Foods & Nutrients That Support Healthy Blood Sugar Balance
- May 10, 2022
- Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Research shows the damaging effects of high blood sugar are especially obvious in those with blood glucose levels already in the high end of the normal range. Simply put, excess blood sugar is seriously damaging to health.
The good news is maintaining healthy blood sugar balance is within your control because it is almost entirely dependent on what you eat (and don’t eat). It’s possible to avoid elevated blood sugar and insulin spikes when your diet is built around healthy proteins, fats, and high-fiber foods.
Foods To Support Blood Sugar Balance
Foods to focus on include:
- lots and lots of brightly colored vegetables
- nuts and nut butter
- olive oil
- coconut oil
- dairy from pasture-raised animals.
How To Do This? Start each day with a protein and veggie-rich breakfast. Continue building your lunch, between meals snacks, and dinner meals around these foods. You’ll know you have the right formula when your energy is steady, your mood is balanced, and your cravings have decreased.
From the group mentioned above, there are a number of specific vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that support healthy blood sugar balance.
Exceptional Choices Include:
EPA and DHA: Wild salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, anchovies, and even pastured eggs and beef are good sources of the omega-3 fats, EPA and DHA.
Chromium: This mineral is essential for insulin to work properly. Small amounts of chromium are found in a wide variety of foods, but some reliably good sources include brewer’s yeast, grass-fed beef, oysters, mussels, romaine lettuce, broccoli, and mushrooms.
Magnesium: It plays a central role in the body’s secretion and use of insulin and helps maintain proper blood sugar levels, while low intakes of magnesium are associated with an increased risk of type-2 diabetes. Foods high in magnesium are leafy green vegetables, nuts, nut butter, seeds, avocados, kelp, plain yogurt, oysters, and shrimp.
High Fiber Foods: Foods naturally high in fiber help to balance blood sugar by slowing the time it takes carbohydrates to be digested, thus slowing the release of glucose into the blood stream. Fiber is also an important piece of the weight management puzzle. Soluble fiber, the type of fiber that attracts water and forms a gel-like substance during digestion, is particularly beneficial because it maintains a healthy glucose and insulin response. Many soluble fibers can also be fermented by intestinal bacteria. As the bacteria use these fibers for fuel, they produce short chain fatty acids that feed the colon cells and also help to improve insulin sensitivity and protect against metabolic damage that can lead to pre-diabetes and diabetes.
Nearly all fresh vegetables and fruits are good sources of fiber, but flaxseeds, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, collard greens, broccoli, eggplant, summer and winter squash, turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, and beets are all good sources of soluble fiber.
Flavonoids and Anthocyanins: Anthocyanins are a type of flavonoid antioxidant found in deeply colored vegetables and fruits like red cabbage, purple eggplant, purple potatoes, red radish, blueberries, and blackberries. This potent antioxidants helps preserve insulin function by protecting the insulin-producing cells of the pancreas from damage. They also help support healthy post-meal blood sugar levels. Those reds, blues and purple-colored fruits and veggies are really nutritious so eat up.
Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG): You’ll find this in green tea, matcha green tea, and to some extent black and oolong teas. It slows the breakdown of starches and sugars in the digestive tract and supports healthy use of glucose and insulin.
Vinegar: This versatile food helps moderate post meal blood sugar and insulin fluctuations, possibly by blocking the absorption of sugar and starch from the intestines. Simply starting your meal with a salad dressed with olive oil and vinegar can have an immediate and positive impact on your glycemic response. There is even some evidence to suggest other acidic foods like lemon juice, lacto-fermented veggies (e.g. kimchi, sauerkraut), and kombucha may have similar effects on blood sugar levels.
The Allium Family: This family includes onions, garlic, shallots, scallions, and leeks, contains compounds that support healthy blood sugar levels, as well as antioxidants that help protect the body from the damaging effects of high blood sugar.
Cinnamon: This culinary spice has been well researched for its blood sugar balancing effects. Compounds in cinnamon improve the activity of insulin and the cells’ ability to use glucose, which helps to lower fasting blood glucose levels. Other spices that can positively influence blood sugar levels include chili powder, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, ginger, mustard, parsley, rosemary, and sage.
Aim to include several of these foods daily. Even small amounts of a variety of these foods consumed regularly can go far in maintaining a healthy blood sugar balance, and supporting your long-term health.
In Health and Happiness,
Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods
Reference: Pratt, Heather. Maintain Healthy Blood Sugar Balance...with Food! Natural Grocers Nov-Dec 2014.