Fiber, the Surprising Nutrient that Helps Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels
Are your blood sugar levels on a rollercoaster ride? Diabetes experts say there’s a critical nutrient that could help stabilize that wild journey, and it’s probably not what you’d expect. Fiber is one of the most essential nutrients in the battle against blood sugar spikes. And with over 37 million Americans grappling with diabetes, finding effective strategies to manage blood sugar spiking is critical.
Dietary fiber can be categorized into two main types: insoluble and soluble fiber. These categories are based on how fiber interacts with water and impacts your body. According to a 2022 study in Foods, soluble fiber, in particular, is beneficial for helping regulate blood sugar because it forms a gel-like substance when dissolved in water, slowing down the digestion and absorption of carbohydrates.
When you eat fiber-rich foods, like whole grains, legumes and certain fruits and vegetables, the sugar from these foods is released into your bloodstream more gradually, preventing those pesky sugar spikes and crashes.
Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDCES, a registered dietitian and author of 2-Day Diabetes Diet tells EatingWell, “Dietary fiber helps control blood sugar by slowing down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, which can help prevent spikes and crashes in blood sugar and keep blood sugar in the target range. Fiber can also help to improve satiety and reduce appetite, helping with portion control at meals.”
But fiber’s blood sugar-balancing magic doesn’t stop there. Palinski-Wade adds that diets rich in fiber have also been shown to improve body composition and reduce visceral fat (or belly fat), per a 2021 study in the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia and Muscle. And according to a 202 study published in the Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity, excess visceral fat can increase insulin resistance, leading to elevated blood sugar levels. Increasing your fiber intake can help reduce visceral fat, improving blood sugar levels long term and reducing your type 2 diabetes risk.
To incorporate more fiber into your diet, here are three practical tips:
1. Add Prunes to Your Diet: Prunes are more than a natural remedy for digestion—they’re a fiber powerhouse. One serving of dried prunes provides around 3 grams of fiber, along with a sweet and delicious taste. Ensure you eat prunes whole instead of drinking prune juice, as the juice is typically void of fiber.
2. Eat Fresh Avocado: Besides being good for your heart, avocados are packed with fiber. Just half of a medium avocado contains roughly 6 to 7 grams of fiber. Plus, avocado’s versatility makes it an easy and nutritious addition to your diet.
3. Consume More Legumes: Incorporating more legumes into your meals is another way to supercharge your fiber intake. Beans, lentils, and chickpeas are fiber-rich, boasting 6 to 8 grams of fiber per cooked cup. Legumes add texture and flavor to your dishes while boosting your fiber intake.
When managing your blood sugar, fiber is the nutrient of choice. While it helps prevent sugar spikes and crashes by slowing the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, fiber also aids in reducing visceral fat, a known risk factor for insulin resistance and elevated blood sugar levels.
Incorporating fiber into your diet doesn’t have to be a chore—delicious options like prunes, avocado, and legumes make it both easy and enjoyable. However, fiber isn’t the only nutrient that can stabilize your blood sugar. Other blood sugar-regulating nutrients include protein, chromium, and magnesium. Eating a well-balanced diet rich in these essential nutrients is vital to keep your glucose levels steady and your health on track.