Today is International Diabetes Day. Diabetes may not get the media attention that prostate cancer or heart disease attracts but in fact, the impact of the disease is staggering. According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, about nine million people in Canada are facing diabetes or a pre-diabetic condition and a large part of our risk is food choice. Think you are blood sugar savvy? Read on for five ways you might not have thought of to keep your blood sugars stable to help prevent or correct the disordered blood sugars of diabetes.
Don’t Consume Artificial Sweeteners
While fake sugars like aspartame or sucralose don’t raise blood sugars in the same way that real sugar does, blood sugars and appetite may still affected by artificial sweeteners. In addition, artificially sweetened food choices are often loaded with metabolism-wrecking, hyper-processed carbohydrates and rarely have any nutrition to speak of. It’s time to wean ourselves off the sweets altogether and when a bit of sweetener is necessary, the current practice guidelines agree that real table sugar (sucrose) is an acceptable sweetener for diabetics. Even better, go for just a bit of maple syrup or honey instead!
Eat Your Greens
We all need to eat more greens but when it comes to blood sugars, green veggies pack a one-two punch. First, piling green veggies on your plate helps fill you up without raising blood sugars; greens are low calorie and low in their glycemic impact. Green veggies like chard, broccoli, spinach and beet greens are also packed with anti-inflammatory compounds like chlorophyll, lutein and other carotenoids that help to battle inflammation and insulin resistance.
Suprisingly, the bacteria that live in your gut can really egg on insulin resistance. Modern life – stress, poor diet and medications – disrupts the balance of healthy bacteria in your body and inflammation can result that promotes weight gain and even insulin resistance. Get plenty of fibre from whole food like unprocessed grains, beans and veggies, which feeds healthy bacteria; ensure that you eat fermented foods every day like kefir, sauerkraut and kombucha.
A Variety of Spices for Life
Sugar is a crutch that dulls your sensation of the true flavours of food and as you wean yourself off overly sweet foods, you need to boost flavour with herbs and spices. As an added benefit, many herbs and spices help promote balanced blood sugars. Turmeric fights inflammation; cinnamon helps promote healthy blood sugar levels when taken in large amounts (like 1 tsp a day) and bitter melon is a vegetable that can be added to juices and stir-fries.
Note that if you are blood sugar lowering medications, you need to monitor blood sugars closely when adding cinnamon and bitter melon. Chat with your doc!
Power up with protein
Protein helps slow the rate that carbohydrates reach your blood stream; in addition, it is satisfying and helps to keep your appetite in check. Don’t fall for all the protein nutritionism going on; protein-added granola bars or ‘enhanced’ breads are the wrong way to go. Instead, get a serving of protein at each meal from whole foods: think eggs, fish, beans, nuts, legumes, cottage cheese or Greek yogurt.