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Spicing up diabetes: Eight spices and herbs to regulate blood glucose

Spicing up diabetes: Eight spices and herbs to regulate blood glucose

Spices, which are part of our daily intake, can help improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism

Spices and herbs help in diabetes management.

The all-time ideal diabetes friendly diets hinge on low refined carbohydrate, high fiber and protein intake. But experts point out that there are a handful of spices and herbs which when consumed daily give the insulin in your body an extra nudge to break down glucose and maintain healthy blood glucose levels.

Ranjani Raman, a Bengaluru-based dietician and nutrition therapist explains that most of the spices contain bioactive compounds and antioxidants that play a protective role in the body. “Some spices have the ability to improve insulin sensitivity which can help in diabetes management by bringing down the glucose levels to a certain extent,” explains Raman.

Bengaluru based dietitian Deepalekha Banerjee explains that while there is constant pressure on diabetics to watch what they eat, they need not worry too much about consuming spices as they play a role in managing blood glucose.

Spices and herbs for diabetes management

  • Cinnamon

According to Delhi based nutritionist Kavita Devgan, sprinkling a pinch of cinnamon or dalchini in your morning cuppa can work wonders for the body. This spice inhibits enzymes (alpha amylase and glucosidase) involved in the breakdown of carbohydrates and glucose in the body leading to better diabetes management. “This helps prevent diabetes while also combating colds, flu and digestive problems,” she explains.

Devgan says both the taste and smell of cinnamon has been found to significantly improve memory. “It is known to lead to greater cerebral blood flow and help better processing of information by the brain,” adds Devgan.

Banerjee recommends boiling a cup of water with a pinch of cinnamon and consuming it on an empty stomach. She also adds that water infused with spices and herbs can be a healthy and tasty alternative to coffee and tea.

  • Kasuri Methi

Kasuri methi is made by drying fresh fenugreek or methi leaves. This works as a spice and herb too. According to Devgan this lesser-known spice not just adds an amazing flavour to the dishes but is a wonderful source of fiber too. “It is known to effectively cut cholesterol and inflammation in the body. It also keeps the digestion happy, essential for good immunity, and helps keep blood sugar in check,” explains Devgan. 

  • Fenugreek seeds

According to Delhi based clinical nutritionist Ishi Khosla fenugreek seed powder is known for several medicinal properties which includes lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels. She explains that saponins (a chemical group of triterpenoid or steroidal aglycones) found in fenugreek seeds are naturally occurring compounds that help regulate blood glucose levels.

The seeds are high in soluble fibre, which slows down digestion and absorption of carbohydrates which reduces blood sugar levels.

“These seeds can be powdered and mixed with flour and made into chapattis, chutneys or as sprouts in salad,” suggests Khosla.

Banerjee recommends infusing two tablespoons of fenugreek seeds in a glass of water and drinking it to regulate blood sugar levels. 

  • Ginger

Diabetes tends to raise bad cholesterol levels or LDL increasing the risk for heart diseases.  Khosla explains that ginger lowers cholesterol levels and has anti-clotting properties. It contains a pungent compound called gingerol which helps reduce pain, stimulate blood circulation and relax blood vessels.

According to Banerjee, to get its maximum benefits about one inch of ginger can be boiled and consumed either at room temperature or lukewarm. “It can be a replacement for tea and can help regulate the release of insulin,” adds Banerjee.

  • Turmeric root

Fresh turmeric roots can be boiled in water or even chewed to get its benefits from the curcumin present in it. “This compound helps regulate glucose levels in the body and increases insulin sensitivity,” explains Banerjee. According to Raman it has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties along with antioxidants that help prevent cell damage when consumed correctly.

Raman cautions not to go overboard with it because if consumed in excess by diabetics, it can result in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

  • Cumin

Cumin seeds or jeera seeds are known for their digestive properties and used in most Indian households for tempering and flavouring food. “Cumin seeds or powder is a good choice for diabetics because many studies have found that it regulates blood sugar level and stimulates insulin production,” says Banerjee.

She says these seeds can be more beneficial for diabetics if they boil about 2 tsp of jeera in 1 glass of boiled water and then reduce it to half a glass to consume it.

  • Garlic

Banerjee explains that compounds containing sulphur in garlic prevent oxidative damage and have anti-inflammatory properties which aid diabetes management.

Garlic can be incorporated in the food by crushing or chopping it before cooking as allicin (a compound formed out of enzymatic reaction) gets activated. It also helps reduce the blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

According to Devgan garlic also aids digestion and lowers blood sugar levels while enhancing the immune system.

  • Coriander seeds

Nutritionist Khosla explains coriander seeds or dhaniya seeds have been traditionally used to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels which in turn benefit diabetics.  “A teaspoon or two of coriander seeds can be soaked overnight and consumed the next morning. It helps people with diabetes management and with heart issues,” says Khosla.

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