Let us begin by looking at the best foods for avoiding and perhaps reducing diabetes.
Amaranth: a pseudocereal and major crop of the ancient Aztecs that has recently begun to be viewed as an alternative to cereal grains such as wheat and oats. Amaranth has been described as the “most nutritious grain in the world” (Navdanya) and is one of the best sources of carbohydrates, protein, minerals, essential micronutrients, and fiber. The seeds are particularly rich in the amino acid, lysine and are gluten-free.
Buckwheat: Also a pseudocereal, buckwheat contains all of the essential amino acids, vitamin E, and almost the entire spectrum of B complex vitamins. Buckwheat flour (consumed in the form of pancakes and noodles) can help to reduce diabetes, obesity, hypertension hyper-cholesterolemia and constipation.
Other important grains for diabetics include:
Millet: a staple in much of the world which is high in protein and gluten free.
Quinoa: like amaranth, this pseudocereal is an ancient staple that was used by the Incas. It is a complete protein containing all nine of the essential amino acids and is gluten free.
Bulgur: a type of cracked wheat kernel, this is a Middle Eastern favorite. It is high in fiber and protein.
Teff: a staple grain in Ethiopia, the flour is used to create a traditional flatbread. It is very high in protein and is a rich source of iron and calcium. It is also a gluten-free grain.
Pearled barley and oatmeal: both of these grains are considered to be super foods for diabetics. They are rich in fiber and loaded with nutrients such as potassium, magnesium, chromium, omega-3 fatty acids and folate.
Like whole grains, beans have a low GI and are packed with nutrients, making them an important nutritional support for diabetics. Examples include kidney beans pinto beans, navy beans, and black beans, all of which are highly nutritious. Just half a cup of beans provides one third of our daily fiber requirements.
Beans are also are good sources of magnesium and potassium, important nutrients for diabetics. Although they are considered starchy vegetables, a half cup provides as much protein as an ounce of meat without the saturated fat. Canned varieties can be used but they should be rinsed first to remove excess sodium.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES:
Carotenoids such as beta-carotene – the nutrients found in yellow and orange fruits and vegetables – along with the antioxidant vitamins E and C appear to be particularly important for diabetics.
In a Finnish study of more than 4300 non-diabetic women and men, who were tracked over a period of 23 years, those who ate foods highest in vitamin E such as leafy greens, seeds and nuts, had a 31 percent lower risk of developing type II diabetes. Those whose diets were rich in a type of carotenoid found in citrus fruits, red capsicum, pawpaw, coriander, corn, and watermelon cut their risk by 42 percent (Readers Digest, 2009).
Though vitamin C does not appear to cut the risk of diabetes on its own, it appears to boost the power of vitamin E thereby making it an important anti-diabetes aid.
Research also suggests that people with diabetes have more free radicals than people who don’t suffer from this disease. It is thought that free radicals may have a role both in causing diabetes and exacerbating its long-term effects: hence the importance of anti-oxidants, which are found in high proportions in a number of fruits and vegetables.
A super food that could be highly beneficial for preventing and treating diabetes is sea buckthorn since the berries are an excellent source of vitamin E; have a high Vitamin C content; and are very rich in some of rarest and most powerful antioxidants in the world.
Moreover, scientists have identified 39 out of the 50 carotenoids present in our diet in sea buckthorn berries, resulting in a powerful and effective anti-oxidant network. Sea buckthorn is in fact one of the richest sources of one of these carotenoids – beta-carotene, making it especially important for diabetes sufferers.
PEANUT BUTTER AND NUTS
A nurses’ health study of more than 80,000 women with no history of diabetes revealed that those who ate nuts five times a week lowered their risk of type II diabetes by 30 percent compared to women who never ate nuts. Eating peanut butter five times a week cut the risk by 20 percent (Readers Digest, 2009). Obviously for those who are allergic to peanuts and other nuts, this is not a good option!
Australian research also indicates that nuts are a good food choice for diabetics and for reducing cardiovascular risk. They could even help to control blood glucose levels due to their rich content of healthy monounsaturated fats, which may reduce insulin resistance. When consuming peanut butter, it is important to ensure that it is unprocessed natural peanut butter and to avoid commercial brands containing added fats.
Olive oil: A number of studies have shown that olive oil lowers blood sugar as well as heart disease risk. A Spanish study of 772 people at high risk for heart disease showed that people whose diets were high in olive oil or nuts had significantly lower blood sugar levels, blood pressure and cholesterol than those on a low-fat diet (Readers Digest, 2009). Olive oil contains valuable nutrients for diabetics such as beta-carotene, vitamin E and other anti-oxidants.
Other oils that are reported to be especially valuable for diabetics include pure virgin coconut oil (this helps to actually regulate blood sugar and is considered to be one of the best oils for diabetics); flaxseed oil, canola oil, peanut oil, almond oil, avocado oil, safflower oil, and grapeseed oil. Of course, it is important that these oils are unrefined, organic, non-GMO etc. to obtain their full benefits.
While many of these oils can be purchased at supermarkets or health food stores, some such as avocado oil and pure virgin cold pressed coconut oil may be less accessible.
VINEGAR AND LEMON JUICE:
Studies at the University of Sidney have shown that the addition of a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice (e.g. in salad dressing) to a meal, could reduce the glycemic index of meal by up to 30 percent (Readers Digest, 2009). It is thought that the acidity results in a slower release of glucose into the bloodstream.
Cayenne: Capsaicin is the active ingredient found in many pain-control prescriptions and over- the-counter creams, ointments and patches. Over time, it short-circuits pain by depleting nerve cells of a chemical known as “substance P” which helps transfer pain signals along nerve endings to the brain. It is used for treating arthritis and muscle pain as well as shingles pain and diabetes-related nerve pain. At least one study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that diabetes sufferers who ate a meal containing plenty of chili required less post-meal insulin to reduce their blood sugar. This indicates that the spice may be beneficial in controlling blood glucose.
Cinnamon: Studies have found that cinnamon lowers blood sugar, cholesterol (including bad cholesterol or LDL) and tri-glycerides (heart-threatening fats in the blood stream) and boosts the efficiency of insulin. All of these factors are important in treating diabetes and heart disease. One study showed that eating ¼ to 1 ¼ teaspoons a day for 40 days resulted in a reduction of blood glucose levels by 18 to 29 percent (Readers Digest, 2009).
Turmeric: Preliminary research at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at Columbia University Medical Center has demonstrated promising results of turmeric’s benefits for diabetic obese mice. Scientists at the Center found that curcumin, which is the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant component of turmeric reduces insulin resistance and inhibits Type II diabetes in mice by alleviating the inflammatory response induced by obesity. Though more research is needed with human subjects, the conclusion for now is that turmeric, and specifically curcumin, can reverse many of the inflammatory and metabolic problems associated with obesity and improve blood sugar control in mice with type II diabetes.