Foods that may help naturally lower blood sugar levels
This post is to share research and evidence around foods which may help to give naturally lower blood sugar levels.
Not only a post for mothers with gestational diabetes, but one for all the mothers that have had their babies and are now at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, or for anyone with type 2 diabetes.
Please note that evidence for use in pregnancy or with gestational diabetes is lacking, therefore research links detailed are for studies in both animals and humans with other types of diabetes. However this information may still be beneficial for anyone looking for ways to naturally lower blood sugar levels including women with gestational diabetes and pregnant women with pre-existing diabetes.
Apple Cider Vinegar
A study in 2004 found that when 20g apple cider vinegar, 40g water, and 1 tsp saccharine were drunk before consuming an 87g carb test meal it raised insulin sensitivity, indicating that vinegar can significantly improve postprandial insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant subjects and helps to reduce spikes in levels.
A small study in type 2 diabetic patients found that drinking 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar and eating 1 oz (a thumb size piece) of cheese lowered fasting levels by 4% (and up to 6% in some patients). Some ladies with gestational diabetes have had great success with apple cider vinegar and so it’s worth trying if you have the stomach for it.
It probably won’t come as a surprise, but this meta-analysis of 12 studies find that tree nuts improve glyceamic control in individuals with type 2 diabetes, however there is a need for longer trials.
Nuts and seeds are a great source of natural fats which help slow down the release of glucose into the bloodstream
Whilst nuts are great, could peanut butter be better?
A small 2012 study in Brazil on a group of 15 obese women with high risk of developing type 2 diabetes were given either 42·5g of whole peanuts without skins, peanut butter, or no peanuts (control group) on top of a 75g carbohydrate-matched breakfast meal.
The study found that those that ate peanut butter had lower postprandial glucose levels and felt fuller for longer.
*WARNING! The carb amounts in peanut butters can vary massively!
Crunchy peanut butters tend to have lower total carb amounts than smooth.
To help you select better peanut butters, here are some of our favourites!…
A 2005 study on rats found that onion extract along with metformin lowered fasting blood glucose levels.
Another study in 2012 on rabbits using garlic and metformin also showed that the use of garlic extract can significantly lower blood glucose levels.
A 2012 clinical trial in diabetic patients in India, found that basil leaf extract decreased the fasting blood glucose and postprandial blood glucose
Avocados are a great source of good fats. Avocados help to reduce the risk of metabolic syndromes such as diabetes, lowering insulin resistance as shown in this study from 2013.
With avocados being a great source of natural good fats, they help to slow down the release of glucose in the bloodstream, therefore helping to reduce postprandial levels
Inhibitors of these enzymes delay carbohydrate digestion and prolong overall carbohydrate digestion time, causing a reduction in the rate of glucose absorption and consequently reducing the postprandial plasma glucose rise
In a 2014 study in mice a high fat diet supplemented with lingonberries, blackcurrants, raspberries or bilberries caused less weight gain and lower fasting levels.
A 2006 study demonstrated that blueberries have insulin-like properties.
A 2009 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that supplementation with whole blueberries reduced blood glucose in mice.
Then a 2010 study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that freeze-dried whole blueberry powder improved insulin sensitivity in obese, non-diabetic and insulin-resistant men and women.
Two studies in rats found that cherry extract significantly reduced blood glucose levels, so try some cherries paired with protein to naturally lower blood sugar levels
Yes… dark, high cocoa content chocolate could naturally lower blood sugar levels!!
A 2008 article published in the Journal of Nutrition saw a beneficial effect of short-term consumption of 100g flavanol-rich dark chocolate on vascular function, insulin sensitivity, and BP
A meta-analysis published in the BMJ in 2011 also noted favourable effects from the high content of polyphenols present in cocoa products, which they believe could lead to improvements in endothelial function, reductions in platelet function, and additional beneficial effects on blood pressure, insulin resistance, and blood lipids
*Please note that chocolate contains caffeine and caffeine should be limited to 200mg a day during pregnancy.
A large cohort study published Diabetologia in 2014 found that increasing coffee consumption lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes
Participants who increased their coffee consumption by more than 1 cup a day over a 4 year period had an 11% lower risk of type 2 diabetes in the subsequent 4 years compared with those who made no changes in consumption. Participants who decreased their coffee intake by more than 1 cup a day had a 17% higher risk for type 2 diabetes
*Please note that coffee contains caffeine and caffeine should be limited to 200mg a day during pregnancy, decaffeinated coffee may be preferred
Green tea is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, especially in Asia and is claimed to have hypoglycaemic effects, helping to naturally lower blood sugar levels.
This article published in the Diabetes & Metabolism Journal in 2013 cites many publications which show that consumption of green tea can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
This review of many studies on green tea saw mixed results, showing that consumption of green tea may help prevent type 2 diabetes and may lower HbA1c levels.
*Please note that green tea contains caffeine and caffeine should be limited to 200mg a day during pregnancy, decaffeinated green tea may be preferred. Green tea is also thought to lower folic acid absorption.
Raspberry leaf tea
Raspberry leaf tea is thought to naturally lower blood sugar levels, but actual evidence is lacking.
A 2006 publication comparing studies on herbal medicines used in pregnancy notes that metformin as an interactive drug with raspberry leaf tea.
Raspberry leaf did not shorten the first stage of labor, but did shorten the second stage of labor and resulted in a lower rate of forceps deliveries
Raspberry leaf products shortened labor with no identified side effects for the women or their babies.2 The findings suggested that ingestion of raspberry products might decrease the likelihood of pre- and post-term gestation.2 The findings also suggested that women who ingested raspberry leaf might have been less likely to receive an artificial rupture of their membranes, or require a cesarean section, forceps, or vacuum birth than the women in the control group
The raspberry plant (Rubus idaeus) belongs to the rose family. Red raspberry leaves contain the phytochemical fragarine, which is the active constituent responsible for toning the muscles of the uterus. The leaves also contain organic iron, which is easily absorbed by the body, helping to prevent anaemia (Campion, 1996). The astringency of the leaves is due to the tannin content, which helps prevent haemorrhage, as well as toning and strengthening the tissues of the reproductive organs and preventing bleeding gums, a common feature of pregnancy.
Raspberry leaves as well as the fruit contain many valuable vitamins needed during pregnancy. As well as containing iron, they are rich in vitamins A, C, B, E, calcium, manganese and magnesium. Magnesium particularly contributes to the strengthening of the uterine muscles.
Raspberry leaves can be taken in capsule, tablet or tea form. The preferred method is to make an infusion with dried leaves. Put one teaspoon of the dried herb into a cup with boiling water (or three teaspoons if fresh leaves are used). This is allowed to infuse for 15 minutes before drinking.
Two cups of red raspberry leaf tea daily from the last three months to the last six weeks of pregnancy can assist in the preparation for birth by increasing the strength of the myometrium, facilitating an easier birth. This is especially relevant in cases of straightforward and uncomplicated births, although the use of red raspberry leaves has been reported to shorten labour and to reduce complications and to decrease the incidence of both pre- and post-term births. It has also been noted that the use of red raspberry results in reduced incidences of artificial rupture of the membranes and making the use of caesarean forceps or vacuum births less likely (Mills et al, 2006; Palmer, 2000; Parsons et al, 1999)
Tablets are not particularly recommended, as they are compacted and can be difficult to break down in a weak digestive system. However, if preferred two 400mg tablets can be taken with meals up to three times daily during the last trimester.
Some advise against the use of raspberry leaves in cases of planned caesarean sections, multiple or breech births and those suffering from very high blood pressure. Raspberry leaves are also contraindicated when taking metformin and anti-depressants (Mills et al, 2006).
A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Medicinal Food in 2011 analysing 8 different studies concluded that cinnamon intake, as whole cinnamon or as cinnamon extract, results in significantly lowering fasting blood glucose levels in people with type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes
A meta-analysis review of 10 research trials published in Annals of Family Medicine in 2013 found that cinnamon doses of 120mg to 6g daily for 4 to 18 weeks reduced levels of fasting plasma glucose
Is cinnamon safe to consume in pregnancy?
*Please note that cinnamon is documented that it may cause emmenagogue (stimulate blood flow in the pelvic area and uterus, or menstruation) and abortifacient (an agent that induces abortion) effects in pregnancy according to an article in BJOG: Herbal medicinal products during pregnancy: are they safe? Consult a medical professional to make an informed decision around safe amounts of cinnamon that can be consumed in pregnancy.
A 2012 meta-analysis concluded that fenugreek supplement alone or in combination with oral hypoglycemic drugs provide beneficial effects in controlling hyperglycemia in diabetic patients
Is fenugreek safe to consume in pregnancy?
This article from Kelly Mom breastfeeding website shows lots of research links around the safety of fenugreek consumption, specifically in pregnancy towards the bottom of the page. Take a look at the research and consult a medical professional to make an informed decision.
A study of 60 patients with type 2 diabetes found that kefir milk decreased the fasting blood glucose and HbA1C levels.
An article in 2015 comparing 33 reviews on probiotics concluded that probiotics, especially Lactobacillus sub-strains, had beneficial effects on the management of diabetes-related blood parameters
Lactobacillus can be found in probiotic tablets and in products like Actimel and Yakult, but the probiotic drink with less carbs is Actimel 0% Original
Caffeine in pregnancy
Caffeine in pregnancy is advised to be restricted to 200mg a day during pregnancy. You should check how much caffeine is any foods and drinks you consume, but as guide this information has been taken from the NHS website
- one mug of instant coffee: 100mg
- one mug of filter coffee: 140mg
- one mug of tea: 75mg
- one can of cola: 40mg
- one can of energy drink: up to 80mg
- one 50g bar of plain chocolate: most products on the UK market contain less than 25mg
- one 50g bar of milk chocolate: most products on the UK market contain less than 10mg
Check caffeine amounts and make wise decisions!
**Although this post shares foods, herbs, spices and drinks which may help naturally lower blood sugar levels, make an informed decision before consuming anything you have doubts over and always seek professional advice if you are unsure