Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body either resists the effects of insulin — a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into your cells — or doesn’t produce enough insulin to maintain normal glucose levels.
Overtime, unchecked blood sugar levels can hike your risk of developing heart disease and stroke so it is important to find ways to keep blood sugar in check.
Diet plays a crucial role in stabilising insulin and regulating blood sugar levels, and certain foods have been shown to help manage the condition more effectively than others.
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Registered dietician Juliette Kellow recommends the following five foods to regulate blood sugar levels and keep the risks at bay.
“Almonds are a nutritious food that contain plant protein and are packed with healthy fats, fibre and an array of vitamins and minerals,” explained Kellow.
As Kellow reports, evidence reveals the blood sugar-lowering benefits of eating almonds.
A recent study in healthy young adults showed that snacking on almonds rather than crackers resulted in better insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.
Another study in adults with type 2 diabetes showed that including almonds as part of a healthy lifestyle that focussed on eating a balanced diet and being more physically active resulted in significant improvements in HBA1c levels (an indicator of long-term blood sugar control), as well as lowering waist circumference, total cholesterol and ‘harmful’ LDL cholesterol – all risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
According to Keller: “Sugar-free drinks – sugar-containing soft drinks cause blood sugar levels to rise quickly after consuming them and indeed, high intakes have been linked to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
“Swapping them for diet or sugar-free drinks means people can continue to enjoy a sweet taste but without raising blood sugar.”
Evidence supports this claim. One study of almost 26,000 adults found those who consumed calorie-free sweetened beverages had lower insulin levels, HBA1c levels and scores for insulin resistance.
“These findings led the researchers to conclude that ‘in addition to water, low calorie sweetened beverages can also be sensible choices for reducing sugars and carbohydrate intake, with no adverse associations to measures of glycaemic response’, noted Kellow.
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In effect, this means low calorie sweeteners, which are used in zero sugar soft drinks, can be useful in helping people to reduce their overall sugar and calorie intake, as well as managing their blood sugar levels, she explained.
Beans and lentils
Beans and lentils are rich in soluble fibre, a type of fibre that’s been linked to helping to lower both cholesterol and blood sugar levels, said Keller.
Research shows a 150g-200g serving of pulses such as kidney beans, haricot beans, black beans, borlotti beans, lentils, chick peas or split peas, helps to lessen the rise in blood glucose levels that occurs after eating.
As Keller reports, regularly consuming five cups of pulses each week – an amount equal to around four large cans of beans – has also been shown to improve blood sugar control.
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Furthermore, one large study found that women who ate the highest amounts of pulses reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 24 per cent compared with those who ate the least.
“It’s perhaps no surprise then that studies suggest enjoying pulses may help to protect us from developing type 2 diabetes,” she said.
It will understood that eating porridge in the morning can provide myriad health benefits, and this includes helping to control blood sugar levels.
As Keller explained: “Oats (as well as barley) are especially rich in a type of soluble fibre called beta-glucan, which helps to lower blood sugar.”
The European Food Safety Authority echoes this view: “Consumption of beta-glucans from oats or barley as part of a meal contributes to the reduction of the blood glucose rise after that meal.”
Oats should be enjoyed as part of a whole grain diet, including wholemeal bread, wholewheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa and whole barley to reduce the risk of developing diabetes in the first place, said Keller.
Emphasising the importance of eating a whole grain diet, a review of 16 studies found that three daily servings of wholegrains reduces the risk of the condition by 32 percent.
Research suggests that cinnamon may help to improve insulin resistance and aid blood sugar level control, but more studies are needed to provide specific recommendations, said Keller.
“But in the meantime, why not add a sprinkle to your porridge, stewed fruit, yogurt or a latte,” she added.
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