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A Balancing Act – Managing Blood Sugar Levels

As a diabetic, getting blood sugar levels in control can definitely be a fine balancing act, and it can often feel as though there are many confounding factors working against you. However with a little bit of knowledge, planning and routine you will become empowered to keep your sugar levels in check to achieve optimal sugar balance.

Fabulous Fibre. Soluble fibre attracts water and forms a gel, which slows down digestion. It acts to delay the emptying of your stomach and makes you feel full, thereby improving satiety and slowing the release of sugar into the blood stream which has a beneficial effect on insulin sensitivity and sugar levels. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that people with diabetes (Type 2) who ate 50 grams of fibre a day — particularly soluble fibre — were able to control their blood glucose better than those who ate far less. The difference between soluble fibre and insoluble fibre in terms of blood sugar stabilisation is that insoluble fibre (e.g. bran cereals, dried fruit) is great for keeping you regular but is actually not digested so is not able to provide as many sugar-stabilising benefits as soluble fibre. My favourite foods which are high in soluble fibre and promote blood sugar stabilisation include flaxseed meal, chia seeds, blueberries, almonds, green beans and raw carrots.

Veg Out. Non-starchy vegetables are perfect foods for diabetics and include everything from artichokes and asparagus to broccoli and eggplant. This category of veggies goes a long way in satisfying your appetite and boosting your intake of vitamins, minerals, fibre and phytochemicals. They are also low in calories and carbohydrates, making them some of the few foods that people with diabetes can enjoy almost with abandon. Researchers have found that a low-fat vegan diet may help type 2 diabetes patients to better manage sugar levels. In a study published in Diabetes Care, 43% of people with type 2 diabetes who followed a low-fat vegan diet for 22 weeks reduced the need to take diabetes medications.

Boost your Bitters. Bitter foods including rocket, endive, broccoli, brussel sprouts and lemons are becoming more recognised as having an important role to play in glucose homeostasis and insulin resistance. The way in which they do this is believed to be associated with the stimulation of bitter receptors in the digestive tract. In support of this, 94 patients with pre-diabetes exhibited improvements in BMI, glycemic control and body fat when given just 16 to 48 mg/day of hop bitter acids as capsules in a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. The bitter herb Andrographis paniculata has also demonstrated anti-diabetic activity in several experimental models and lowered glycated hemoglobin and fasting insulin levels in a small, pilot trial involving patients with type 2 diabetes.

Heroic Herbs. Herbs such as cinnamon and fenugreek as well as onions and garlic are well researched with respect to their sugar-lowering potential. My personal experiments (as a Type 1 diabetic) with these foods has not shown that they are that powerful. However, I do not think there is any harm in sprinkling cinnamon on your breakfast or adding more onions and garlic into your cooking.

Wow Workouts. Exercise is one of the only certain activities (apart from the use of insulin) which will result in lowering my sugar levels significantly. Vigorous exercise reduces the need for insulin by lowering blood sugar levels. Your muscles uses the sugars in your bloodstream as fuel. This also has an additional benefit of improving circulation which is extremely important in people with diabetes.

Perfect  Patterns. Having an eating, sleep and exercise routine always helps your body know what to expect and when. It allows you to identify patterns in sugar highs and lows and can make control just that little bit easier.

Miracle Meds. When it comes down to it nothing surpasses insulin (for Type 1 diabetics) in getting insulin levels down. We are blessed to be living at a time where insulin and devices such as insulin pumps and blood sugar testers exist to make life as a diabetic literally “liveable”.

Sources:

Baer, D., Rumpler, W., Miles, C. and Fahey, G. Dietary fiber decreases the metabolizable energy content and nutrient digestibility of mixed diets fed to humans. Journal of Nutrition. Vol.127, 579-586

Barnard, N. 2006. A low fat vegan diet improves glycaemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in a randomised clinical trial in individuals with Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. Vol. 29, 8, 1777-83.

Chandala, M.,Garg, A., Lutjohann, D., Von-Bergmann, K., Grundy, S. and Brinkley, L. 2000. Beneficial effects of high dietary intake in patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Diabetes Care. Vol. 342, 9.

Obara, K., Mizutani, M., Hitomi. Y. Isohumulones, the bitter component of beer, improve hyperglycemia and decrease body fat in Japanese subjects with prediabetes. Clinical Nutrition. Vol. 28, 3, 278-284.

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