iabetes is a metabolic condition in which the pancreas does not produce insulin or the body fails to correctly utilize the insulin that is produced. Untreated diabetes can lead to many health problems, including cardiovascular disease, kidney impairment, vision problems, circulatory problems and nerve damage. Controlling blood sugar levels is key to managing this disease and maintaining health. A variety of medications are available to treat diabetes, but scientists are also looking into the effects of common spices and their ability to affect glucose levels. A number of findings indicate that these spices can be used in conjunction with other methods to ensure proper blood sugar regulation.
How Spices Affect Blood Glucose
The concept of using spices to help control blood sugar is based in biochemistry. When blood sugar levels in the body are high, protein glycation occurs, a process in which the sugar bonds to proteins to create advanced glycation end products (AGE compounds). These compounds activate the immune system, causing inflammation and tissue damage that are common in diabetes. Spices contain high levels of phenol compounds, which help to reduce inflammation and inhibit the formation of AGE compounds. Therefore, these spices limit the damage to tissues caused by excessive sugar in the bloodstream. Research finds that a number of spices are particular adept at this process.
1 – Cinnamon
Cinnamon is a spice that is made from the bark of wild trees that grow in Southeast Asia, South America and the Caribbean. It has been used for thousands of years to promote health and treat ailments like sore throat, digestive problems and arthritis. Modern research has allowed scientists to understand the compounds that make cinnamon so popular as a health treatment. They have found the cinnamon contains both antioxidant and anti-fungal components. It appears to lower insulin resistance, which can be a benefit for individuals with diabetes.
2 – Turmeric
Turmeric is another spice that is associated with the ability to reduce inflammation in the body to promote better health. Turmeric has long been used to treat the discomfort and swelling of osteoarthritis, but science has found it also has beneficial compounds that can help to improve blood sugar levels. The component in turmeric that produces this effect is called curcumin, which moderates insulin levels and boosts the effectiveness of anti-diabetes drugs.
3 – Ginger
Ginger is a spice made from the rhizome of a plant. It has been used in cooking and medicinal compounds for thousands of years. Today, researchers are finding that it can also be helpful in managing blood glucose levels in some individuals. A study involving middle-aged subjects who were overweight but not obese found that regular ingestion of ginger helped to lower fasting blood sugar levels.
4 – Fenugreek
Fenugreek is made from a plant that grows in Middle and Near East countries. It has been used for thousands of years for a variety of ailments. The seeds were found in tombs in Ancient Egypt. Recent studies indicate that daily use of ground fenugreek can help to reduce the level of post-meal glucose in subjects.
5 – Garlic Extract
Garlic is not just a spice that enhances flavor in the foods you eat. It also has a number of health-promoting properties that make it a good choice for improving metabolic function. Studies show garlic can have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels. A 2012 study finds that garlic can also improve blood sugar levels. The study was done on rabbits, but researchers feel the 30-point change in glucose levels could easily translate to human subjects.
6 – Sage
Common sage, an extract of the salvia plant, appears to have a beneficial effect on fasting blood glucose levels and may be helpful in avoiding type-2 diabetes. Sage is a savory herb that is used in a variety of meat and vegetable dishes. Research finds that it appears to lower blood glucose levels in much the same way as the diabetes drug metformin. This action could make it a helpful adjunct in keeping blood glucose levels within normal range.
If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, talk to your physician about the use of these spices to help control your glucose levels.