia for Sugar
- Stevia appears to blunt glucose absorption and is a suitable sugar replacement.
- Preliminary evidence suggests that consuming small amounts of honey can modestly decrease fasting blood glucose, cholesterol levels, and weight in patients with diabetes. To stabilize blood sugar levels it is important to reduce our overall sugar intake, which includes even natural sources like honey. That said, if you are in need of a sweet fix, opt for honey or stevia!
- Avoid artificial sweeteners, sucrose, fructose, and corn syrup.
4. Vegetarian and Animal Proteins
- Wild caught fish, free-range beef, and eggs are excellent sources of protein that keep blood sugar levels steady.
- Lentils, beans, and hummus are high in fibre, low in fat, and a good source of protein; all of which help stabilize blood sugar levels.
- Soy bean products also reduces glucose levels in patients with diabetes. Soy products include soymilk, tofu, tempeh, and miso.
5. Herbal infusions: White mulberry leaf and holy basil
- Enjoy your meal or snack with a cup of white mulberry tea as clinical research shows that drinking white mulberry tea can help reduce fasting blood glucose levels and peak blood glucose levels after sugar consumption in people with type 2 diabetes.
- Holy Basil (a.k.a tulsi in ayruveda) as a supplement or tea appears to lower blood sugar levels, likely due to its cortisol (stress hormone) reducing properties. This is an ideal herb for those who are experiencing a spike in their blood sugar levels associated with stress.
6. Chia Seeds
- Chia seeds are another beneficial whole grain to include in your arsenal of healthy, go-to recipes. Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, potassium, magnesium, manganese, fibre and protein. They contain 2x more iron than spinach and 5x more calcium than milk!
- As with other whole grains (oatmeal, oatbran, quinoa, etc) preliminary research shows that chia seeds could help those with diabetes stabilize their blood sugar and protect heart health as it lowers C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker predictive of cardiac risk.
- Consuming 10-30g daily can decrease blood glucose. (1 tbsp = 10g).
- See the above link to the overnight oat breakfast recipe that includes chia seeds or visit http://ohsheglows.com/2015/07/22/basic-chia-seed-pudding/ for the recipe used in the below image!
7. Garlic and onion
- Garlic and onion decrease fasting blood glucose and have a protective effect on heart health.
8. Nuts and seeds
- Nuts and seeds are rich in nutrients, fibre, protein, and healthy fats making them an optimal snack for blood sugar regulation.
- Consider using flour alternatives such as coconut, almond, and other nut flours as these are a source of healthy fats and protein instead of carbohydrates.
9. Magnesium Rich Fruits, Vegetables, & Legumes
- Fruits and vegetables are rich in fibre, antioxidants and a number of essential vitamins and minerals including magnesium. Higher dietary magnesium intake is associated with lower fasting insulin and a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. An increase of just 100 mg/day of dietary magnesium is associated with a 19% risk reduction for developing type 2 diabetes, a 7% risk reduction in stroke, a 22% reduction for heart failure, and a 10% reduction in dying from any cause. 100mg of magnesium is found in just 1.5 tbsp hemp hearts, 1/2-3/4 cup dark leafy greens, 3/4 cup of black beans, 1/4 cup of nuts, or 3 bananas.
10. Complex Carbohydrates
- Opt for whole grains that are rich in protein like quinoa and millet. These help sustain energy levels without causing a spike or crash in blood sugar.
- Other whole grains include brown rice, oats, barley, buckwheat, etc.
- Whole grain VS. Whole wheat:
- Grain products with ‘whole wheat’ listed in the ingredients are in fact quite processed and very different from “whole grain” products! Whole grain products are different because they have not been processed to remove portions like the husk and germ. This is important because these portions are very rich in nutrients and fibre – if we remove these we are left with a nutrient void simple-carbohydrate.
- Buy grain products that include the word “whole”. For example, “whole grain wheat flour”, “whole rye”, “whole barley”, etc. See the infographic below for more information.