The #1 herb to help lower blood sugar levels, recommended by health experts

By | April 3, 2024

Tip: it’s not cinnamon.

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Reviewed by dietitian Emily Lachtrupp, MS, RD

The benefits of spices go beyond making food taste good. They also have bona fide health properties. And when it comes to lowering blood sugar levels and improving insulin resistance, cinnamon is perhaps the most recommended spice for doing just that. But as delicious as it is, if you focus solely on cinnamon, you may miss other spices that you can add to a diabetes diet that can also be effective.

Learn about the No. 1 spice to lower your blood sugar, diabetes-friendly recipes to try the starring spice, and other ways to keep your blood sugar in check. And guess what: our choice is as warming as cinnamon.

Related: The 10 Best Vegetables for Diabetes

What is high blood sugar?

High blood sugar, also known as hyperglycemia, is defined as blood sugar levels that are higher than normal. Over time, high blood sugar levels can lead to a diagnosis of prediabetes or diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), high blood sugar levels can occur for many reasons in people who have been diagnosed with diabetes.

  • If you have type 1 diabetes and you have not taken enough insulin.

  • If you have type 2 diabetes, you have insulin resistance and your cells do not properly absorb blood sugar from your bloodstream.

  • Because you ate more or exercised less – or a combination of both.

  • Due to physical stress due to an illness, such as a cold or flu.

  • Due to psychological stress.

  • Because of the dawn phenomenon, a surge of hormones that occurs in the early morning.

These are just some of the reasons you may experience high blood sugar. Chronic high blood sugars in people with diabetes are dangerous and can increase the risk of complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage (neuropathy). Extremely high blood sugar levels can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis (more common in people with type 1 diabetes), a life-threatening emergency, according to the ADA.

The #1 herb to lower blood sugar levels

Ginger tops our list for its powerful blood sugar benefits. Ginger contains powerful polyphenols like gingerol, which fight inflammation, something that can indirectly help balance blood sugar levels, says Kanchan Koya, Ph.D., author of the Herb spice baby cookbook. “Inflammation has been linked to insulin resistance and poor blood sugar control. Therefore, balancing inflammation with herbs like ginger may have a beneficial effect on blood sugar levels,” she says, adding that more research is needed.

Much of the research supporting the use of ginger has been done with ginger supplementation. This is different from using ginger in recipes. However, the results on ginger and blood sugar are interesting and promising.

In a review and meta-analysis published in Nutrients in 2024, researchers examined the effects of common herbs and spices found in the Mediterranean diet – black cumin, cloves, parsley, saffron, thyme, ginger, black pepper, rosemary, turmeric, basil, oregano and cinnamon – on blood sugar levels in humans with type 2 diabetes. They measured fasting blood glucose levels, glycosylated hemoglobin (A1C) and insulin concentrations. Ginger, curcurmin, saffron and cinnamon significantly lowered fasting blood sugar levels, while black cumin and ginger lowered A1C and lowered insulin levels. Supplemental ginger (doses ranged from 600 to 3,000 milligrams per day) was the only herb that had a significant impact on all three measured outcomes. For comparison, 1000 mg of ginger is about ½ teaspoon of ground ginger or 1 teaspoon of grated raw ginger.

“Some research indicates that ginger may positively impact blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity and slowing the digestion of carbohydrates, leading to fewer blood sugar spikes after a meal,” says Colette Micko, a registered dietitian and diabetic -information officer at Top Nutrition Coaching. That study was a meta-analysis of 10 studies published in Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine in 2018. Ginger may inhibit enzymes that play a role in the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates, but also affect pathways related to glucose metabolism and protect beta cells (insulin-producing cells in the pancreas), the authors of that study point out.

Ginger offers additional benefits, notes Micko: “Many people with prediabetes and diabetes are at high risk for cardiovascular disease, and ginger has been shown to positively impact cholesterol levels.”

While we don’t have much clinical data examining the effect of ginger’s culinary use, Koya notes that cooking with the spice can only help. “There are few downsides to using ginger, so I figure, why not use it for its beneficial polyphenols, anti-inflammatory and digestive benefits,” she says. The only caution is if you suffer from heartburn, as large amounts of ginger can worsen symptoms, Koya adds.

Consuming a variety of plants, including herbs and spices, is an important strategy to help prevent diabetes or control blood sugar levels if you have the condition. “Herbs and spices add flavor and variety. They also have inflammation-reducing potential,” says Micko. Additionally, herbs and spices do not contain added sodium or fat, important factors to consider if you have diabetes and need to pay extra attention to your heart health.

However, keep in mind that simply adding one spice or herb to your diet without making any other changes won’t magically lower your blood sugar levels. That’s where the recommendation to consume a variety of herbs, spices and other plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and seeds, is critical as you create a blood sugar-friendly diet.

Other ways to lower blood sugar levels

Lifestyle factors such as regular exercise, stress management, adequate sleep and smoking cessation are also important strategies that help lower blood sugar levels, notes the American Heart Association.

Two positive changes you can make today are to get enough sleep tonight and find ways to exercise more during the day, especially after dinner. “Aiming for at least seven hours of sleep per night has been shown to have a positive impact on blood sugar levels, metabolism and overall health,” says Micko. “Walking for 10 to 15 minutes after eating has been shown to significantly reduce post-meal blood sugar levels by increasing insulin sensitivity,” she adds.

Ginger recipes to try

There are so many ways to add ginger to the foods you like. Pair ginger with foods high in fiber, which is an important ingredient in controlling blood sugar levels, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fiber is the indigestible part of carbohydrates in plants (fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains), which promotes digestive regularity and the feeling of fullness, contributes to gut health and reduces blood sugar spikes.

It comes down to

Ginger may help lower blood sugars by improving insulin sensitivity and reducing inflammation. However, keep in mind that ginger is not intended to replace medications and will not magically lower blood sugar levels on its own. Instead, use ginger alongside lifestyle changes such as a plant-based diet, regular exercise, stress management and adequate sleep.

It’s best to add ginger to the foods you eat, such as smoothies, oats, salad dressings, vegetable bowls, meat marinades and more. If you are curious about ginger supplementation, talk to your healthcare provider or registered dietitian.

Read the original article about Good food.

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