13 Foods to Balance Blood Sugar & Help Prevent Diabetes

High blood sugar and insulin resistance are linked with inflammation, heart disease, kidney disease and diabetes. Protect yourself with these 13 blood sugar–balancing foods.

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Good-For-You Ingredients

Kale, spinach, chard and other leafy greens are high in antioxidants and magnesium, and eating one-and-a-half extra servings a day can reduce the risk of diabetes by 14%. 

Try this: Sauté chard and spinach with garlic and olive oil then purée with coconut milk for a creamy soup; finely chop kale, olives and tomatoes and use as an omelette filling; shred collards into long, thin strips, sauté until tender then toss with cooked pasta and cheese.

Garlic & onions contain sulfur compounds that lower blood sugar and reduce the risk of diabetes; garlic can also lower blood pressure and triglycerides in people with diabetes. 

Try this: Cut the top off whole heads of garlic, drizzle with oil and roast until soft; mash minced garlic, minced parsley and coarse salt into a paste and use as a pungent condiment for bread or vegetables.

Lentils are loaded with fiber and protein, which digest slowly and help balance blood sugar, and frequent consumption of lentils protects against diabetes. Other legumes have also been shown to improve glycemic control and reduce heart disease risk in people with diabetes.

Try this: Cook red lentils and onions in coconut milk and red curry paste then stir in frozen peas; toss chickpeas, shredded spinach, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives and feta cheese with olive oil.

Cinnamon contains compounds that reduce blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity, and cinnamon may also lower triglyceride levels – a risk factor in diabetes. But don’t overdo it: Cinnamon contains coumarin, which may cause problems at high doses. Studies have found results with as little as 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon a day.

Try this: Stir cinnamon and currants into oatmeal; add a cinnamon stick to morning coffee; toss steamed sweet potatoes with cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and coconut oil.

Vinegar contains acetic acid, which improves insulin sensitivity and can lower blood sugar by as much as 20% when consumed before or with meals containing carbs.

Try this: Simmer balsamic vinegar until reduced to a thick, syrupy glaze and drizzle on strawberries; combine apple cider vinegar with honey, lemon juice and cayenne pepper for a breakfast tonic; whisk together red wine vinegar, shallots, mustard, thyme and olive oil for an easy vinaigrette.

Broccoli sprouts are high in a compound called sulforaphane that can improve insulin resistance and protect against diabetes. Broccoli sprouts lower triglyceride levels and also reduce inflammation in people with diabetes. You can find broccoli sprouts in most natural food stores, or look for broccoli sprout powder.

Try this: Combine broccoli sprouts, grated carrot and thinly sliced red onion in a pita; toss broccoli sprouts with shredded spinach, grated beets and avocado and drizzle with olive oil and vinegar; add broccoli sprout powder to pasta sauce.

Flax & chia contain insoluble fibers that control the rate at which sugar is released into the bloodstream, and eating ground flax can decrease blood sugar levels by 20%. Flax must be ground to be fully digested; buy whole flax and grind it yourself in a spice mill or coffee grinder for maximum freshness (chia seeds don’t need to be ground).

Try this: Combine chia seeds, coconut milk and raspberries and let stand until thick for a creamy pudding-like treat; toss cooked broccoli florets with lightly ground flax, chopped pecans and olive oil.

Pistachios, like other tree nuts, improve glycemic control, reduce insulin levels and may also lower blood pressure, obesity, inflammation and heart disease risk in people with diabetes.

Try this: Toss toasted pistachios with blackberries, mangos and arugula for a fresh and fruity salad; combine pistachios, basil, mint, olive oil and garlic in a food processor and process into pesto; add pistachios and minced red and yellow bell peppers to cooked quinoa.

Grapes contain resveratrol, quercetin and other compounds that reduce blood sugar, and a higher consumption of grapes (as well as apples and blueberries) is linked with a reduced risk of diabetes.

Try this: Toss red grapes, arugula, walnuts and golden beets with a sweet balsamic vinaigrette; roast grapes with rosemary sprigs and serve on a goat cheese–topped crostini; combine chopped black grapes with minced green jalapeños, minced red peppers, minced onions and lime juice for a zesty salsa.

Blood Sugar Balancers

Try these spices, herbs and compounds to balance blood sugar naturally. As always, check with your doctor beforehand.

Insulin is a hormone tasked with regulating blood sugar. Once the body starts to resists insulin, the risk of diabetes becomes imminent. Resveratrol, part of the polyphenol family, has been shown to help counteract insulin resistance, thus helping to thwart diabetes. Condition-specific dosage recommendations vary.

Widely used in Indian and North African cuisine, fenugreek has been shown to balance blood sugar, improve insulin resistance and protect against diabetes in people with pre-diabetes. Fenugreek also reduces triglycerides in people with diabetes. In one study, a standard dosage for pre-diabetics was 10 grams a day.

If you take diabetes drugs like Metformin, you should know about berberine. A compound extracted from herbs and plants like Oregon grape and barberry, it can lower blood sugar levels by as much as 20%, and it works as effectively as some diabetes medications. Berberine also lowers triglycerides and blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease.

The active component in turmeric known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, curcumin may also improve blood sugar levels. Look for supplements that contain piperine or bioperine, pepper compounds that enhance bioavailability. In a study published in Diabetes Care, curcumin extract was found to significantly prevent diabetes in a group of pre-diabetics who took 500 milligrams three times a day.

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