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Are there foods that lower blood sugars?

Produce - Tomatoes and LettuceMost of the healthy foods we're advised to eat are recommended because of the way they behave in the body. They all serve a purpose. Some are packed with nutrients. Some help lower cholesterol. And some offer protection from heart disease. But, when it comes to diabetes, the bigger issue is how foods affect blood sugars.

Can foods lower blood sugars?

To settle that question, let's take a look at the foods that comprise the human diet. How do they affect blood sugar levels, if at all, and in what other significant ways do they affect health?

Vegetables. Most vegetables, with the exception of starchy ones like corn, peas and potatoes, are low in calories and carbohydrates and have little impact on blood sugar. However according to The Plant Powered Diet by Sharon Palmer, a registered dietitian, "They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that can protect health." For these reasons, at least half of your plate should be filled with vegetables.

Protein. Aside from providing nutrients essential for growing and maintaining healthy tissue, proteins are digested slowly. This means they can help you feel full longer. Palmer says, "Most Americans get more protein than they need. You should shoot for 1/4 of your plate to be from protein." Choose lean proteins most often; chicken, fish, soy beans and lentils. But they also have little-to-no impact on blood sugar levels.

Fats. Fats are another nutrient with no impact on blood sugar, but with a great deal of impact on your heart health. While all fat used to be labeled as "bad," we now know that the type of fat matters. Some have been shown to actually be good for you. "Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are the best for your heart," says Palmer. "You should choose moderate amounts of these plant-based fats, such as olive oil, canola oil, nuts, avocados, olives with your meals," she adds. On the other hand, saturated fats and trans fats are the biggest culprits in increasing your risk of heart disease. For that reason you should eat limited amounts of butter, lard/shortening, fatty meats, and trans-fat-filled processed crackers and baked goods.

Carbohydrates. Now we're getting to the good stuff. Carbohydrates found in grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes are your body's main source of energy. These foods turn into glucose in the blood stream. Highly processed carbs such as sugary foods/beverages, foods made with white flour and refined juices create a rapid rise in blood sugar. However, Palmer says, "Whole, unprocessed carbs that are naturally packed with fiber -- such as whole grains, legumes, vegetables, fruits -- produce a more slow, gradual rise in blood glucose."

Fiber. Last, but not least, Palmer recommends fiber. "Fiber is a type of carbohydrate from plant foods that can not be digested, allowing it to aid in digestion, lower your risk of colo-rectal cancer, and lower your blood cholesterol." The fact that it can't be digested means it does not elevate blood sugar. It can also help slow the digestion and absorption of the foods eaten with it. Therefore, it can help slow the rise of blood sugar and help maintain good blood sugar control.

You can see while there are not necessarily foods that lower blood sugars, there are several that can keep it from rising drastically, which is the next best thing. Clearly there are plenty of reasons to choose a variety of foods. While they may not have a direct impact on blood sugar levels, they provide other nutritional benefits we all need.

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About Heidi McIndoo

Heidi McIndoo, MS is a registered dietitian who has been counseling women, men, and children about healthy eating for twenty years. She firmly believes food should be enjoyed and all foods can fit into a healthy diet -- it's just a matter of how much and how often.

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