The ABCs of Stabilizing Blood Sugar
The following three foods are especially effective in stabilizing blood sugar, and eating them is a good way to keep insulin levels under control:
- Apples: Despite their relatively high sugar levels, apples actually exert a stabilizing effect on blood sugar, due in part to their high fiber content and to phloretin, a flavonoid-type, blood-sugar-stabilizing phytonutrient found exclusively in apples. A study in Finland found that eating apples can lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. The researchers attributed apples’ antidiabetes effect to the antioxidant activity of quercetin, a major component of apple peels. This is another reason to buy organic, unsprayed fruit so that you can safely eat the skin.
- Beans and lentils: A meal with legumes raises blood sugar very slowly and moderately, and even moderates the blood sugar response to the next meal you eat, whether that next meal includes beans or not.When beans and legumes are eaten with relatively high glycemic foods (sugars, refined flour products) they still wield a potent stabilizing influence on blood sugar levels and subsequent insulin levels. Beans and legumes are excellent sources of fiber, which also helps to stabilize blood sugar. In addition, beans and lentils contain resistant starch (RS), fiberlike carbohydrates that increase the rate at which the body burns (oxidizes) body fat.They do not cause unhealthy spikes in blood sugar levels, and they prevent other, higher glycemic foods in a meal from doing so.
- Cinnamon: Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have found that cinnamon keeps blood sugar levels on an even keel. The phytonutrient compounds responsible for cinnamon’s beneficial effect on blood sugar control are the flavon-3-ol polyphenol class of antioxidants, which enhance the stabilizing effect of insulin on blood sugar and decrease insulin resistance in two ways: First, they activate enzymes that stimulate insulin receptors. (Remember that when we are insulin resistant, our cells cannot sense the presence of insulin. By sensitizing these receptors, we are potentiating insulin’s power to reduce blood sugar levels.) Second, they enhance the effects of insulin-signaling pathways within skeletal muscle tissue.
By increasing insulin sensitivity, the flavon-3-ol antioxidants in cinnamon decrease the harmful effects of high-glycemic carbohydrates, such as fluctuating blood sugar levels that cause carbohydrate cravings and the chronic inflammation that promotes obesity. Because flavon-3-ol antioxidants enhance insulin sensitivity, more of your blood glucose enters the cells where it belongs, and blood sugar levels stabilize, effectively stopping the inflammation and ending carbohydrate craving. Just 1⁄4 teaspoon of cinnamon mixed in water or tea will do the trick. In fact, cinnamon will continue to help stabilize blood sugar for days—in one study, the group that took the cinnamon reported healthy blood sugar levels up to 3 weeks after consuming the cinnamon!
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