The holidays may be the most wonderful time of year. But for folks with diabetes, and others who need to keep an eye on their blood sugar, the holiday season can also be a BIG challenge full of potential pitfalls.
Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s all come with their own set of food landmines. And no matter how hard we try, a slip up here and there is bound to happen. So it just makes sense to start preparing yourself now.
Of course, you should start by trying to avoid added sugars as much as possible. And adding more diabetes friendly foods to your diet can help you maintain your numbers too.
Diabetes super spices from your spice rack
But don’t stop there. Experts say certain potent spices could help you effortlessly manage your blood sugar levels too. In fact, two of the most promising are likely gathering dust on your spice rack right now.
Encouraging research, and real world results, have revealed that both fennel and cumin could help folks who are struggling with blood sugar issues. Using more of these diabetes super spices in your own meals may help you gain a bit more control over your blood sugar. And you might even shed a few pounds too.
Fennel has an unmistakably distinct flavor. Its licorice-like taste makes it an unexpected and fun addition to any meal. You can use fresh fennel raw in a salad, braised as a side dish, or stirred into a soup for example.
Or try using dried fennel seeds as a spice in your favorite dishes. They add a delicious, slightly-sweet anise-like flavor to savory meat dishes, stews, scrambled eggs, veggies, fruit salads and more.
And the seeds make a tasty, blood-sugar-friendly herbal tea.
To make homemade fennel tea…
- Soak one teaspoon of fennel seeds in a cup of warm water for 30 minutes
- Crush the seeds in the soaking water
- Boil the crushed fennel seed and water mix
- Strain out the seeds and sip
Traditional healers have used fennel extracts and seeds for centuries for medicinal purposes. Herbalists say they effectively relieve gas and indigestion, as well as calm coughs. And fennel can reportedly help with weight control and reducing blood sugar.
Fennel tea is an effective appetite suppressant according to the results of a study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition Research.1 Overweight women who sipped on the tea before eating at a lunch buffet reported less hunger and increased feelings of fullness.
Several animal studies have found fennel extracts can help reduce blood sugar. In a placebo-controlled study, published in the journal Plant Sciences Research, fennel essential oil reduced blood sugar levels in lab animals.2 A dose of 250 mg per kilogram of weight, taken for 28 days, significantly reduced blood glucose in healthy female rats.
And in another study, fennel extracts dramatically lowered blood sugar in rats with type 2 diabetes.3 The rodents received 30 mg of fennel essential oil per kilogram of weight. Blood sugar levels plummeted over 49 percent, from a sky-high 162.5 down to a normal 81.97.
Research still needs to be completed on fennel’s ability to help control blood sugar in humans. But with such promising results in animals, there’s every reason to be optimistic, and to start using more of the spice in your own cooking starting today.
Savory, flavorful cumin is another underused spice in most of our spice racks. The aromatic, nutty seeds are delicious in a variety of foods including breads, sauerkraut, scrambled eggs and chili. And ground they make a terrific rub for pork chops and salmon.
But cumin doesn’t just deliver on flavor. Experts say cumin can also reduce elevated blood sugar.
In one placebo-controlled study, a cumin essential oil significantly lowered blood sugar levels in a group of type 2 diabetics. The volunteers took either 100 mg or 50 mg of cumin oil a day.
After eight weeks both groups had significantly lower fasting blood sugar, insulin and HgA1c (a measurement of glucose over time) levels. And their insulin sensitivity was increased.4
In another study, a cumin extract improved blood sugar and increased insulin sensitivity in diabetic rodents.5 And in a study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, cumin reduced blood glucose and AGEs in diabetic rats better than a common diabetes drug.6
Recent research has found cumin could also lower cholesterol and help with weight loss, two other concerns important to folks living with type 2 diabetes.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study researchers ran a head to head test between cumin and a weight loss drug. Both the cumin and the drug led to significant weight loss in the overweight volunteers. But the spice also triggered a healthy drop in insulin levels.7
And in another study, overweight women who ate around a teaspoon of ground cumin powder in yogurt daily, lost a significant amount of weight, and had decreases in their body fat and waist size after three months.8
Spices alone aren’t a diabetes cure, of course. But using more of these two diabetes super spices could help bring your blood sugar numbers down. If you’re struggling to keep your levels under control, even a small drop could be a big help. And if you’re already well controlled, they may even help you reduce the amount of meds you need over time.
1. “Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) and Fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) Tea Drinking Suppresses Subjective Short-term Appetite in Overweight Women,”Clin Nutr Res. 2015 Jul; 4(3): 168–174
2. “The Effect Foeniculum vulgare Mill (Fennel) Essential Oil on Blood Glucose in Rats,” Plant Sciences Research, 1: 47-49
3. “Antidiabetic Activities of Foeniculum Vulgare Mill. Essential Oil in Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Rats,” Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences, June 2011, Volume 4, Issue 2
4. “Evaluation the effect of 50 and 100 mg doses of Cuminum cyminum essential oil on glycemic indices, insulin resistance and serum inflammatory factors on patients with diabetes type II: A double-blind randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial.” J Tradit Complement Med. 2017 Jul; 7(3): 332–338
5. “The In Vivo Antidiabetic Activity of Nigella sativa Is Mediated through Activation of the AMPK Pathway and Increased Muscle Glut4 Content,” Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:538671
6. “Antihyperglycemic activity and inhibition of advanced glycation end product formation by Cuminum cyminum in streptozotocin induced diabetic rats,” Food Chem Toxicol. 2010 Aug-Sep;48(8-9):2030-6
7. “Effect of the cumin cyminum L. Intake on Weight Loss, Metabolic Profiles and Biomarkers of Oxidative Stress in Overweight Subjects: A Randomized Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial,” Ann Nutr Metab 2015;66:117-124
8. “Effect of cumin powder on body composition and lipid profile in overweight and obese women,” Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2014 Nov;20(4):297-301