Diabetes effects 24 million Americans. That number is outstanding. Type 2 diabetes specifically is directly impacted by diet. In fact, there is no stage of type 2 diabetes that can’t be improved by making smarter choices about food – the earlier the better. These 8 diabetes superfoods should be included in everyone’s diet, but especially those suffering from pre or full swing diabetes.
Top 8 Diabetes Superfoods
Beets are high in lipoic acid, an antioxidant linked to preventing damage in our cells as we age. In some studies lipoic acid has been shown to help reverse/heal nerve damage that causes pain and numbness in the hands and feet of severe diabetics. Beets have also been tied to lowering blood cholesterol levels, an important benefit for diabetics who consistently suffer from poor heart health.
Tip & Trick: Beet stems are just as healthy for you as the actual vegetable. Wash well and sautee with onion, garlic and lemon juice for a twist on your usual wilted spinach.
Onions contain high quantities of chromium. Studies on chromium have shown that it helps glucose levels by assisting the body in controlling natural insulin production. Coincidentally, symptoms of chromium deficiency are very similar to those of pre-diabetes. The FDA recommends 25-35mcg of chromium a day. A cup of raw onion (1/2 cup cooked) contains 24mcg.
Tip & Trick: If you only need 1/2 an onion, use the top half. The root will stay fresh longer in the refrigerator.
Just 2 ounces of this diabetes superfood a day can have a positive impact on those suffering. A Canadian study released results suggesting that as a replacement for other carbohydrates, nuts were effective at controlling glycemic and serum lipid levels for those suffering from Type 2 diabetes. “Mixed, unsalted, raw, or dry-roasted nuts have benefits for both blood glucose control and blood lipids and may be used as part of a strategy to improve diabetes control without weight gain,” said Dr. David Jenkins of the University of Toronto Department of Nutritional Sciences.
Tip & Trick: Nuts contain enzyme inhibitors that prevent all their possible nutrients from being absorbed when eaten. Soak nuts for 2-24 hours, dump the yucky water, then dehydrate back to crunchy in a low heat oven.
4. Avocado and Olive Oil
Olive oil has long been touted for its health benefits. New research on avocado oil has it going toe-to-toe with the olive variety – its even been called “the olive oil of America”. Diabetics especially can benefit from both oils anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is one of the root causes of diabetes by destroying the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas. In one study, an olive oil diet lowered the C-reactive protein, a known indicator for inflammation. Drizzle olive oil and unrefined avocado oil on salads and and roasted veggies – but don’t heat it. Choose our naturally refined avocado oil to reap the health benefits while still enjoying the versatility of a high heat cooking oil. To learn more about heating oils click here.
Tip & Trick: For the highest quality, buy oil that’s in dark containers, store away from heat and light and always close the lid tightly. This will prevent the oxidation of the fatty acids in the oil, keeping its health benefits in check.
Cinnamon is an amazing diabetes superfood. Not only has it been shown to have an effect on glucose but on overall diabetic health. Studies are inconclusive as to why cinnamon has an effect on blood sugar and diabetic health. Some say it improves sensitivity of insulin by slowing the emptying of the stomach after meals. It may have also have to do with antioxidant defense too. No matter how, a positive correlation has been shown. Cinnamon is easy to use. Buy it in organic form and sprinkle it on a bowl full of oatmeal or toss a tablespoon into you favorite spaghetti sauce.
Tip & Trick: Cinnamon looses its flavor and potency quickly, so buy it from the bulk spice bin and only get what you expect to use in a month.
6. Pumpkin Seeds
The precursor to pre-diabetes is metabolic syndrome, a combination of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease. The monounsaturated fats found in pumpkin seeds (also olive oil, nuts and avocado oil) have been shown to decrease the rates of metabolic syndrome by up to 15%. The added bonus of these little seeds is their fiber content. High fiber diets have also shown to help slow the absorption of glucose and regulate blood sugar levels. Pumpkin seeds are also high in iron and low in carbohydrates.
Tips & Trick: With fall coming up (pumpkin season!) you may want to try roasting your own seeds from the family jack-o-lantern. Use a bowl of water to separate the slimy pumpkin guts from the seeds more easily.
7. Nopal Cactus
Prickly pear cactus, also known as nopal, has a well documented history of success in regulating blood sugar levels. As part of a well balanced diet, nopal my support weight loss, normalize blood sugar, promote digestive health and improve blood lipid profiles. Regular dietary fiber promotes normal blood sugar, but nopal may effect insulin sensitivity. Research shows that a dual process may be happening: cellular mechanisms block glucose production in the liver AND slow carbohydrate absorption. Use nopal cactus powder in cooking, baking and smoothies. Just a small sprinkling eaten with meals has shown positive effects on blood sugar.
Tip & Trick: Nopal cactus powder can be added to flour mixes to lower the glycemic load. These gluten free nopal chia pancakes are a great example!
Getting plenty of fatty, cold-water fish is critical for everyone, but especially diabetics. Sardines are high in omega-3’s, are a great source of fat and protein and may help to slow the absorption of blood sugar when eaten with carbohydrates. Irregular blood sugar levels can also seriously damage your heart. Small fish like sardines are lower in toxins than bigger cold-water fish and usually much more affordable. Buy fresh sardines at your local health food store (ask the fishmonger to order them for you if not a regular item) and try this tasty recipe for grilled sardines with mint salsa.
Tip & Trick: While more convenient, canned sardines can be extra salty. Look for fish packed in water with the term “low sodium” on the package.