Foods that help ‘sugar’

It’s me again, I hope you are all good after a long weekend or holiday interuptus… But you should have recovered by now, and just in time for the weekend!

As a community pharmacist I am expected to be able to offer tips. I said tips, not diagnosis, for the legal eagles out there. The pharmacist is expected to know not only about medicines or drugs and how they work, but to understand and appreciate any complementary practices that may enhance the treatment model chosen by our patients prescriber.

So as you may have already guessed here are a few such tips, sourced from readings, web articles and advice from some clients.

We have heard and been told that controlling your blood sugar and preventing diabetes complications can be as simple as eating the right foods. It is proven and correct that certain foods are packed with nutrients that stabilise blood sugar levels, protect your heart, and can even save your vision from the damaging effects of diabetes. The below mentioned foods can give you an extra edge against diabetes and its complications.


In a Finnish study, men who ate the most apples and other foods high in quercetin (the red colour found in fruit skins) had 20 per cent less diabetes and heart disease deaths. Other good sources of quercetin are red onions, tomatoes, leafy green vegetables, pomegranates and berries.

Citrus Fruit

People with diabetes tend to have lower levels of vitamin C in their bodies, so it makes sense to include antioxidant-packed citrus fruit as a snack choice. The mega vitamin C products will provide a quicker source of C, but since fruit is low in fat, high in fibre, and delivers lots of other healthy nutrients, using fruits to boost your vitamin C is sensible.


A study at the Human Nutrition Research Centre in Beltsville, Maryland, found that if you use half a teaspoon of cinnamon daily, it can make cells more sensitive to insulin. Therefore, the study says, the cells convert blood sugar to energy.

After 40 days of taking various amount of cinnamon extract, diabetics experienced not only lower blood sugar spikes after eating, but major improvements in signs of heart health. And you can sprinkle cinnamon on just about anything.

Cold-Water Fish

People with diabetes develop heart disease twice as often as those without the illness, according to the American Diabetes Association. Diets high in omega-3 fatty acids — the “good fat” in cold-water fish such as wild Alaskan salmon, sardines, and Atlantic mackerel — can help lower artery-clogging LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while raising levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.

Fibre-Rich Foods

A study at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre found that people who increased their fibre intake from 24g to 50g daily had dramatic improvements in blood sugar levels. In fact, the high-fibre diet was as effective as some diabetes medications.

Rather than try to figure out exactly how much fibre is in different foods, focus on trying to get a total of 13 daily servings of a mixture of fruits, vegetables, beans, brown rice, and whole grain pastas, cereals, and breads (remembering our last article on flatus).


Legumes of all sorts — chickpeas, cannelloni beans, kidney beans, and lentils — are a great addition to soups, and salads. These low-fat, low-calorie, high-fibre, high-protein foods help to reduce risk of diabetes and heart disease. The fibre slows the release of glucose into your bloodstream, which prevents the blood sugar spikes that worsen diabetes blood sugar control and make you feel hungry.

Green Tea

Studies show that chronic inflammation — caused by high-fat foods, lack of exercise, and eating too few fruits, vegetables, and good fats — can increase risk of hearts attacks and reduce the body’s ability to absorb blood sugar. A simple solution: Drink green tea and orange or cranberry juice. They’re all packed with flavonoids — powerful inflammation-fighters. Swap one in for one cup of coffee a day. (Green Tea is packed with caffeine and prevents contraceptive pills from being effective)


Studies show that people who eat nuts regularly have lower rates of heart disease than people who don’t eat them. Even among the healthiest eaters, the ones who also eat nuts boast the best health record. Exactly why isn’t known yet, but one reason could be compounds called tocotrienols.

The key to eating nuts is not to eat too many; they’re so high in calories that you could easily put on extra pounds. Either measure two tablespoons of nuts, count how many it is, and limit yourself to that number, or keep a jar of chopped nuts on hand. Sprinkle two tablespoons a day on cereal, yogurt, veggies, salads, or wherever the flavour appeals to you.

Spinach, Kale, and Collard Greens

All of these green leafy vegetables are good sources of lutein, a carotenoid that’s good for the eyes. That’s especially important because people with diabetes may develop debilitating eye problems as complications of the disease. These foods are also great sources of fibre, B vitamins, iron, calcium, and vitamin C.


Researchers at Tufts University discovered that dark chocolate improves insulin sensitivity, a crucial improvement in preventing or treating type 2 diabetes. What’s more, dark — but not white — chocolate also produced a significant drop in blood pressure, reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol, and improved blood vessel function.

A gentle warning, though, dark chocolate is great for the occasional indulgence, but it still packs a lot of fat and calories.


There’s something in steak besides the protein, iron, and B vitamins that’s good for us. It’s a compound that’s part of beef’s fat profile called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Doctors Michael Murray and Michael Lyon point out in their book Beat Diabetes Naturally that experiments have shown that CLA works to correct impaired blood sugar metabolism and also appears to have significant anti-cancer properties.

In the most recent research, scientists in Norway supplemented the diets of 180 people with a few grams of CLA and reported that they lost nine per cent of their body weight in one year. For a 200-pounder, that’s an 18-pound weight loss!

One caveat though, meat from range-fed beef contains the highest level of CLA. Eating natural pasturage give these animals far more healthful CLA than the usual grain-rich diet. And keep portions to 3 or 4 ounces.


Two tablespoons of vinegar taken before a meal can help your blood sugar go down. A study at Arizona State University East tested three different groups of people to see what the results would be in healthy people, those with pre-diabetes and confirmed diabetics. Before each of two meals a day, the subjects were given two tablespoons of ordinary vinegar.

The results: An hour after the vinegar treatment, the diabetics had blood sugar levels that were 25 per cent lower than without vinegar. The pre-diabetics had an even better result: Their levels were lower by about half.


Research presented at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology suggested that obese adults who ate about half a mango a day for 12 weeks saw a significant reduction in blood sugar levels. These results are likely translate to normal-weight men, too, says study author Dr. Edralin Lucas.

Mango’s power could lie in active compounds like plant polyphenols, which may inhibit the development of fat cells and reduce their size, says Lucas. The fruit is also high in fibre, reducing the absorption of sugar, she adds.

Though the study is preliminary, one sliced cup of the fruit only contains 100 calories, and is a healthy add-on to any diet.

Some of these items have been mentioned before, but that stands testimony to their effectiveness. People who ate produce-packed diets had a decreased diabetes risk and lower blood sugar levels than those who didn’t, according to a 2012 meta-analysis.

So no prizes for guessing how I will be eating, especially the steak — I knew there was something good in that.

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