Eating for Healthy Blood Sugar Levels
How people with diabetes should eat is one of those controversial areas of nutrition. There are very different & often conflicting views, all seemingly backed by science, so which one do you go with? I will obviously share from the perspective that I have come to, having studied this subject as well as coming from experience (I don’t have a problem with empirical or anecdotal evidence).
Carbohydrates are generally the focus of nutrition when it comes to diabetes – to eat carbs or not? Low carbs or frequent consumption of carbs? Low GI – that’s a definite, but as with everything else to do with our incredibly complex bodies, it’s far more complex than carbohydrates; & different approaches may be appropriate for different people. So bottom line - I’m really not going to discuss carbohydrates here, other than to say that sugar and refined carbohydrates are really not friends for a person with diabetes or insulin resistance (or anyone really for that matter).
Protein & fat (our other macronutrients) are both important for blood sugar regulation. Both of these eaten with a meal will slow down the absorption of carbohydrates. This is important as fast blood sugar spikes & the blood sugar roller coaster cause the most trouble. Fiber also regulates blood sugar by slowing the absorption of the sugar & eating acid with a meal (it doesn’t have to be a large amount) can also reduce BGL’s. Think lemon, vinegar or fermented vegetables.
What I really want to focus on today are 4 of the less known or considered micronutrients (vitamins & minerals) and their importance in blood sugar regulation.
The first mineral that comes to mind is chromium. Not a commonly known or talked about mineral but its known role in the body is in the metabolism of glucose & lipids, potentiating insulin function, regulating blood sugar & cholesterol. Chromium can be found in the outer husk of grains (the part we strip off when making our white grains), molasses (the part we remove in the refining of sugar - that contains all the minerals), fruit & vegetables (especially broccoli, asparagus, beans, potatoes, apples, grapes & bananas – & when it comes to potatoes & apples there are higher levels of chromium & fiber in the skin), brewer’s yeast, mushrooms, cheese, egg yolk, oysters, beef & poultry.
The other mineral that comes to mind immediately for blood sugar regulation is magnesium (seriously, what don’t we need magnesium for?). It is required for glucose metabolism & insulin homeostasis (equilibrium); & deficiency is often seen in people with diabetes. Additionally magnesium is important for cardiovascular health (one area that people with diabetes are at higher risk of). And being our ‘relaxation mineral’, magnesium is important for quality sleep & stress reduction (both stress & poor sleep elevate blood sugar levels). Some of the best sources of magnesium include dark leafy greens, lima beans nuts & seeds, dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa), molasses, avocadoes, bananas & brewer’s yeast.
B vitamins are essential for carbohydrate metabolism & may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Additionally people taking metformin were found to develop a vitamin B12 deficiency. Finally B vitamins are important for mitigating the risk of, or improving diabetic complications – B vitamins are supportive of cardiovascular health, improve kidney function & are essential for nervous system function. Different B vitamins are found in different foods, so to achieve the full complex, the following foods are some of the best: liver, beef, whole grains (again our B vitamins are found in the outer husk), pork, yoghurt, salmon, avocado, potato, eggs, dark leafy vegetables, oysters, legumes, turkey, brewer’s yeast & sunflower seeds.
My final mention today will go to vitamin D. Evidence indicates that vitamin D improves glycemic (blood sugar) control, glucose tolerance & insulin sensitivity, as well ß-cell function (the cells in the pancreas that make insulin), & people with diabetes have been found to be low in vitamin D. Additionally vitamin D is crucial for healthy immune function and therefore an important consideration for type 1 diabetes (or any autoimmune disease). The sun is truly our best source of vitamin D (although at this time of year it can be difficult to get adequate sunshine for vitamin D purposes). Vitamin D can also be found in butter, egg yolks (think yellow for sun), fish liver oils, mushrooms (that have been left out in the sun) & sprouted seeds.
Looking at these nutrients & their role in blood sugar regulation, is a great example of why I promote eating a “whole food diet” – that is food in its natural, unprocessed, unrefined form. As you can see the nutrients we need for metabolising carbohydrates, slowing absorption of sugar & regulating blood sugar are found in the very parts of the food that we strip off in the refining process.
For a more personalised approach to preventing or managing diabetes, or if you feel that supplementation or extra naturopathic support is needed you can book an appointment either directly (messenger, email or phone) or book online.