Who says that small things can’t be special? At least, this is not the case with nuts. In fact, these small packages are powerhouses of healthy nutrients for your daily nutrition. Although they are super rich health foods, yet there are many myths related to them. Despite scientific claims and facts, many people still believe that consuming nuts can make you prone to unnecessary fats. Contrary to these myths, nuts contain lots of unsaturated fats that are also touted as good fats. They have antioxidants, fibers, and proteins in abundance. You should eat them daily. But if you are still skeptical about the same, we are providing the pros and cons related to nuts for diabetes.
It’s no surprise that nuts are heart-healthy but it’s also possible that they are beneficial foods for individuals with diabetes. Research suggests that that consuming tree nuts, in conjunction with other dietary changes, can improve blood sugar levels in individuals with non-insulin dependent, or type 2, diabetes and also improve blood cholesterol levels in these individuals. If you have diabetes, be careful of nuts with added sugar in any form, such as honey or chocolate, since these components are high in simple carbohydrate.
Mixed Nuts and Diabetes
Several research studies have examined the potential benefits of consuming a mixture of different nuts for individuals with diabetes. In one study, published in “Diabetes Care” in 2011, researches found that subjects with type 2 diabetes had increased energy after consuming 2 ounces of mixed nuts daily, compared to a control group. These individuals also had changes that indicated their blood sugar was lower during the study and their levels of “bad,” LDL-cholesterol also dropped. The researchers concluded that nuts are a good replacement for carbohydrate foods that can improve glycemic control and blood cholesterol.
A research study published in “Diabetes Care” in December 2004 showed that including 1 oz. of walnuts in the diet of patients with type 2 diabetes significantly improved their cholesterol profile, reducing risk of heart disease. Fifty-eight men and women of an average age of 59 were assigned one of three diets, all with 30 percent total calories from fat: a traditional low-fat diet; a modified low-fat diet; and a modified low-fat diet that included an ounce of walnuts daily. After six months, those on the low-fat walnut diet had a better HDL-to-total cholesterol ratio than the other groups and 10 percent lower LDL, or bad, cholesterol levels.
Cashews are lower in fat than most other nuts. About 75 percent of the fat in cashews is oleic acid, or heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, which is the same type of fat found in olive oil. When added to a low-fat diet, monounsaturated fat helps reduce high triglyceride, or blood fat, levels. Individuals with type 2 diabetes often suffer from high triglyceride levels, which in turn, increase risk of heart disease. It is not only the monounsaturated fat in cashews that makes them beneficial for individuals with type 2 diabetes. An animal research study published in the “Journal of Herbal Pharmacotherapy” in 2005 showed that when dried cashew nut extract was given orally to healthy rats and those with induced diabetes, both groups had significantly lower blood sugar levels three hours after extract administration. Thus, cashew nuts may offer anti-hyperglycemic benefits.
Foods That Lower Cholesterol & Blood Sugar
Some of the same foods that can help you lower your cholesterol levels may also help you keep your blood sugar under control. Including these foods as part of a heart-healthy diet may potentially decrease your need for medications for diabetes and high cholesterol. In general, you’ll want to limit the amount of refined, processed foods you consume and eat more whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Fill Up on Fiber
Study participants who followed a diet with about 30 grams per day of fiber, including 4 grams of soluble fiber, for three months experienced decreases of about 12 percent in both their cholesterol and blood sugar levels, according to an article in “Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice” in July 2004. Increase your soluble fiber intake by eating foods such as oatmeal, flaxseed, beans, Brussels sprouts, oranges, pears, peaches, plums, strawberries, apricots, apples, carrots, sweet potatoes, peas, broccoli and asparagus.
Spice It Up
Adding spices to your foods may help you lower your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. A preliminary study using rats, published in “The Journal of Nutrition” in March 2006, found that raw garlic may help lower cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar levels, although boiled garlic didn’t have the same beneficial effect. Another animal study, published in “Pharmacognosy Research” in 2012, found that cinnamon may also cause decreases in blood sugar and cholesterol levels. In a study published in the “Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition” in January 2009, people who took supplements containing 1 to 3 grams of bay leaves per day for 30 days improved their cholesterol, triglyceride and blood sugar levels. Also, the University of Maryland Medical Center notes that the spice turmeric, commonly used in curries, may also improve your cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
The Chromium Connection
A mineral called chromium may be beneficial for decreasing your blood sugar and cholesterol levels, notes MedlinePlus. Adult men need about 35 micrograms per day, and women need about 25 micrograms per day for good health. The typical dosage used in people with diabetes is between 200 to 1,000 micrograms per day. It would be hard to get this much chromium from food alone because most foods only provide small amounts of this trace mineral. Broccoli, turkey, beef, whole-wheat bread, red wine, orange or grape juice, potatoes, garlic, basil, green beans, apples and bananas all provide some chromium.
Switch Your Sugars
Eating sugary foods can increase your blood sugar levels. The type of sugar you consume, however, can affect how much your blood sugar levels increase. A study published in the “Journal of Medicinal Food” in 2004 found that honey increased blood sugar levels less than table sugar and that consuming honey may also help improve your cholesterol levels.
Glycemic Index for Nuts
The glycemic index of a food relates to how quickly it is absorbed and how strongly it affects blood sugar and insulin levels, as explained by Harvard Medical School. The higher the GI, the greater effect on insulin. Irregardless of the exact type, nuts are a low-glycemic index, or GI, food. Nuts have only a limited amount of dietary carbohydrate and therefore only a small effect on blood glucose levels. Nuts are a valuable complementary ingredient to high-carbohydrate foods. Adding nuts or nut butters to bread or cereal grains will lower the impact of those starchy foods on blood sugar levels.
Glycemic Index for Nuts
It is more important to know that nuts, in general, are a low-GI food than it is to know the specific GI score for a certain kind of nut. The GI for nuts ranges from 14 for peanuts to 21 for cashews, according to the international table of glycemic index and glycemic load values published in the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition” in 2002. The GI depends on the relative ability of a dietary carbohydrate to raise or lower blood sugar levels compared with a reference food.
Why Are Nuts a Low-Glycemic Index food?
Nuts are a low-GI food, containing relatively small amounts of carbohydrates compared with other favorite snack foods such as crackers. Low-GI foods are those with a score below 55. The GI of nuts depends on the proportional amount of carbohydrate in a 1-oz. serving. Cashews have 8 g of dietary carbohydrate per 1-oz. serving compared with 5 g carbohydrates in peanuts, which explains the variation in GI score between these two varieties.
Nuts As a Complement
Nuts are high in fat and protein; for example, a 1 oz. serving of almonds contains 160 calories, including 6 g of protein, 14 g of fat and 2 g of carbohydrate. Nuts are not typically considered a dietary carbohydrate, which is why information on the impact of these crunchy, tasty snacks on blood glucose level is scarce. On the other hand, nuts are a good complement to carbohydrate-rich foods because the natural oils (fat) in nuts can slow down digestion and absorption of dietary carbohydrates.
Eating nuts with added sugar or honey will raise the GI score; however, the score will still be less than eating carbohydrate-rich foods such as cookies and crackers with added sugar. Also, roasting or cooking nuts can make what little dietary carbohydrate is available in nuts more available to digestive enzymes, which also increases GI score. Consume raw nuts for diabetes at least will impact on blood glucose level.