3 spices that tackled A1C, fasting glucose, insulin and won

The Mediterranean diet is a clear winner, literally. For several years in a row, it’s held the top spot for Best Diet.

One reason is because it’s easy to stick to. In fact, it’s not really a “diet” at all, but more like a lifestyle choice that‘s more about choosing the right foods than restricting what you eat.

But in all of this, there’s more talk about the food and very little about the spices that are typical of Mediterranean cooking, like black cumin, garlic, rosemary, cinnamon, ginger, and fennel.

Rosemary is my personal favorite. But it’s not one of the three that have recently been found to play a powerful role in the fight against diabetes…

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Free radicals 101

You’ve probably heard of free radicals (also known as reactive oxygen species, or ROS), those pesky, unstable molecules that a lot of us carry around due to exposure to cigarette smoke, air pollutants and other toxins.

Free radicals are also an unavoidable result of certain metabolic processes, like those involved in energy production.

That’s why a balance between free radicals and antioxidants is necessary. If free radicals overwhelm the body’s ability to regulate them, a condition known as oxidative stress occurs.

Many diseases can result, or become worse if oxidative stress goes uncontrolled.

Type 2 diabetes is one of them.

Antioxidant spices win at managing blood sugar and A1C

A group of Spanish researchers conducted a meta-analysis (an examination of 77 existing studies) to determine which Mediterranean spices are most beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes in terms of their glycemic profile.

A glycemic profile is like a “snapshot” of a person’s blood glucose fluctuations throughout the day. It shows how well (or poorly) their insulin is working to control their blood sugar.

Reactive oxygen species can compromise a glycemic profile in two ways: they can lead to insulin resistance (insulin is produced but the body does not respond to it as it should), as well as to β-cell dysfunction (insulin secretion is impaired).

“As far as we are aware, this is the first systematic review and meta-analysis aiming to evaluate the effect of aromatic herbs and spices included in the Mediterranean Diet, such as black cumin, clove [and others], on the glycemic profile of individuals with type 2 diabetes,” the study noted.

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The analysis focused on cinnamon, curcumin, ginger, black cumin, saffron, and rosemary.

But three stood out for their powerful effects on different aspects important for blood sugar management:

  • Only ginger and black cumin were associated with a significant improvement in A1c (a blood test that measures your average blood sugar levels over the past three months)
  • Only cinnamon and ginger were associated with a significant decrease in insulin values (cinnamon is already well-known for keeping blood sugar in check).
  • Ginger was the only spice associated with a significant decrease in fasting glucose, A1c, and insulin.

What’s behind these spice benefits?

Spices are at the top of the ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) scale. The NIH’s National Institute on Aging developed ORAC to quantify a food’s total antioxidant capacity (TAC) — which equates to it strength in fighting off free radicals.

So there you have it. Spice things up and reap the benefits!

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Ginger, Cinnamon, Cumin Improve Glycemic Control — Medscape

Effect of Aromatic Herbs and Spices Present in the Mediterranean Diet on the Glycemic Profile in Type 2 Diabetes Subjects: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis — Nutrients

Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health — Pharmacognosy Reviews

Joyce Hollman

By Joyce Hollman

Joyce Hollman is a writer based in Kennebunk, Maine, specializing in the medical/healthcare and natural/alternative health space. Health challenges of her own led Joyce on a journey to discover ways to feel better through organic living, utilizing natural health strategies. Now, practicing yoga and meditation, and working towards living in a chemical-free home, her experiences make her the perfect conduit to help others live and feel better naturally.