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A handful of gummy bears can send your blood glucose level soaring, but for most people this spike is nothing to worry about. Normally, the body produces insulin to compensate for a sugar rush: an automatic response that helps bring the blood glucose level back into the "healthy" range.
However, people with conditions such as diabetes, prediabetes and insulin resistance must learn to regulate blood sugar themselves to reduce the risk of long-term complications, including kidney damage and heart disease. Regaining control is often a matter of being more physically active, taking insulin and prescribed medications, and paying close attention to diet.
A key dietary consideration is a food's rating on the glycemic index (GI). "Foods with a low GI won't raise your blood sugar as much as foods with a high GI," says Dr. Cyril Kendall, a research scientist in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto. Low-GI foods include whole grains, nuts, vegetables, fruit, pasta and legumes.
If you're one of the nine million Canadians with diabetes or prediabetes, or if you must monitor blood glucose because of another medical condition, keep these five foods on hand to help keep your blood sugar in check throughout the day.
Note: While these foods can help regulate blood sugar, eating them in excess will not bring increased benefits. "Moderating the amount you eat is an important part of managing blood sugar," says Kendall. "Even healthy foods can be over-consumed."
Beta-glucan, a soluble fibre found in oats, helps delay carbohydrate absorption and the resulting rise in blood sugar. However, try to steer clear of sugar-laden instant oatmeal and oat-based cereals; instead, opt for no-sugar-added steel-cut, quick-cooking or regular oats.
Try: Maple-Baked Oatmeal
Low in carbohydrates, but high in healthy fat and protein, eating 60 grams of almonds can help eliminate a spike in blood sugar after a meal. Chop and sprinkle unsalted almonds (or pistachios, walnuts or pecans) into salads, stir-fries and pilafs.
Try: Easy Almond Chicken Salad To Go
"Apples contain sticky soluble fibre, which helps delay the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream," says Kendall. Don't peel the apple, as a significant amount of fibre is found in the skin. Other soluble fibre–rich picks from the produce aisle include pears, blackberries and oranges.
Try Apple Tart...
Recent studies suggest consuming as little as two grams of cinnamon per day may slow the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, which in turn slows the rise in blood sugar. Add this versatile spice to yogurt, baked apples and savoury dishes.
Try: Baked Apples with Dried Fruit and Maple Whipped Cream
"A low-GI carbohydrate with high soluble fibre content, kidney beans also contain plant protein, which helps blunt the rise in blood sugar," says Kendall. Enjoy kidney beans along with black beans, chickpeas and lentils in a bean salad, or add them to chili and burritos
Try: Chicken Chili
A matter of timing
Eating at regular intervals can also help control blood sugar. Aim for three meals a day, scheduled no more than six hours apart.