Here’s a list of foods, spices, and herbs for insulin resistance. By including them in your diet on a regular basis you can help to lower your blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity, and reverse insulin resistance.
The list is certainly not exhaustive and as I discover more I will add them to the list. Also, please feel free to contact me if you come across foods, spices or herbs that should be included.
Almonds tend to be a staple food in many people diets, particularly those people living in western civilisations. Even though most people think of almonds as simply being a good source of protein and healthy fats, research has also shown that they are great for people with insulin resistance and/ or type 2 diabetes.
The studies demonstrated that almond consumption helps to lower blood sugar after a meal, lower glycated haemoglobin (an indicator of type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance) when consumed over a period of 12 weeks, increase satiety (feelings of satisfaction) after a meal, lowers fasting glucose and insulin, and may help people with type 2 diabetics significantly reduce their medications.1,2,3
Amchur (and mango)
Amchur is a powder made from unripe, green mangoes. It is used to make chutney and is added to curries. It also helps to tenderise meat.
Both amchur and mango have been shown to offer a range of health benefits, particularly for people with insulin resistance. Both human and animal studies demonstrate their anti-diabetic effects.4,5,6
Basil is an enormously popular herb and is used extensively to make dishes in most cultures throughout the world. It is used to make green pesto sauce, may be added to soups, pasta dishes, stir-fries, salads, stews, and curries. It is a lush dark green plant with a very pleasant perfume. It is available fresh, dried, or as a paste.
Extracts from basil leaves have been shown to lower blood sugar levels in both diabetic and non-diabetic animals. 7 It has also been shown to reduce fasting and post-meal blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.8 Basil is definitely one of the best herbs for insulin resistance.
Bay leaves may be added to almost any food that is simmered in liquid or steamed. One or two leaves are all that are required for a family-size meal.
Research has shown that consuming ground bay leaves in amounts between 1 gram and 3 grams per day can decrease blood glucose levels by up to 26%!9 It also improves blood lipid profiles too, which is of particular importance if someone has metabolic syndrome.
However, it is important to be aware that the only true bay leaf (the one used in scientific studies) comes from the bay laurel tree, which comes from Turkey or Greece.
Caraway seeds have a similar taste to fennel and anise and are best roasted in order to get the most flavour out of them. They may be added to pork before cooking, toasted and then added to cottage cheese or yoghurt, or added to baked potatoes before cooking.
Researchers have found that caraway seeds have the effect of lowering blood glucose and cholesterol levels in diabetic rats.10 However, further research is required into the effects on humans.
It may seem ironic that the hottest spice in the world is called, ‘chilli’! The source of the heat from chillies comes from its main active ingredient, capsaicin. Chillies are the most widely consumed spice. We consume 20 times more chillies than any other spice!
The major benefit of chilies for people with insulin resistance is the fact that it lowers the amount of insulin required to lower blood sugar after the consumption of a meal.11
Cinnamon is definitely one of the best herbs for insulin resistance. Its benefits for people with insulin resistance are covered in detail in the article titled, Cinnamon and Blood Sugar.
There is no doubt that cinnamon is definitely worthwhile consuming on a regular basis.
‘Chocoholics’ rejoiced when the news was announced that eating chocolate was actually good for you! Well, it’s not actually the chocolate itself, but the main ingredient, cocoa. Cocoa is a rich source of flavanols, plant compounds that protect the heart through various mechanisms.
It also has benefits for people when insulin resistance. Research has shown that it improves insulin signalling and lowers blood glucose levels after a meal.12,13
The coriander plant has strongly-scented leaves and is used in a range of dishes from many cultures throughout the world. Whilst there may be some benefits by consuming the leaves, most of the research relating to this herb come from its seeds.
There appears to be benefits for people with insulin resistance since the extracts from the seeds have been shown to normalise blood sugar and decrease insulin secretion.14
Cumin is a popular spice throughout the world, particularly in Mexican dishes to compliment chili and is one of the main ingredients in curry powder.
It demonstrates impressive benefits for people with insulin resistance. It has been compared to a diabetes drug and was found to be just as effective in lowering elevated blood sugars. Furthermore, cumin was found to be more effective than the drug at lowering advanced glycated end products (AGE), which result from glucose oxidising proteins in the body.15
Curry leaves are a regular player in Indian cooking. Even though they don’t make up a part of curry powder they are often used at the beginning of cooking to add a distinctive flavour to the food.
Curry leaves have demonstrated an ability to lower blood glucose levels, insulin, and improve blood lipid profiles.16,17
Fenugreek seeds are a commonly used spice in Asia and the Middle East. They are definitely one of the top food, spices and herbs for insulin resistance!
There are hundreds of studies done of fenugreek and the benefits it offers people with insulin resistance and/ or diabetes. It has been shown to stabilise blood sugar levels, lower glycated haemoglobin, and activate insulin signalling. It also improves blood lipid profiles.18,19,20,21
Fengreek seeds are best roasted and then added to various dishes.
Galangal is the most commonly used herb in Thai dishes. It gives the food the distinctive ‘Thai’ flavour. Just as chili is popular in Mexican dishes, galangal is popular in Thai dishes. It provides the spiciness in Thai dishes without the lingering heat that chilies have.
It may also be beneficial for people with insulin resistance because it has been shown to prevent the development of insulin resistance in rats.22 Therefore, it may have the potential to help reverse insulin resistance in humans.
Garlic is known as one of the world’s most potent natural medicines! It offers a whole range of health benefits, particularly those associated with the heart and blood vessels.
However, it is also beneficial for people with insulin resistance. One study demonstrated that a garlic extract was more effective at improving blood lipid profiles than metformin (a diabetic drug) and similar in effectiveness with regards to lowering blood sugar levels.23 A garlic has also been shown to reduce the kidney damage associated with high blood sugar levels due to its ability to lower glycated proteins in the body.24
Ginger is well-known to be beneficial in reducing the symptoms of nausea from all sources including, motion sickness, morning sickness, nausea after surgery (from anaesthetic), and chemotherapy.
However, ginger has also been shown to be beneficial for people with insulin resistance. One research study found that it improved insulin sensitivity and some fractions of lipids.25 another study found that it has a hypoglycemic effect, enhances insulin synthesis, and has antioxidant properties.26
Juniper berries are not actually berries but are actually small pinecones from the juniper tree. It is the spice that provides the flavour for gin (the alcoholic beverage). Juniper berries are also powerful diuretics, which means they help remove fluid from the body.
They have also been shown to be beneficial for people with insulin resistance. The extracts from the fruit and leaves help to lower blood sugar levels and also reduce lipid peroxidation in the liver and kidneys.27,28
Lemongrass is a commonly used herb throughout the world, particularly in Thailand and Vietnam. It is native to Southeast Asia and has a strong scent and flavour.
Lemongrass has demonstrated anti-diabetic effects by lowering fasting blood sugar levels as well as improving blood lipid profiles.29
Mustard seeds have no aroma or flavour until the coating is broken down and comes into contact with water. This produces the well-known flavour of mustard.
Mustard seeds are also beneficial for people with insulin resistance. Researchers from India demonstrated the seeds ability to normalise blood sugar levels and insulin levels after consumption of a high-sugar diet.30
There are a variety of different colours, shapes, and textures of onion, all providing the desired health benefits for people with insulin resistance. The ability of onion to help lower blood sugar sugar is thought to be due to the flavonoids it contains, which include quercetin.31
Oregano is a widely-popular herb used throughout the world. It is synonymous with Italy and Italian food and lasagne, pizza, and garlic bread all contain it. However, Turkey is the world’s biggest oregano nation, using it in their meals, exporting it, and also benefiting from the health properties it offers.
With regards to insulin resistance, oregano has been shown to decrease elevated blood glucose levels after a single dose.32
Parsley is much more than garnish for accompanying a meal. It offers a range of health benefits as well, mainly due to its unique antioxidant, apigenin. Apigenin has been shown to help other antioxidants in the body work better, particularly the body’s own antioxidants, glutathione and super oxide dismutase (SOD).
Parlsey has also been shown to have beneficial effects for people with type 2 diabetes. It has the effect of significantly lowering blood sugar as well as protecting the liver from damage caused by the disease.33
Pomegranate is a native fruit to the Middle East and has been used in India for centuries with the seeds often dried and used as a spice. In the 1990′s it became enormously popular throughout the rest of the world with the release of studies linking it to heart and prostate health.
Over the last decade a significant body of research has shown that pomegranate offers a range of benefits for people with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.34 Its anti-diabetic benefits are suggested to come from its unique antioxidant components.
Rosemary is a popular plant and is found in gardens throughout the world. Its powerful and pleasant aroma is a perfect addition to meals and particularly accentuates the flavour of red meat.
It is a great herb for people with insulin resistance and may help with lowering blood sugar levels as effectively as diabetic medication.35
Sage has been a popular medicinal herb for thousands of years and was used for that purpose well before it was used in cooking. There are about 900 different varieties of sage.
Sage appears to lower fasting blood glucose levels by affecting gluconeogenesis in the liver.36
Turmeric is one of the most widely researched herbs in the world and is considered to be a spice ‘superstar’! It is considered to be one of nature’s most powerful healers and is a staple in kitchens throughout India.
When it comes to its benefits for people people with insulin resistance, there are many studies that demonstrate its ability to help control blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of complications associated with the disease.37,38,39
So there you have it! 25 foods, spices and herbs for insulin resistance. If you make an effort to consume at least a few of these every day it will certainly go a long way towards helping you overcome the condition.
Also, if you would like to find out more about how to overcome insulin resistance, then read: Diabetes Reversal Report.