In the last few months a few people have approached me asking for what they can do to support their efforts to regulate blood sugar. It may be because they were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, or elevated blood sugar levels. After the fourth person approached me, I decided it was time to write about it. This is for all those who are working to regulate blood sugar or blood glucose levels. Here are 5 foods and supplements that will support those efforts.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), a subdivision of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), published an article recently that warned anyone suffering from diabetes to consider how any supplement interacts with medication they are taking, what side effects it can have, and to discuss it with a health care provider to ensure that it is indeed best for their condition (2017). I second that recommendation, not just for this condition, but for any supplement we consider taking, regardless of what it is.
However, many of the foods included below can be found naturally in foods or can easily be added into foods, and thus, do not need to be taken as a supplement.
There is some evidence that chromium supports blood glucose levels, but it is conflicting. Some studies showed that 200 mg of chromium picolinate supplements taken daily reduced blood glucose levels, other studies showed that chromium supplements reduced the need for diabetes medication, and still other studies showed there was no benefit to blood glucose from taking chromium supplements (Gale, 2014; NCCIH, 2017).
Nonetheless, chromium is essential to our health, and can be found naturally in whole grains such as oats, brown rice, and corn. It can also be found in meats, eggs, mushrooms, and broccoli.
Some studies show that a deficiency in magnesium can block the body’s ability to regulate blood glucose, and increases the risk of developing diabetes (Gale, 2014). Magnesium supplements can help regulate blood sugar, as well as support muscle and bone health, menstrual cycles, and constipation. However, be ware that magnesium in large doses causes diarrhea, and when taken over 5,000 mg per day can cause death (NCCIH, 2017). A healthy daily supplement is about 200 to 400 mg per day.
Natural sources of magnesium include cashew nuts, almonds, spinach and dark greens, flaxseeds, avocados, and legumes, such as kidney beans and peas.
There are three species of cinnamon bark, namely Cinnamomum verum or true cinnamom, Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Ceylon cinnamon, and Cinnamomum aromaticum or Chinese cinnamon. It is consumed as a whole spice and ground spice, or used as an essential oil, and it can support blood sugar in any of these forms.
Ground cinnamon was given to a group of 60 people with type 2 diabetes, and 1 to 6 g daily helped them not only in reducing fasting blood glucose levels, but also in reducing blood triglycerides and cholesterol levels (Murray, Pizzorno, & Pizzorno, 2005). Adding even ½ teaspoon of ground cinnamon into the daily diet, whether cooked or raw, can have benefits to health. It can be added into soups, stews, curries, granola, tea, and other beverages.
Cinnamon essential oil has many uses including supporting the immune system, increasing circulation, antioxidant effects, reducing inflammation, and stabilizing blood sugar (Axe, Bollinger, & Rubin, 2016). Inhaling essential oil of cinnamon may also reduce cravings for sugar, as well as the impulse to overeat. Cinnamon essential oil can be inhaled by burning 4-6 drops in a diffuser, placing 2-3 drops on a tissue, or diluting a few drops into a carrier oil and applying on pulse points.
Flaxseeds or linseeds, Linum usitatissimum, are small seeds that are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as magnesium, potassium, and iron (Murray, Pizzorno, & Pizzorno, 2005). Studies have found the omega-3s support blood glucose levels (NCCIH, 2017), and flaxseeds have double the amount of omega-3s than does fish oil (Murray, Pizzorno, & Pizzorno, 2005).
Flaxseeds also help reduce cholesterol, regulate bowel movements, and reduce the risk of developing cancer. They can be eaten whole, roasted, or ground. They can be added into salads, muffins, cereal, or into juices and smoothies. About 25 g or 2 tablespoons of flaxseeds daily can make a difference.
Fenugreek or Trigonella foenum graecum has been found to lower blood glucose levels (Gale, 2014). Taking a large teaspoon of fenugreek every morning, followed by a large glass of water to help wash it down, can be effective.
Chromium, magnesium, cinnamon, flaxseeds, and fenugreek can support regulation of blood sugar levels, and they can be found naturally in foods, be consumed whole as a food, or taken as supplements. In general, consuming whole grains, eggs, naturally raised meats, mushrooms, broccoli, dark leafy greens, nuts, legumes, avocados, flaxseeds, fenugreek, and cinnamon can support blood sugar.
Axe, J., Bollinger, T., & Rubin, J. (2016). Essential Oils Ancient Medicine. USA: Axe Wellness LLC.
Gale (2014). The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, (4th Ed). Farmington Hilla, MI: Gale Cengage Learning.
Murray, M., Pizzorno, J., & Pizzorno, L. (2005). The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York, NY: Atria Books.
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). (2017). 6 things to know about type 2 diabetes and dietary supplements. NIH… Turning Discovery Into Health, Health Tips. Retrieved on September 30, 2017 from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/diabetes?nav=govd