If you are someone with diabetes, the spice cabinet may actually help you with improving your blood glucose. Research shows that common herbs and spices, likely ones you already have in your kitchen, may have some health benefits including reducing inflammation and improving blood glucose. Staying away from salt and focusing on cooking with these herbs and spices may give you many health benefits.
Usually when blood glucose is high, protein glycation occurs which produces advanced glycation compounds that are considered unhealthy as they promote inflammation. Research has shown a potential role of the polyphenol content of spices in blocking the formation of these unhealthy compounds. Spices that are derived from seeds, berries, bark, and roots have higher polyphenol levels than dried herbs, derived from plant leaves.
Ground cloves are known to have the most inflammation-calming polyphenols. Cinnamon comes next and is being used in larger quantities in cooking. Cinnamon has been shown to help with lowering blood glucose slightly and that is why you may have seen some people with diabetes taking cinnamon supplements in addition to their prescribed medications for diabetes. The data, however, are not very strong and there have been mixed results when it comes to the effect of cinnamon on blood glucose. Even in those studies that showed glucose lowering effect of cinnamon, the decrease in glucose was minimal and not enough to replace the use of diabetes medications.
Turmeric is an age old spice used in Eastern medicine which is now being studied for its claim to improve general health. This spice has attracted the attention of many supporters of alternative medicine and is currently gaining popularity in mainstream medicine. For centuries, it has been used in Eastern medicine for liver and digestive functions, as well as pain relief from arthritis. Turmeric’s active component is curcumin which is credited with many of the spice’s benefits. Some studies have suggested that curcumin may reduce the level of glucose in the blood. It was also found that curcumin may have a role in diabetes prevention, however it is necessary to have more human trials to understand curcumin and turmeric‘s effects.Turmeric is fat soluble and is not easily absorbed by the body on its own. It is better absorbed in the presence of fat or oil and also in the presence of black pepper. So traditional preparations of turmeric in food combined with fats and black pepper are very good or you can also take your supplements with a meal or take it along a with omega-3 essential fatty acid supplement. Heat is said to increase the solubility of curcumin (the primary active constituent in turmeric) by 12 times, which may also increase its bioavailability in the body.
In summary, there are many spices that may have health benefits but it is best not to focus on any single spice but rather cook with a variety of spices. This way you enjoy a healthy and tasty meals. Always remember, none of these spices can replace any of your diabetes medications since they are not as effective in lowering glucose. Also, taking too much of some of these spices can cause health problems. For example, consuming high amount of turmeric(more than 4 gm /day) repeatedly can cause liver problems. It is always a good practice to check with your health care provider before taking something new or if you have a question about a particular spice or herb.
Here is a suggested recipe developed by Asha Gullapalli, MS RD LDN CDE
DESI CHICKEN: 6 servings
Chicken (boneless and skinless): 2 lbs/900 gm. Ground black pepper: 1 tsp
Olive oil or vegetable oil: 2 Tbsp White Vinegar: 1 tsp
Ginger and garlic paste: 1 tbsp Onion (chopped): 1 cup
Ground Turmeric: ½ tsp Green Chillies: 2
Chilli powder: 1 tsp Curry Leaves: 1sprig
Corriander powder: 3 tsp Sweet Potatoes: 2 small
Cumin powder: 1 tsp
Cardamom, cinnamon and cloves -1/2 tsp Coconut milk: 1/4 cup
Salt: ½ tsp Water: 1 cup
- Clean and dry chicken pieces. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a pan. Add onion, green chillies and curry leaves and saute for 5 minutes and add garlic ,ginger paste and saute for another 3 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine turmeric, cayenne pepper, coriander, cumin, black pepper and white vinegar to form a paste. Add the paste to the pan and to prevent burning add a few drops of water.
- Add chicken pieces and sweet potatoes and sear them in the mixture. Reduce the heat to medium, cover with lid and cook till chicken is soft, for about 20 minutes. Add coconut milk with the water and simmer over low heat.
- Turn off heat as soon as the gravy starts to thicken. Season with salt and garnish with cilantro and serve hot.
Broccoli: 1 lb or 450 gm Garlic cloves: 5 peeled and thinly sliced.
Vegetable oil: 1Tbsp Turmeric: 1 tsp
Black pepper: 2 tsp Cumin seeds: ½ tsp
- Blanch broccoli florets and set aside.
- Heat oil, add garlic, turmeric and cumin seeds and when cumin crackles add broccoli on medium-high heat and keep stirring.
- Add salt and black pepper and mix well. Cook for 2 more minutes and serve hot.
NOTE: This meal can be eaten with a cup of brown rice or quinoa (3 carbohydrate exchanges or servings) or 1 cup bulgar or wheat (2 carbohydrate servings) or 3-6 inch across whole wheat tortillas or roti (3 carbohydrate servings) which is considered a balanced meal. The chicken and broccoli have negligible carbohydrates in them.
by Asha Gullapalli, MS RD LDN CDE
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