Type 2 diabetes: The best food to lower blood sugar levels
Type 2 diabetes means a person’s pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to regulate blood sugar levels. Overtime, rising blood sugar levels can pose life-threatening health risks such as heart disease and stroke. Luckily, making certain lifestyle choices can control blood sugar levels and stave off the risks. One study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, has revealed that replacing potatoes or rice with pulses can lower a person’s blood glucose levels by more than 20 per cent.
Pulses are extremely nutrient-dense food
Prof. Alison Duncan, Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences, and Dan Ramdath of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, found that swapping out half of a portion of these starchy side dishes for lentils can significantly improve your body’s response to the carbohydrates.
Replacing half a serving of rice with lentils caused blood glucose to drop by up to 20 per cent. Replacing potatoes with lentils led to a 35 per cent drop.
“Pulses are extremely nutrient-dense food that have the potential to reduce chronic diseases associated with mismanaged glucose levels,” said Duncan, who worked on the study with PhD student Dita Moravek and M.Sc. students Erica Rogers, Sarah Turkstra and Jessica Wilson.
The study involved 24 healthy adults fed four dishes – white rice only, half white rice and half large green lentils, half white rice and half small green lentils, and half white rice and half split red lentils.
Researchers measured glucose levels in the participants’ blood before they ate and during two hours afterward. They repeated the process for white potatoes alone and the same combinations of potatoes and lentils.
“We mixed the lentils in with the potatoes and rice because people don’t typically eat pulses on their own, but rather consume them in combination with other starches as part of a larger meal, so we wanted the results to reflect that,” said the study authors.
Blood glucose fell by similar amounts when half of the starch was replaced with each of the three types of lentils.
Blood glucose comprises sugar found in the blood during digestion in the upper digestive tract and depends on the starch content of foods consumed.
Pulses, such as lentils, can slow digestion and the release of sugars found in starch into the bloodstream, ultimately reducing blood glucose levels, said Duncan.
”This slower absorption means you don’t experience a spike in glucose. Having high levels over a period of time can lead to mismanagement of blood glucose, which is the hallmark of Type 2 diabetes. Essentially, eating lentils can lower that risk, explained Duncan.
The study author added: “Pulses contain components that inhibit enzymes involved in absorption of glucose, and fibre contained in these foods can encourage the production of short-chain fatty acids, which can also help to reduce blood glucose levels.
“We are hoping that building evidence for approval of a health claim for pulses will further encourage people to add pulses to their side dishes.”
Keeping physically active is another key component of diabetes management.
The NHS recommends aiming for at least 150 minutes of activity every week.
Find out the best exercise to control blood sugar levels here.
As Diabetes UK explains, the benefits of being active with diabetes include:
- Helps the body use insulin better
- Helps a person look after their blood pressure, because high blood pressure means a person is more at risk of diabetes complications
- Helps to improve cholesterol (blood fats) to help protect against problems like heart disease
- Helps a person lose weight if they need to, and keep the weight off after they’ve lost it – there are so many more benefits to losing extra weight
- Gives a person energy and helps them sleep
- Helps mind as well as the body – exercise releases endorphins. Being active is proven to reduce stress levels and improve low mood.
- And for people with Type 2 diabetes, being active helps improve their HbA1c.
What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?
According to the NHS, people with type 2 diabetes may experience:
- Peeing more than usual, particularly at night
- Feeling thirsty all the time
- Feeling very tired
- Losing weight without trying to
- Itching around a person’s penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush
- Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
- Blurred vision
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