Can the human gut heal diabetes? According to research, the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
Our digestive systems have been getting more and more credit lately for the management of our overall health. The gut has been referred to as the body’s “second brain” due to the number of body functions it contributes to. Take your immune system for example – yep, controlled by your gut!
Findings also show that the gut helps the body regulate blood sugar. How you ask? Fiber!
In this new study, participants were randomly assigned one of two diets. Half the participants consumed a standard diet, while the other half consumed a similar diet but with high levels of dietary fiber included.
After 12 weeks, the high-fiber diet participants experienced not only a larger reduction in their 3-month average blood sugar levels, but also a faster and larger reduction in their fasting blood glucose numbers, plus lost significantly more weight than the standard diet participants. Yay fiber!
Researchers believe these results are due to the way fiber affects gut bacteria. Fiber has a strong effect on certain varieties of gut bacteria like butyrate and acetate, and encourages those bacteria to multiply. It’s okay, these are good bacteria!
Researchers believe that having more good bacteria like acetate and butyrate raises the acidity levels in the gut. By creating a more acidic gut environment, not only does the amount of “bad” bacteria go down, insulin production is ramped up! This is the process which researchers credit with better blood sugar control.
However, even with all of these benefits, the vast majority of Americans get less than half of the daily recommended 25 and 35 grams of fiber. That’s right, less than half!
While 25 to 35 grams of fiber every day may seem intimidating, there are a ton of delicious fiber-filled foods out there waiting for you!
Artichokes – Low in calories, rich in fiber and essential nutrients, artichokes are a great addition to your diet. Just one medium artichoke accounts for nearly half of the recommend daily fiber intake for women, and a third for men.
Avocado – One cup of avocado has more than 15 grams of fiber, plus an abundance of heart-healthy omega-3 fats! Avocado can be used in endless, delicious ways. Rather than putting chicken salad on a bun, put it inside one half of an avocado. Instead of mayonnaise on your turkey sandwich, try mashed avocado. Instead of cheese on your hamburger, try avocado slices.
Beans and Lentils – One cup of cooked red kidney beans contains 13 grams of fiber, a cup of black beans has 15 grams of fiber, and white beans contain over 18 grams per cup. In addition to their high fiber content, beans, as well as lentils (which are composed of 40% fiber), contain a starch that is more slowly absorbed into the bloodstream, helping to keep blood sugar stable.
Broccoli – One cup of steamed broccoli contains nearly 5 grams of fiber. Plus, this cruciferous green veggie is rich in folate, potassium, and vitamins C & K. Believe it or not, that same cup of broccoli also contains nearly 3 grams of protein. Protein in a vegetable!
Fresh berries – Loaded with fiber and antioxidants, raspberries and blackberries top the list with more than 7 grams of fiber per cup. Blueberries are also a great source of vitamins and soluble fiber. Studies have found that glucose levels reduce over time when blueberries are included in one’s diet. In fact, one study by the USDA, consuming 2 ½ cups of fresh blueberry juice per day lowered blood glucose levels, improved depression symptoms, and sharpened memory.
Nuts – An easy, convenient way to quickly increase your fiber intake. Almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, all delicious little jewels of nutrition. Almonds are lower in calories and fats and are higher in potassium and protein. Research has shown that walnuts improve many cognitive functions like reasoning and memory, and have been known to boost mood!
Air-popped fresh popcorn – Make sure you air-pop your popcorn fresh; no preservative-filled bags from the supermarket allowed! Drizzle with olive oil (or indulge with a bit of truffle oil), add some dried herbs, or simply sprinkle with salt and pepper. Three cups of air-popped popcorn contains more than 3 grams of fiber, while being cholesterol-free, and low in calories. It’s also low-glycemic, making it a great snack option for diabetics.
Quinoa – A wide variety of grains contain fiber, but few pack as nutritious a punch as quinoa. Quinoa is easy to digest and gluten-free, while being high in other essential nutrients such as iron, vitamin B-6, potassium and magnesium.
Public Service Announcement: while it is true that these high-fiber foods are good for you they can also give you gas, along with intestinal cramping or bloating. Don’t take on too much at once and gradually introduce more fiber to your diet over time.
Fiber truly is the best kept secret when it comes to managing blood sugar and diabetes, but don’t keep the secret to yourself! By adding more fiber to your daily diet, you will reap the benefits of lower blood sugar and better overall health.
And here’s a great tasting way to get your fiber.