Diabetic diet : The Best Foods to Control Diabetes

Most Unexceptional Foods to Control Diabetes


Cinnamon comes from the bark of two South Asian trees: Cinnamomum verum and Cinnamomum cassia (commonly called cassia cinnamon). The cinnamon found on the spice shelf at the grocery store usually comes from C. cassia. Active compounds in cinnamon are water-soluble polyphenols, which contribute to the color, taste, flavor, and medicinal actions of many plants. Polyphenols dramatically boost the action of insulin.1 In a placebo-controlled trial lasting 40 days, researchers in Pakistan gave participants cinnamon capsules in doses of one, three, or six grams. The researchers reported that cinnamon reduced fasting blood sugar—along with triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol—in people with type 2 diabetes.2 One study clarified that cassia cinnamon affects blood sugar, while Ceylon cinnamon, from C. verum, does not.


My father and uncle both have diabetes. I want to reduce my chance of developing this disease, and I’ve heard that drinking coffee can help. Is there any evidence for this claim?

Several epidemiological studies have demonstrated an association between regular coffee consumption and a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.2 Do not count on coffee alone to protect you, however. Regular exercise and weight control are far more likely to be helpful in preventing type 2 diabetes.


What is fenugreek? I have been diagnosed as borderline diabetic. My neighbor said this over-the-counter product helps keep blood sugar in check. My doctor said with proper diet and exercise I can beat the diabetes. Do you have any additional information?

Fenugreek is an herb used in Indian cooking. Research shows that it can help lower blood sugar. Other natural substances used to control blood sugar include cinnamon, bitter melon, oolong tea, and vinegar.


I have been using cinnamon to help control my blood sugar for the last four years. Using one-quarter teaspoon in boiling water to make cinnamon tea lowers my blood sugar readings from about 185 to 135 in one hour. Yellow mustard works even better. I take about one-half teaspoon per meal, depending on the amount of carbohydrates in the food. Both cinnamon and yellow mustard can be overdone and lower blood sugar too much, so you have to be cautious.

Research supports the idea that cinnamon can lower blood sugar. Until your email, we had not heard that yellow mustard could do much the same thing. Several animal studies show that curcumin, the active ingredient in the yellow spice turmeric, lowers blood glucose. Since turmeric gives mustard its yellow color, perhaps this explains the benefit you have discovered. The vinegar in mustard may also help. However, diabetics should monitor their blood sugar closely and check with a physician before trying such dietary strategies.


Friends who go to Mexico each year tell me they take nopal capsules to lower cholesterol and sugar in the blood. (They have type 2 diabetes.) Apparently this herb is popular in Mexico. Do you have an opinion on nopales for these conditions?

We recently heard from a physician that one of his type 2 diabetic patients was able to get control of his blood sugar by drinking a tea made from nopal cactus in combination with his medicine. Nopal is prickly pear (Opuntia) and has been studied in Mexico for its ability to lower blood glucose and cholesterol. Research on animals shows it can be effective, but investigators in a human study had to use high doses of nopal capsules to produce results. No one should substitute nopal capsules for diabetes or cholesterol medicine. Diabetics must monitor blood sugar closely if they add any nonstandard remedy to their regimen.

My husband has had problems with blood sugar. When he had to go on prednisone I worried because this drug can make blood sugar problems worse. The doctor didn’t seem concerned, but as a diabetes educator I knew this could become a serious problem. Soon after my husband started taking prednisone, his blood glucose level went over 200. Then he started taking nopal cactus, and it dropped to 150 and then to 132. We’re pleased with the results but would like to know more about nopal.

People have eaten prickly pear cactus leaves (Opuntia) as a vegetable for centuries. Nopal, as it is known in Mexico, has also been used there to lower blood sugar in type 2 diabetics. Some preliminary animal research suggests that nopal is effective, but there is little human data to support its use. Anyone who might consider such an approach needs to be under medical supervision and monitor blood glucose carefully. Nopal capsules can be found in health food stores or on the Internet.


Could you talk about the relative benefits of various nuts? We know almonds and walnuts can lower cholesterol. Do pecans, macadamia nuts, or hazelnuts offer anything besides calories?

Nearly all nuts have beneficial fatty acids, particularly monounsaturated fatty acids like those found in olive oil. In addition, walnuts contain some omega-3 fatty acids like those found in fish oil. People who eat five ounces of nuts weekly are less susceptible to heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The nuts must be part of the diet, though, and not added to it. Excess weight from added calories can raise the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.


I suffer from type 2 diabetes. My doctor prescribed Glucotrol for my blood sugar. It helped to a degree, but I have found that by adding apple cider vinegar and cinnamon to a careful diet, I can control my blood sugar even better. I know I haven’t made this up, but are there any data showing that these natural remedies work?

High-carbohydrate meals containing white bread or rice can raise blood sugar. We would not have imagined that vinegar could counteract this effect, but there is growing evidence to support your experience. Scientists in Sweden report that vinegar given with white bread reduces blood sugar and insulin. It also helps people feel full up to two hours later.3 Japanese researchers have found that vinegar can counteract the effect of white rice on blood sugar. And investigators at Arizona State University report that two tablespoons of vinegar before a starchy meal can significantly reduce the expected rise in blood glucose.