There’s no magic cure for diabetes, but certain nutrients are known to play a role in diabetes management. These five vital nutrients may help keep your blood sugar in check and reduce your risk of diabetes complications:
- B vitamins
- Omega 3
- Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Chromium: Insulin Assist
Chromium is essential for insulin to work properly. Low levels can seriously compromise blood sugar regulation, increasing the risk of developing diabetes or complications. Some studies have found chromium supplementation to help support healthy cholesterol levels, weight loss and muscle growth, further enhancing blood glucose control.
Studies have found chromium to help support healthy cholesterol levels, weight loss and muscle growth
Find it in: brewer’s yeast, whole-grains, molasses, mushrooms, green peppers, and asparagus.
Recommended Dietary Allowance: 20-35mcg. 200-1000mcg/day has been successfully used in diabetes studies. Anyone taking corticosteroids may need a higher intake to counteract depletion by such drugs.
B Vitamins: Nature’s Stress Buster
B vitamins, especially vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), help the body adapt to stress, and support digestion, protein metabolism, and sleep. Taking vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) in the evening may help reduce excess cortisol (our stress hormone) release overnight whilst supporting synthesis of serotonin, the stress-relieving, happy hormone.
Those taking metformin for diabetes may have impaired B vitamin status, as it can reduce folic acid and vitamin B12 absorption, while lowering thiamin (B1) activity. Insufficient folic acid and vitamin B12 are connected with increased levels of a compound called homocysteine, which raises the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Find it in: Yeast extract, tahini and sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds (B1); sunflower seeds, bran, and mushrooms (B5); bran, pistachios, and garlic (B6); black-eyed peas, lentils, and spinach (folic acid/folate); shellfish, liver, fortified soy and cereal products, and some brands of nutritional yeast (B12).
Recommended Dietary Allowances:
- B1 1.1-1.4mg
- B5 none set
- B6 1.2-2mg
- Folic acid 400-600mcg, up to 1000mcg to counteract depletion by metformin
- B12 2.4-2.8mcg, 250-1000mcg to counteract depletion by metformin.
Magnesium: Controlling Blood Sugar
Magnesium deficiency is common among those with diabetes, occurring in around 40% of those with the disease. This mineral is essential for blood glucose control and is, unfortunately, excreted more rapidly when insulin levels are high. Often known as the stress mineral, magnesium supports healthy sleep and proper nerve and muscle function, as well as bone health. Too little magnesium, however, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, retinopathy (damage to the retina in the eye), and neuropathy (damage to nerves in the hands and feet).
Magnesium deficiency occurs in around 40% of those with diabetes.
Find it in: Pumpkin seeds, fortified tofu, almonds, cashews, spinach and black-eyed beans.
Recommended Dietary Allowance: 24-420mg/day for adults.
Omega 3: For a Healthy Heart
Omega 3 helps protect the cardiovascular system from damage caused by reduced blood flow, oxidative damage and inflammation. As a natural blood thinner, omega 3 reduces blood clot formation and may help prevent heart attack and stroke in those with diabetes. This essential fatty acid also helps protect the retina in the eye, reducing the risk of developing retinopathy, a common complication of diabetes.
Omega 3 may help prevent heart attack and stroke in those with diabetes
Find it in: Some fish (particularly coldwater species like anchiovies, sardines, herring and mackerel), flaxseed, chia seeds and algae-based oils.
Recommended Dietary Allowance: None set, but research suggests 3-4 grams/day for the management of diabetes and its complications. A combined daily dose of 850mg eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA) was found in one 3.5 year study to reduce the risk of sudden cardiac death by 45%, heart-related dealths by 30% and overall death by 20% in those having previously suffered a heart attack.
Coenzyme Q10: Energize Your Heart
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) supports energy synthesis, especially in the heart muscle, making it work more efficiently, while also lowering blood pressure. It is also a potent antioxidant that protects against the higher levels of oxidative damage associated with diabetes. CoQ10 supports pancreatic beta cells, which produce insulin, and may actually enhance insulin sensitivity. Unfortunately, CoQ10 is depleted by statin drugs, which are commonly prescribed to lower cholesterol, especially in diabetics. Supplementation may help lower the risk of diabetes complications, such as cardiovascular disease.
Find it in: Oily fish, organ meats and whole grains, but only in small amounts. To help diabetes and heart health, supplemental form is required.
Recommended Dietary Allowance: None set. 100-200mg/d is suggested for management of diabetes and cardiovascular health.
Alongside healthy lifestyle habits, a good diet can make a massive difference for anyone living with diabetes. Make sure to check your intake of these five key nutrients, as they may give you that extra boost if you’re struggling to manage blood sugar levels or you’re worried about diabetes complications.