If you had to cross a deep ravine to the other side whilst keeping your body stress-free, would you:
- climb the mountain,
- walk down the other side, then climb up again,
- or would you walk the flat bridge that lies in front of you?
Maintaining blood sugar levels within a normal range is one of the most important steps you can take for overall health and vitality. Besides eating a wholesome diet, rich in low-glycemic whole fruits, vegetables, protein, and complex carbohydrates - you can maintain healthy levels by including herbs and blood sugar support supplements that help balance.
As a naturopath and herbalist who has spent many years treating blood sugar issues, I have found plant-based medicinal blood sugar support supplements very effective at helping to regulate, control and improve levels over the long term.
I’ve taken those tried-and-tested years of practice and condensed them into a number of handy tips to share with you towards our goal of best blood level sugar practice.
So here are my top 10 minerals, antioxidants and plant extracts.
All have been studied using controlled clinical trials, and have been proven to have positive benefits for blood sugar stability and healthy weight management.
1. Alpha-Lipoic Acid
This super powerful fat-and-water-soluble antioxidant helps support the conversion of glucose into energy in our body’s cells and can help maintain insulin sensitivity. ALA is especially known to raise glutathione levels (the body’s master antioxidant) to those of a younger person. It also acts as a strong anti-inflammatory agent, which helps prevent many degenerative diseases. ALA also improves body composition, lean muscle mass, glucose tolerance and energy.
ALA is thought to be a very promising treatment for obesity and diabetes type 2, and is a great preventative antioxidant, especially when you’re going through times of stress and eating the wrong foods, as it helps turn glucose into fuel for the body.
✦ Recommended dose: 1200 - 1800 mg per day
Berberine has been used for centuries in by the Chinese and Native American Indians and yet has only recently been discovered by western medicine as a blood sugar regulating superstar.
Berberine is the active ingredient found in several different plants included in natural remedies for centuries, such as goldenseal (hydrastis canadensis), oregon grape (berberis aquifolium), barberry (berberis vulgaris), and Chinese goldthread (coptis chinensis).
One of the most exciting discoveries around Berberine is its ability to perform better than the commonly prescribed metformin . Clinical trials have also shown how Berberine can help lower BMI and improve cholesterol levels.
✦ Recommended dose: 500mg x day to help balance blood sugar.
[Contraindications: Despite Berberine being a very safe herb, patients taking diabetes medication must talk to your healthcare practitioner as this significantly reduce blood sugar and might affect the dosage of medication required. Also if you have high bilirubin levels you should beware, as it may slow the liver’s removal of bilirubin. Also, patients with high blood pressure or anticoagulant medications should beware of Berberine’s tendency to lower blood pressure and thin blood.]
3. Bitter Melon
Bitter melon belongs to a subtropical and tropical vine family of fruits.
It contains nutrients that have various benefits for people with blood sugar imbalances such as potassium, magnesium and dietary fibres.
Scientists have isolated four compounds that work in similar ways to Berberine by activating the AMPK enzyme which moves glucose from your blood to your cells and also regulates metabolism. Studies show that regular use of bitter melon extract can help prevent and reduce any of the side effects of diabetes.
✦ Recommended dose: 2-5 g per day
Cumin, somewhat similar to cinnamon, keeps blood sugar levels stable and has been used medicinally since ancient times. Cumin has been shown to be effective at improving specific blood sugar markers in patients suffering from Type 2 diabetes.
Cumin is also effective at stimulating pancreatic enzymes, which help in the digestion of proteins, fats and carbohydrates.
✦ Recommended dose: 2g x day
[Contraindications: If you are taking diabetes medication, talk to your healthcare practitioner as this significantly reduce blood sugar and might affect the dosage of medication required.
5. Cinnamon Extract
This sweet and pungent spice dates back thousands of years and was highly prized for its medicinal uses amongst many ancient civilisations.
Nowadays, it is the most well-known spice for the purpose of balancing blood sugar. It also has fantastic antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Cinnamon contains compounds that promote insulin function and allow cells to use glucose more effectively. Studies show its effect on improving insulin sensitivity and blood sugar stability with as little as half a teaspoon per day.
Cinnamon extract has also been shown to lower gastric emptying time and therefore delaying the glycemic response.
✦ Recommended intake: Add half a teaspoon of cinnamon to your daily cup of coffee or smoothies as a tasty way to enjoy its blood sugar controlling benefits!
Turmeric is a spice which has been used for centuries in Eastern medicine for general health. It’s often used for improving liver and digestive functions which in turn helps with blood sugar management.
Turmeric’s active component ‘curcumin’ helps to decrease the level of glucose in the blood, as well as other diabetes-related complications.
Curcumin also induces the flow of bile, and in turn breaks down fats in our food, which is critical for healthy blood sugar levels.
✦ Recommended dose: try adding half a teaspoon to your smoothies, dressings or blend with your morning cup of coffee.
This is a trace nutritional element that occurs naturally in low concentrations in foods like mushrooms, shellfish and some spices like black pepper, parsley, and dill weed.
Two specific compounds in vanadium, ‘vanadate’ and ‘vanadyl’, have been shown to increase the transport of glucose into fat and muscle cells, increase glucose metabolism, speed up the conversion of glucose into glycogen (the storage form of glucose), and slow down the breakdown of fat. Exactly how these compounds mimic the action of insulin is not yet known.
✦ Recommended dose: 2-9 mg per day of Vanadyl Sulfate
Chromium is a trace mineral that we need in small amounts to process carbohydrates and fats. This mineral helps regulate blood sugar by working with insulin to help transport glucose into cells. Studies show that a supplemental amount can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce insulin resistance and improve glucose uptake. Natural food sources include whole grains, bran cereals, seafood, green beans, broccoli, prunes, nuts, peanut butter and potatoes.
✦ Recommended dose: up to 1,000 mcg per day of chromium picolinate.
The mineral zinc helps in the production and storage of insulin. People who eat a vegan or vegetarian diet (especially those who eat a lot of soya) tend to have zinc deficiencies. Foods that have zinc include fresh oysters, ginger root, lamb, pecans, split peas, egg yolk, beef liver, lima beans, almonds, walnuts, sardines, chicken and buckwheat.
✦ Recommended dose: 10-10 mg per day of zinc sulfate
10. Green Tea extract
There’s a wealth of research on how green tea may help with weight loss and obesity. This is mostly due to green tea’s abundance of polyphenols and antioxidants that help reduce inflammation, increase insulin activity and potentially prevent type 2 diabetes. Other benefits of supplementing with green tea extract include reduced blood pressure.
✦ Recommended dose: 250-500 mg per day
Other lifestyle recommendations to ensure healthy blood sugar levels would be exercise, intermittent fasting, lots of sleep and stress management. You should also make sure you're getting enough vitamin D, either from the sun or supplementation.
If you consider using any of these herbs or blood sugar support supplements and are on medication, or have any further questions, we always recommend consulting your doctor or healthcare practitioner for further support and advice.