We recently had a patient who followed this approach under the supervision of his doctor. After nine days of rigidly following a diabetes diet and taking some recommended supplements, his fasting blood sugar dropped from an alarming 15 mmol/L to 8.6 mmol/L. In his case diabetes medication was also needed to bring it down further, but his dose is at the low end and he is managing well.
You need a low glycaemic load in your diet to successfully beat diabetes. Your doctor will refer you to a dietitian on the NHS but this could take several months and in the meantime you can make a big difference yourself. I recommend you get a good book on following a diabetes diet too, as there are few preprepared foods in your average supermarket other than diabetic jam and stevia. Check out your health food store and ideally, visit a medical herbalist.
A clinical trial by Khan et al (2003)showed that taking 3 grams of cinnamon a day will moderately lower plasma glucose levels while taking 6 grams a day makes a significant difference. A gram is around a teaspoon and a capsule usually 500mg which is about half a teaspoon. Add as much cinnamon to your diet as you can and top up with capsules when you are on the move or just don't fancy cinnamon in a particular meal!
Chromium contributes to the maintenance of normal blood glucose levels and is widely sold as a food supplement.
Oatmeal is good as are all wholegrains. They last longer, releasing energy over a period of time which helps to keep your blood sugar levels stable. They also contain nutrients such as magnesium, chromium, omega 3 fatty acids and folate. Pearl barley and oatmeal are also a source of fiber and potassium.
Legumes (beans, lentils and chickpeas) are among the lowest glycemic index (GI) foods and recommended in diabetes diets. Research has also found that eating these also improves blood sugar control compared to a wheat based diet (Jenkins et al., 2012). Puy lentils are particularly delicious and can be bought pre-cooked in pouches or tins. Other low (GI) grains include quinoa and bulgar wheat.
Just half a cup of beans will give you a third of your daily fibre requirement.
Sweet potatoes are a great, low GI alternative to potatoes and contain both vitamin A and fibre. Beetroot is also another good root vegetable to add to your diet.
Chicory seed extract may be useful as a natural dietary supplement for slowing down the pace of diabetes progress, and delaying the development of its complication (Ghamarian et al., 2012). As the phytochemical will also be present to a lesser extent in the leaves, chicory would be a sensible additional to your diet.
Tomatoes contains a substance called lycopene. In studies this has been shown to have a potent hypoglycemic effect which may be useful in the management of diabetes. Lycopene can also be bought as a food supplement. Tomatoes also contain vitamin C, iron and vitamin E.
Artichoke leaves taken as a tea make everything else eaten after it taste sweeter! There is growing evidence that artichoke leaves can also help to reduce blood sugar rises after eating as well (Nomikos, 2007). Artichoke juice is widely available as a health supplement for helping to balance gut bacteria for those who have trouble with dyspepsia. It is also extremely high in antioxidants and helps to lower harmful high cholesterol.
White mulberry Morus alba leaf extract helps to improve blood circulation (vascular dysfunction) in diabetes sufferers. Clinical trials have shown mulberry leaf extract to have antihyperglycemic, antioxidant and antiglycation effects suggesting its use as food supplement for diabetics (Naowaboot, 2009).
Other plant food materials that have been investigated for anti-diabetic properties of varying levels include:
Jerusalem artichoke - Helianthus tuberosus
Onion - Allium cepa
Garlic - Allium sativum
Leeks - Allium porrum
Mustard greens - Brassica juncea
Brassicas (kale, cabbage, sprouts, broccoli) - Brassica oleracea
Cumin - Cuminum cyminum
Turmeric - Curcuma longa
Fenugreek - Trigonella foenum graecum
Chickpeas - Cicer arietinum
Black gram lentils - Phaseolus mungo
Common beans - Phaseolus vulgaris
Beetroot - Beta vulgaris
Squash (zucchini) - Cucurbita pepo
Sweet potato - Ipomoea batatus
Guava - Psidium guajava
Quince - Cydonia oblonga
Pomegranate - Punica granatum
Grape vine - Vitis vinifera
Sugar apple - Annona squamosa
Apple Bananas - Musa sapientum
Bitter melon - Momordica charantia
Pigeon peas - Cajanus cajan
Wild mango - Mangifera indica
White mulberry - Morus alba
In addition, black tea, green tea and red wine have also been reviewed. All these plant food materials have been reported to have varying degree of hypoglycemic and anti-hyperglycemic activity.
In Iraq, white wormwood (Artemisia herba-alba) tea is used as a treatment for diabetes (Al-Khazraji, 1993) and common centuary (Centaurium erythraea) is combined with white wormwood as a treatment for diabetes in Algeria (Hamza 2010).
Al-Khazraji, M., Al-Shamaony, A., and Twaij, A. (1993). Hypoglycaemic effect of Artemisia herba alba. I: Effect of different parts and influence of the solvent on hypoglycaemia activity. J Ethnopharm.49 (1): 51–55.
Bayramoglu A, Bayramoglu G, Senturk H. (2013). Lycopene partially reverses symptoms of diabetes in rats with streptozotocin-induced diabetes. J Med Food. PubMed PMID: 23347319.
Ghamarian A, Abdollahi M, Su X, Amiri A, Ahadi A, Nowrouzi A. (2012). Effect of chicory seed extract on glucose tolerance test (GTT) and metabolic profile in early and late stage diabetic rats. Daru.20(1):56. PubMed PMID: 23352214
Hamza, N., Berke, B., Cheze, C., Agli, A.-N., Robinson, P., Gin, H., and Moore, N. (2010). Prevention of type 2 diabetes induced by high fat diet in the C57BL/6J mouse by two medicinal plants used in traditional treatment of diabetes in the east of algeria. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 128(2):513-518.
Jenkins DJ, Kendall CW, Augustin LS, Mitchell S, Sahye-Pudaruth S, Blanco Mejia S, Chiavaroli L, Mirrahimi A, Ireland C, Bashyam B, Vidgen E, de Souza RJ, Sievenpiper JL, Coveney J, Leiter LA, Josse RG. (2012). Effect of Legumes as Part of a Low Glycemic Index Diet on Glycemic Control and Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Arch Intern Med. Oct 22:1-8.
Naowaboot J., Pannangpetch P., Kukongviriyapan V., Kongyingyoes B., & Kukongviriyapan U. (2009) Antihyperglycemic, antioxidant and antiglycation activities of mulberry leaf extract in streptozotocin-induced chronic diabetic rats. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 64:2 (116-121)
Nomikos, T., Detopoulou, P., Fragopoulou, E., Pliakis, E., and Antonopoulou, S. (2007). Boiled wild artichoke reduces postprandial glycemic and insulinemic responses in normal subjects but has no effect on metabolic syndrome patients. Nutrition Research, 27(12):741-749.
Cinnamon helps to significantly reduce blood sugar levels.
Oatmeal porridge: Use good quality oats and simmer in water, with grated apple for flavour, for 4-5 minutes. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Or, sprinkle with half a teaspoon of cinnamon and take 1 x 500 mg capsule of powdered cinnamon.
Cinnamon toast: Made with wholemeal bread, sprinkle with olive oil, stevia.
Savoury Cinnamon spice mix: Use in gravys, soups, stews, etc. Find my recipe here.