Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition where the insulin your pancreas makes can’t work properly, or your pancreas can’t make enough insulin. Because insulin plays a key role in controlling your blood sugar levels, poor insulin production means your blood sugar levels keep rising, and, if left untreated, this can lead to life-threatening complications such as heart disease and stroke. Fortunately, healthy lifestyle decisions can keep blood sugar levels in check and studies are shedding a light on foods that provide particular blood-sugar lowering benefits.
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As a general rule, eating foods that rank low on the glycaemic index (GI) is the tried-and-tested way to lower your blood sugar.
The GI indicates whether food containing carbohydrates raises blood glucose levels quickly, moderately or slowly so it is a useful gauge for people with diabetes.
Different carbohydrates are digested and absorbed at different rates, and GI is a ranking of how quickly each carbohydrate-based food and drink makes blood glucose levels rise after eating them.
Most vegetables rank low on the GI so packing your diet with them is a surefire way to lower blood sugar.
One vegetable that has been identified as being particularly beneficial for lowering blood sugar is onions.
A study in 42 people with type 2 diabetes demonstrated that eating 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of fresh red onion reduced fasting blood sugar levels by about 40 mg/dl after four hours.
Fasting after meals is used to test how effectively certain dietary changes slow down the rate of blood sugar levels post-eating.
Multiple animal studies bolster these findings, showing that onion consumption may benefit blood sugar control and keep the risks at bay.
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One study showed that diabetic rats fed food containing five percent onion extract for 28 days experienced decreased fasting blood sugar and had substantially lower body fat than the control group.
Research investigating the link between eating onions and blood sugar attribute the benefits to specific compounds found in onions, such as quercetin and sulfur compounds, which possess antidiabetic effects.
Quercetin, for example, has been shown to interact with cells in the small intestine, pancreas, skeletal muscle, fat tissue and liver to control whole-body blood sugar regulation.
While it is imperative to up your intake of low GI foods to keep blood sugar levels in check, it is equally as important to ensure your diet is balanced.
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As Diabetes UK explained: “If you focus only on the GI of foods, without looking at other aspects, your diet could be unbalanced and high in fat and calories, which could lead to weight gain (making it harder to control your blood glucose levels) and increase your risk of heart disease.”
To strike the right balance, your diet should be low in saturated fat, salt and sugar and contain more fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, pulses, nuts and oily fish, advised the health body.
Staying active should also compliment a healthy, balanced diet to optimise blood sugar management.
According to the NHS, you should aim for You should aim for 2.5 hours of activity a week and you can be active anywhere as long as what you’re doing gets you out of breath.
What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?
Many people have type 2 diabetes without realising because symptoms do not necessarily make you feel unwell.
- Urinating more than usual, particularly at night
- Feeling thirsty all the time
- Feeling very tired
- Losing weight without trying to
- Itching around your penis or vagina, or repeatedly getting thrush
- Cuts or wounds taking longer to heal
- Blurred vision
According to the NHS, you should speak to your GP if you have any of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes or you’re worried you may have a higher risk of getting it.
It added: “The earlier diabetes is diagnosed and treatment started, the better. Early treatment reduces your risk of other health problems.”
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