The body regulates blood sugars using various hormones. Insulin, glucagon, GLP-1, amylin. Liver, pancreas, gut, brain. With so much involved, getting blood sugar levels back in balance is no small feat.
But its worth the effort.
Whether you suffer from weight gain, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, or diabetes, restoring blood sugar balance is key.
The Sugar Roller Coaster
We are hard-wired to crave sugar. Our body needs the fuel of carbohydrates. But, not all carbohydrates are made equal. Certain foods trigger a stronger hormonal response, flooding our system with insulin. This leads to a cycle of high and low blood sugars that can last all day. And after a while, we can end up with intense sugar cravings or even a sugar addiction.
While fats and proteins do not trigger a large insulin response, refined carbohydrates do. Complex carbohydrates do trigger insulin, but not as much as the refined ones. So, to bring blood sugars back into balance, we want to focus on eating protein, good fats, and complex carbohydrates. And avoid refined carbohydrates, artificial sweeteners, and sugary drinks. When we get off that sugar roller coaster, we avoid weight gain, reduce inflammation, and bring the body back into balance.
There are also lots of drugs for blood sugar balance, many of which come with a slew of side effects. From nausea and vomiting, to disorders of the stomach, kidneys, and pancreas, using medications comes with risks. If you want to avoid or reduce medications, it is important to consider ways to change your lifestyle and eating habits.
Botanicals and Blood Sugar
Let’s talk about a few botanicals proven to help us get off the sugar roller coaster: cinnamon, ginger, and fenugreek.
Cinnamon is the reddish-brown dried inner bark of Southeast Asian evergreen trees. Research shows that cinnamon can improve insulin action, help move sugar out of the bloodstream, and enhance the storage of sugars. In a recent study by Zare. et al, individuals with type 2 diabetes taking cinnamon supplements twice per day for 3 months had significant improvements to their weight, body fat percentage, blood sugar and cholesterol levels. This was seen particular in study participants who were overweight or obese (BMI >27).
Try this at home: Take 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon powder 2-3 meals or snacks each day. For example, you can add cinnamon to oatmeal, yogurt, or cereal. Enjoy a cup of cinnamon tea after each meal. Or take a 500 mg capsule of cinnamon two times per day.
Ginger is a pungent, spicy, and warming root used for flavoring foods as well as medicine. It is good for enhancing our sensitivity to sugar and improving our insulin response. Ginger also promotes good digestion and improved circulation. It can help with blood pressure control, lowering cholesterol, and weight loss. Research shows that ginger helps us feel more satisfied after a meal, which would be pretty useful for anyone who has issues with appetite control.
Try this at home: Grate 1 inch of fresh ginger in 1 cup of hot water and infuse for 20 minutes. Drink this 1-3 times per day. Try adding pickled ginger to your meals, snacking on a ginger snap here and there, but please do avoid ginger ale! You can also take 250 mg of ginger powder 1-3 times per day as a supplement.
Fenugreek is a spice that has a flavor similar to burnt sugar or maple syrup. It is aromatic, bittersweet, and pungent. Fenugreek is used in traditional Chinese, Aruyvedic and European folk medicines as a digestive aide, to help with nutrient absorption and to support the kidneys. Fenugreek has been shown to help manage diabetes by slowing the absorption of carbohydrate, improving how the body uses sugar, like supporting the action of insulin hormone to move sugar out of the blood to where it needs to go in the body. As a side benefit, fenugreek has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels by enhancing liver function. Fenugreek is pretty effective, so its important to make sure it doesn’t interfere with your medications, especially if you are on blood thinners.
Try this at home: Add a pinch of ground fenugreek seeds to dishes like cooked leafy greens, curries, stir fries, or tomato-based stews. Fenugreek works well with the flavors of coriander, cumin, and paprika. Fenugreek leaf can be added to a sauce or soup, and you would want to add it toward the end of cooking. The flavor of the seeds improves with longer cooking, as it can be a bit bitter.