By Florencia Tagliavini, The NutraMilk Nutritionist.
Whether you are diabetic or have prediabetes or just want to be aware of what affects your blood sugar and glucose levels, you probably know by now that food has a big impact. Choosing the right nutrients and food combinations are essential for keeping your blood sugar in check.
Carbohydrates don't have to be avoided altogether as most people think, but it is important to spread out your carbohydrate intake throughout the day, limit the amounts, combine carbs with other nutrients such as protein and healthy fats which will help slow down their digestion and choose whole grains that are rich in fiber and carbs that have a low glycemic index, meaning they are slowly digested, absorbed and metabolized resulting in a lower and slower rise in blood glucose and insulin levels.
Some of my top picks for foods to include in a diet when managing blood sugar levels are oats, legumes, nuts and seeds, non-starchy vegetables - especially leafy greens, and spices such as turmeric and cinnamon.
Here is how to include them using your NutraMilk and why!
1. Nut & seed milks
Nut and seed milks are rich sources of unsaturated heart-healthy fats which are linked to improved insulin resistance. Eating these healthy fats can also slow down the digestion of carbohydrates which help to keep blood sugar more stable as well as increasing satiety. By making homemade milk, you will avoid all the added sugars and additives that can affect blood sugar and you can make a more nutrient dense milk that will deliver healthy nutrients.
Rolled or steel cut oats are a great food for diabetics due to their low glycemic index and their high fiber content which allow a slow and sustained release of blood sugar. What is even better is having your oatmeal with a nut or seed milk which provide protein, a healthy dose of unsaturated fat as well as many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, therefore, upgrading it's nutritional value and making it an even more diabetic-friendly breakfast or snack.
My top pick for milk: Almond milk. Classic and simple. It's just so good and versatile! Almonds among being excellent sources of many nutrients are rich in magnesium, a mineral that may help your body use its own insulin more effectively. Cashews have even more magnesium, Brazil nuts have the highest content of any nut, and hemp seeds contain the most magnesium than any other seed. Have you tried these milks?
2. Nut & seed butters
Nut and seed butters made at home are fresh, nutritious, free of added sugars, oils, flavorings and all sorts of additives that are unhealthy. They provide protein, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that promote health and especially all the important nutrients that help regulate and maintain blood sugar levels. By combining these plant-based butters with different foods you can help avoid any blood sugar spikes. Many studies have linked high-fiber diets with stable blood sugar levels and a lower risk of developing diabetes. Nut and seed butter are an easy way to add more fiber to your diet!
My personal favorite: Pumpkin seed butter.
Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of magnesium. Just 2 tablespoons contain 48% of the daily recommended amount. Aside from this, pumpkin seeds are little powerhouses of nutrients and health benefits. They are a good source of iron, zinc, copper, phosphorus and various antioxidants that help protect the body against disease and reduce inflammation.
3. Legume dips
Whether they're lentils, kidney, pinto, black or garbanzo, beans are a good source of soluble fiber, protein and are a low glycemic index food. This means their carbohydrates are gradually released so they're less likely to cause blood sugar spikes. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers followed the diets of more than 3,000 adults who didn't have type 2 diabetes for more than four years. They discovered that people with the highest consumption of legumes - especially lentils - had the lowest risk of diabetes. Another study done in 2012 found that incorporating legumes into the diet improved glycemic control and lowered the risk of coronary heart disease in people with type 2 diabetes. Like this, there are many studies that have linked positive effects of legumes on blood glucose levels.
My top pick: Hummus! It can be enjoyed in so many ways and makes for a great snack.
4. Fiber-rich green smoothies made with nut milk
Smoothies can be healthy, delicious and diabetic-friendly if you do them right. By using nuts and seeds, you will obtain the fiber, protein and heart-healthy fatty acids that help slow digestion and maintain glucose levels stable. Choosing some leafy greens is a great way to cover part of your daily serving recommendation and boost nutrition. Spinach is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, calcium, iron, magnesium and is one of the best sources of dietary potassium, with 839 milligrams per cup (cooked). That's more potassium than a banana! This is helpful since low potassium intake is linked with a higher risk of diabetes and diabetes complications.
Another way to boost the fiber content of your smoothie is to add chia seeds to your smoothie or nut milk. Beyond fiber, chia seeds offer many nutrients including plant-based anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
5. Spiced teas
Spiced teas such as turmeric tea or golden milk are a great option for anyone who has to manage blood sugar levels. Golden milk can be made with almond milk and spices such as turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and peppercorns. The golden spice turmeric, contains curcumin, a substance that may keep your pancreas healthy and prevent prediabetes from turning into Type 2 diabetes as some studies suggest. Cinnamon has been shown in some studies to lower blood sugar levels in people with diabetes and increasing insulin sensitivity, reducing inflammation, and lowering LDL cholesterol. While more research is still needed, these spices have promising effects on blood sugar levels and when blended with homemade almond milk it´s even more diabetic-friendly.