Small Additions to Improve Your Diet

Our nutrition expert is Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., R.D., a diabetes educator and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

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If you have diabetes, you probably already know which foods are likely to raise your blood sugar, but you might not be aware that some everyday ingredients may actually improve your blood glucose and cholesterol levels. What's more, these five "foodaceuticals" are tasty and easy to find. Chances are, in fact, that you've got them in your kitchen right now!

While there's no recommended amount to aim for, make these good-for-you ingredients a regular part of your diet and try to include three of them in your daily diet.


A study published recently in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests that cinnamon can help control post-meal blood sugar spikes. Earlier research found that consuming cinnamon reduced LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels in participants by 26 percent and cut blood sugar levels by 29 percent.

Sprinkle some cinnamon on your morning cereal or oatmeal, or swap it for jam on a piece of toast.


This fragrant herb, which comes in many varieties and is easy to grow yourself, enhances salads and sauces. It also has been shown to help reduce inflammation, aid in nutrient absorption and improve blood flow in the kidneys.

In one study, participants who temporarily stopped taking their diabetes medications and instead consumed powdered basil experienced an average fasting blood glucose level that was 21 mg/dL lower than the group that was given a placebo. Of course, you should never make any changes in your treatment regimen without talking to your doctor.


A staple of Asian cooking that can be grated, sliced, pickled and dried, ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and has been touted as a digestive aid. It may be particularly useful in easing symptoms in people with gastroparesis, a form of nerve damage that slows digestion and can result in nausea and vomiting.

Chia Seeds

These tiny seeds add texture to salads, cereal and yogurt, and benefit blood lipids as well. One small study in the journal Diabetes Care showed that white chia seeds had positive effects on the participants' blood sugar, blood pressure and levels of inflammation.

Oat Bran

High in fiber, oat bran helps you feel full (so you're less likely to reach for simple carbs) and slows the rise in blood sugar that occurs after eating. Toss it on cereal or bake it into breads and muffins.

Herbs: Fresh or Dried?

When should you use fresh herbs and spices, and when should you choose dried? Recipes don't always specify, so here are the basics:

Use fresh when... you need to impart flavor quickly, such as in salads, sandwiches and other no-cook meals, or when a recipe requires an herb or spice to be added to a sauce or stew right before serving.

Use dried when... you'll be cooking something for a while. Dried herbs and spices have had their moisture removed, and the flavor is concentrated. They rehydrate during cooking and slowly infuse soups, sauces and stews with pronounced flavor. Keep in mind that dried herbs and spices lose their flavor over time, so they should be replaced at least once a year.

Source: From our sister publication Diabetes Focus Spring 2013

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 19 Feb 2013

Last Modified: 11 Sep 2015