12 Superfood Spices and Herbs that Fight Diabetes

In the first of a multi-part series, I’m going to share strategies to fight or prevent Type 2 diabetes. In this blog, I’ll highlight the anti-diabetic activity of some common herbs and spices that have been more widely studied. The major effects noted were a reduction in hyperglycemia, reduction in hyperlipidemia, and regulation of insulin secretion.  

Here is the list along with easy ways to incorporate these superfoods into your diet:

Anise – Anise seeds are rich in phenolic compounds like apigenin and luteolin and have been shown to possess potent anti-oxidative and diabetic properties. I rarely use this herb for cooking but prefer to consume it in a tea form – here’s one to try:

Basil – The high polyphenol and flavonoids content showed a strong positive correlation for slowing the digestion of carbohydrates and delaying glucose absorption, resulting in a smaller and slower rise in blood glucose levels. I love using fresh basil on pasta, with tomatoes and on salads – it’s easy to grow at home but even easier to buy in the store.  

Bay leavesThis study showed that participants consuming 1-3 grams of bay leaves over 30 days significantly reduced serum glucose (up to 26%), decreased LDL cholesterol (up to 40%), increased HDL cholesterol (up to 29%) and decreased triglycerides (up to 34%) with no significant changes in the placebo group. To make it palatable, they were given ground up bay leaves in capsules. You can purchase ground bay leaves in stores or online but I prefer to add whole bay leaves liberally into soups, stocks and stews. 

Black pepper – According to this study, black pepper is one of the spices that showed considerable aldose reductase inhibiting activity. These aldose reductive inhibitors reduce secondary complications induced by diabetes, particularly in eye and neural tissues where glucose uptake is not insulin-dependent. There are currently drugs on the market that are sold as aldose reductive inhibitors but others have been pulled from clinical studies due to serious side effects. So, how about making black pepper as a standard part of your anti-diabetes regimen?

Cinnamon – In this study, consumption of 120mg/day was associated with a statistically significant decrease in levels of fasting glucose, total cholesterol, triglyceride levels and an increase in HDL (good) cholesterol. If you like cinnamon, you can sprinkle it into your tea, coffee, fruit or shake. Cinnamon supplements are widely available. Check out this link for some recommendations.

CloveThis study conducted on healthy and pre-diabetic participants showed that clove extract (250mg/day) showed statistically significant reductions in mean postprandial glucose levels in both groups. I like this extract as an easy way to get my dose in: 

Fenugreek – Fenugreek is considered one of the oldest medicinal plants and its health-promoting effects have been cited in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. Preclinical and clinical research have outlined the pharmaceutical uses of fenugreek as antidiabetic, antihyperlipidemic, anti-obesity, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, among other pharmacological effects. If fenugreek is something you are not familiar with or don’t use often, try a tea like this one.

Ginger – Based on 10 studies with a total of 490 individuals, use of ginger showed a significant beneficial effect on glucose control and insulin sensitivity. One of my favorite ways to have ginger is in the fermented form as the fermentation process makes the ginger’s active components even more bio-available. Here’s one to try:

Lemon balm – Melissa officinalis (lemon balm) is a great source of antioxidants like flavonols and flavonoids. This study showed that lemon balm is safe and effective in the improvement of lipid profile, glycemic control and reduction of inflammation. I like to take lemon balm as an extract in the evening but you can drink it as a tea. Here are some to try:

Paprika – Capsaicin found in paprika has anti-obesity and appetite-suppressing properties. This study highlights how chili pepper consumption like paprika can reduce body weight and explains the potential mechanisms of its anti-obesity effects. So sprinkle some paprika or capsaicin containing hot sauces to spice up your meals!

RosemaryThis study showed that participants drinking rosemary tea for 90 days not only showed statistically decreased body mass index and waist-hip ratios but also decreased insulin resistance, HbA1C, and free radical damage of lipids. I like rosemary but not enough to put it in many of my dishes. Here’s a tea to try:

TurmericCurcumin is the bioactive compound present in turmeric and has demonstrated various pharmacological and biological effects that include antioxidant, hypoglycemic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory properties among others. Studies have shown that curcumin extract delays diabetes development and decreases insulin resistance. This review highlights the studies conducted on curcumin supplementation in Type 2 diabetes and the possible mechanisms of action. Tumeric has become so popular that it is everywhere. I like the fermented turmeric as it is more bioavailable. I also add a pinch of black pepper to increase the potency of curcumin. Here is a powder form to try:

If you prefer to take curcumin supplements, check out these three:

So spice up your health to prevent and fight diabetes with these superfoods! If you are not much of a cook, opt for teas and liquid extracts. Otherwise, you can try them in supplement form. I prefer to have most of my spices in food and shakes and then drink the rest in a tea form.

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